In early October, Jon Schwabish decided to spruce up the garden in front of his house. He bought some tulip bulbs, dug a trench, planted them, and prepared to wait for blooms. A couple of weeks later, the Capitol Hill resident noticed four or five divots in his tulip bed. He figured squirrel or a cat might have gotten to his bulbs.

Not necessarily. A few days later, Schwabish’s wife was returning from a stroll when she noticed an elderly man rifling through her soil. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“‘No, you’re OK,” he replied.

Schwabish’s wife asked the man what he was doing. He mumbled, dropped something into a burlap bag, and walked away, leaving a fresh series of divots. The man had made off with their bulbs.

After the episodes, Schwabish bought 10 replacement bulbs at Eastern Market. He asked his neighbors for advice about how to prevent future thieves. Suggestions ranged from mousetraps in the dirt to switching from mulch to dog poop. He decided to cover his garden with chicken wire.