Garden security

Theft of property from gardens can be a problem. The value of equipment, structures and plants in gardens often amounts to thousands of pounds. Most household insurance policies only offer limited cover for garden-related items (check that yours covers theft from your garden and outbuildings). However, there are several things that can be done to improve security in the garden – most of which are relatively inexpensive.

How safe is your urn?

Quick facts

Make sure boundaries are secure
Grow thorny climbers up fences
Install security lighting
Mark your property with your postcode
Install CCTV

How to increase garden security

Boundaries and access

The first line of defence against theft is to make sure property boundaries are secure, particularly to the rear, where people are often less watchful. Any measures taken have to be reasonable in law. Avoid using barbed wire or other materials that could seriously injure an intruder, as they may then take legal action against the homeowner.

Fences

Fences need to be of solid construction. Planning permission may be necessary for fences over 2m (6½ft). Check with your local planning office. If you live in a conservation area, check if there are any other restrictions.

  • Fix 30-45cm (12-18in) trellis to the top of the a 1.8m (6ft) fence to deter prospective burglars. The trellis will not support the weight of a human and the noise of it breaking is a deterrent
  • Growing thorny climbers like roses on fences to deter would-be thieves
  • In front gardens it is better to have low walls and fences, no more than 1m (3¼ft) high, which will not screen intruders from view
  • Keep the view into your front garden clear by pruning back overhanging branches and clipping foliage back from around windows and doors

Hedges

Hedges can make a very good barrier. Most conifers will form a thick hedge that is difficult to get through. Thorny shrubs are most effective. Those listed below make a medium-large hedge 80cm-1.8m (3-6ft):
Berberis × stenophylla
Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn)
Ilex aquifolium (holly)
Pyracantha (firethorn)
Rosa rugosa or R. spinosissima
Prunus spinosa (blackthorn)

Low-growing, thorny shrubs can be planted at the base of fences and below windows and drainpipes to deter intruders.

Drives and pathways

Gravel drives and paths make it impossible for an intruder to approach a property quietly.

Gates

Keep gates shut and locked whenever possible, especially those allowing access to the rear of the property. A good policy is to fit two locks to a gate, top and bottom, and ensure hinges are securely fixed to gate posts so that the gate cannot be lifted off its hinges.

Lighting

Install outside security lighting that comes on automatically. Position lighting so not to be a nuisance to neighbours or a distraction for road users.

Plants, ornaments and containers

Important and expensive items can be protected in various ways:

  • Proprietary land anchors such as Platipus Anchors are available to secure larger plants, garden furniture, containers and ornaments. Most are based on a permanent stake to which an item is chained or bolted
  • Movement detectors can be attached to expensive items such as garden antiques and statuary – sensors beneath the object set off an alarm when moved
  • Electronic tagging systems are available that are embedded into the item, enabling identification of recovered stolen property
  • Mark your property with your postcode, ideally by engraving
  • Large plantings of new shrubs can be secured by planting through chicken wire, then covering the area with soil or mulch
  • Cement containers in place or bolt down to prevent theft. If stood on pot feet, a chain secured to a fixing point, such as a wall anchor, can be run through the drainage holes and fixed with a shackle
  • Hanging baskets can be protected by using secure or locking brackets

Have a look at products available at your local garden centre or DIY superstore

Sheds and outbuildings

  • Don’t make a burglar’s job easier by leaving gardening tools lying around – these are often used to force entry into houses
  • The value of garden tools and equipment kept in sheds and outbuildings are often considerable
  • Always mark your property with your postcode and house number. In most cases engraving will be the most suitable method
  • Make sure you have heavy duty locks on doors
  • Secure the windows with appropriate locks
  • Think about using a strong lockable box or cage within the shed in which you can securely store garden tools and garden chemicals
  • More expensive items should only be stored in structurally sound buildings and outbuildings
  • Consider fitting an alarm system

Alarms and CCTV

Alarms

  • Various stand-alone systems are available based on a passive infra-red movement detector or a door contact system. (These are available with battery or mains power supply and can be purchased from your local locksmiths or DIY store)
  • Consider extending your current alarm system to cover outbuildings and sheds

Closed circuit television

Large gardens with expensive items may be best protected by installation of closed circuit television (CCTV). Domestic systems can be linked to your tv/video to view your garden. As a word of warning from the Metropolitan Police Service, it may be wise to use a dedicated video recorder securely located within the house – if you have the misfortune to suffer a burglary, not only could the recorder be taken but the recorded evidence with it.

Insurance

It is worth investigating whether your current insurance is sufficient:

  • Check your household insurance policy covers theft from your garden and outbuildings
  • Items stolen from a building are more likely to be covered than those stolen from the garden
  • Household buildings policies cover damage to most garden structures such as garages, sheds, greenhouses, ornamental ponds and swimming pools but are unlikely to cover decking, pergolas, arbours and raised flower beds
  • Often there will be no cover for plants, containers, statues and other garden features
  • Consult a broker as they may have access to specific garden insurance products
  • Specialist ‘high net worth’ policies are necessary to cover high-value items like antique statues

Garden security products

An internet search usually reveals companies and products that can help with security products and services.

Advertise here

Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.