As the nights draw in and outdoor living kit is packed away before winter, the nation’s sheds and garages become a treasure trove of rich pickings of thieves.
Barbecues, firepits, bicycles, hedge trimmers, pressure washers, leaf blowers and lawn mowers are just a handful of the high value items that can easily be pinched, and it’s well documented that break-ins rise during the darker evenings.
During lockdown, Brits splashed their cash on gardens, so it’s no surprise that thefts from outbuildings have been heading skywards ever since. A report by thisismoney.co.uk told how Halifax Home Insurance reported a 46% in garden-related claims last year, while Aviva saw ‘thefts in the open’ rise from 3 to 11% of all UK home insurance claims between 2019 and 2020.
With recession looming and crime tipped to rise, it makes sense to bolster garden security, but making garden plots less appealing to crooks doesn’t need to break the bank. Follow our seven expert tips to improve your garden security so that your prized outdoor possessions don’t go walkabout.
1. Hedge Your Bets
Hedges laden with thorns are nature’s very own intruder deterrent. Even the most determined crook doesn’t relish the prospect of a trip to A&E, so a dense boundary laden with razor-sharp spines can persuade unwanted visitors to go elsewhere.
Pyracantha is one of the thorniest hedges, renowned for its vibrant berries which birds adore, while berberis is a top choice for fabulous foliage colour and spines that are as sharp as a chef’s knife. Even the most hardened criminal won’t relish an encounter with the extra-long thorns and spiny leaves of Berberis julianae.
2. Bolster Your Garden Borders
Consider planting prickly shrubs that’ll help to keep trouble-makers out. Navigating through the dense, razor-sharp foliage of common holly (Ilex aquifolium) isn’t for the faint-hearted while the sharp-toothed leaves of shade-loving Mahonia aquifolium are not kind on skin, unless a burglar arrives kitted out in heavy-duty gardening gloves.
The nation’s favourite flower, the rose, can also earn its keep when it comes to deterring intruders from setting foot on your property. Rugosa roses such as the white, repeat-flowering, large shrub rose ‘Blanche Double de Coubert’ are the go-to choice for creating an ultra-thorny, impenetrable hedge.
3. Let There be Light
Motion-controlled outdoor lighting, where a PIR (passive infra-red) sensor activates outdoor lights if movement is detected, makes a superb intruder deterrent. Crooks love to force entry to outbuildings and sheds under the cover of darkness, so rob thieves of opportunities by making sure they can’t get up to no good without being seen.
There’s no need to light your garden up like Blackpool illuminations – that’s a sure-fire way to irritate the neighbours and it’s known to disturb nocturnal wildlife, too. Set sensor-controlled outdoor lights to come on for a burst of just 30 seconds, which will be enough to send any intruder hot-footing it over the fence.
The cost of hiring an electrician to install outdoor security lighting can now be avoided, thanks to the advent of solar-powered LED outdoor lights, which can be installed without the need for mains electricity. Remember to test them from time to time, to make sure they’re working correctly.
4. Step-up Shed Security
There’s no point buying an expensive padlock that could secure a bank vault if wood screws holding shed door hinges in place can easily be removed from outside.
Upgrade the security of your shed by replacing hinge screws with robust coach bolts that feature smooth, rounded heads and are secured internally using a nut. Even if a burglar comes armed with screwdrivers, attempts to remove bolts and unhinge shed doors will be futile.
Security coach bolts are inexpensive, readily available at DIY stores and easy to fit, making them a worthwhile investment. Take a look at our other tips for keeping your shed secure here.
5. Pep-up Pathways
Intruders love to tip-toe around gardens, so make it more difficult for crooks to go undetected. It’s almost impossible to tread quietly along paths made from gravel which crunches loudly under foot. Use a large diameter gravel though or lay paths from slate chippings, as smaller stones hold high appeal for cats, which will adopt areas to use as outdoor litter trays.
6. Beef-up Boundaries
The height of fences and walls can play an important role in securing your home and garden. The Metropolitan Police recommend a low front boundary, ideally under one metre high, so burglars have nowhere to hide.
It’s the opposite rule for fences to the side and rear of a property, where cops advise using trellis to raise the height of a standard fence panel to at least 1.8 metres. Lightweight trellis makes it trickier for criminals to scramble over fences and, when combined with the prickly plants and hedges listed above, creates an unappealing assault course for crooks.
7. Hold on to Garden Hanging Baskets
Hanging baskets boost a property’s kerb appeal. They’re out in force in summer, often adorned with favourites such as busy Lizzies, trailing petunias, lobelia and geraniums. Winter hanging baskets crammed with universal pansies, violas, polyanthus and heathers are increasingly popular too, and that makes them a prime target for thieves.
To stop passers-by from helping themselves to your prized plants, fix baskets in position using a hanging basket lock and security cable. These cheap kits, which are readily available online, lock onto a hanging basket’s chain and secures it to the bracket that suspends the basket to your walls. It’s a great way to deter opportunist thefts.
Where container plants sit in front gardens, use the heaviest plant pot available; large, glazed terracotta tubs aren’t easy to lift. Place a couple of house bricks at the bottom before filling with compost, ensuring that bricks don’t block drainage holes, to add extra weight so that garden containers can’t easily be carried away.
8. Check Your Home Insurance Policy
If your house insurance is up for renewal and you’re shopping around for a better price, check the small print carefully to ensure that cheaper deals cover items in sheds and gardens as not all policies do. While some insurers cover items in sheds, up to set limits, other policies may not pay out if garden plants or garden furniture left outdoors are nicked.
Whatever your policy, use an ultraviolet marker pen to invisibly etch your home address onto high value garden goods. It’ll make it easier for police to identify stolen property using a UV light, if your goods are recovered after a break-in.
Do you have any other tips for improving garden security? Let us know in the comments.