Ever hate a neighbor? This story takes over-the-fence feuds to a whole new level.
And this time, plants were caught in the crossfire.
Guy Stephen Brinkley, a 43-year-old Knoxville, Tenn., gardener, is making news for accusing neighbors of poisoning his sizable veggie plot. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Brinkley believes someone sprayed his potatoes, tomatoes and corn with some Round-up-like poison, and all over a DOG PEE dispute.
(You all know I am NO expert, but is critter pee even that bad for gardens?)
This tale is made even more pathetic because Brinkley has generously provided other (obviously non-hateful) neighbors with free veggies from his backyard plot for the past two years. Last week, he posted a sad little cardboard sign in his yard that read: “Neighbors Poisoned the Garden. I’m sorry. No free vegetables.”
Brinkley, who mowed his garden down Wednesday after showing the reporter and photographer the rot and sadness, said all his plants show signs of poisoning – and that they went from green and healthy to brown and discolored, with blackened stems and roots almost overnight. “The burn is all on the same level,” he said. “Mother Nature doesn’t work like that.”
Apparently, he’s been fighting with the accused neighbors (not named in the story and apparently not approached for comment) for at least a year. The feud started when the neighbors’ dog ran loose and peed in his garden and Brinkley ordered both neighbor and dog off his property. (Which sounds a tad harsh, actually.) He said soon after, he noticed discolored veggies and sometimes felt sick after eating from his garden.
A few weeks ago, he saw Lassie on the loose again and called police, who cited the neighbor.
That night, corn was ripped out of his garden and small tire tracks were found throughout. A police report from the incident says the culprit was probably a small motorbike. (The BMX bandit rides again! Too bad CSI Knoxville wasn’t on the case to measure tire tracks and take dirt samples.) Brinkley has reported his poisoning suspicions to local cops and the Knoxville fire marshal, but officials didn’t have anything to tell the reporter. It’s unclear whether they’re doing a tox report of any kind. I hope so.
Oh, and, of course…because this just has to get sadder…the poor guy is a disabled vet, living on disability checks and using his garden to supplement his grocery allowance.
The online story and video elicited 53 passionate comments from readers (so far), which I imagine is a lot down in Knoxville. Hot topics included (predictably) whether disabled people receiving disability checks can/should garden, whether Brinkley’s ailment is real (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome), tall fences making good neighbors, lazy police, the sorry state of American society and whether Brinkley neglected his lawn (looked weedy in some pictures) in favor of his garden.
A few knowledgeable-sounding gardeners posited he might be paranoid/deluded and suggested he should have called the local Ag/extension office for advice and assessment. “Japanese beetles, fungus, root worm, poor soil amendment and other ailments are more likely than two-legged varmints to destroy vegetation,” PreachersKid said.
CCjs offered: “I have seen the type damage he is describing in other gardens. It is mostly likely caused by a virus or fungus which in the heat and humidity present can spread like a wildfire and wipe out a garden in 24/48 hours. A heat wave can wipe out a vegetable garden in just a couple of days not only due lack of moisture but also making the garden very susceptible to the fungus/viruses.”
I hope police do investigate and I hope someone is testing those tomatoes.
Another reader suggested Brinkley take the accused neighbor to court and sue. And then use the money he wins to build a new garden with a big fence and nice lighting.
Like me, I bet this victimized gardener is probably wishing he had surveillance cameras right about now. At least I like my neighbors and don’t have any mysterious medical ailments.