With the reccession gaining momentum sadly garden thieves are here to stay and have joined the long list of garden pests. Many of us spend large sums of money on equipment, furniture and plants for our gardens.  Combine the money spent with the many hours of hard work and the pride we take in our “outside rooms”, it is not surprising that if items are stolen or vandalised, the victims of such crimes are left simply devastated and with a sense of outrage.

Unfortunately the theft of garden equipment, machinery, outdoor furniture and indeed plants is on the increase.  Nevertheless, there are many steps that can be taken to deter any unwanted visitors and garden thieves. It is just a matter of applying common sense and a few modern techniques.  Here are a few key tips to keep you and your property safe.

Using Plants to Protect Your Home
Plants can be used to create effective barriers.  Prickly plants are a visual deterrent and a physical barrier intended to complement traditional crime prevention measures.  Try planting some of these varieties in beds below your windows or alongside paths.  Berberis is particularly effective as most of the varieties have prickly thorns. Berberis darwinii is an upright, evergreen shrub with vibrant orange flowers in the spring while berberis stenophylla with its golden yellow flowers, is a spreading, evergreen shrub often used for hedging.  Suitable deciduous varieties include berberis thunbergii which has leaves that turn a brilliant red in the autumn, followed by pale yellow flowers in the spring and red fruit and thunbergii aurea which is a deciduous shrub with brilliant yellow foliage.

Other prickly plants include holly, blackthorn and mahonia japonica, a hardy shrub with lance-shaped leaves of dark green, scented yellow flowers followed by blue-purple berries.  Chaenomeles is a deciduous shrub with spiny branches and beautiful flowers.  Although tolerant of shade they prefer full sun.  Agaves americana with its yellow and green variegated serrated edged leaves thrive in protected positions, as do semi-hardy yucca which can not just spike but also cut flesh. 

Pyracantha (fire thorn) is suitable for training up a wall or hedge and with its stunning reddish colours it is a very popular and attractive deterrent, especially under windows.  Climbing roses such as rosa rugosa ‘Rubra’ provide similar protection.  Even planting thick pampas grasses around the perimeter of your property should deter people from taking short cuts across your land. If your beds and borders are full, consider planting spiky plants in window boxes which should be well bolted to the wall.

Home Security Products
There are a good range of home and garden security products available on the market with a radio-controlled device that turns on appliances in your home, working on the premise that burglars tend to be deterred if they suspect someone is at home.  These sensors are placed in your garden, on your back gate or on a shed door up to 50 metres away from the house and there are no wires. If the sensor detects a body it will turn on the lights in your house, switch on your television or even sound an alarm – all before anyone tries to break in! 

Safeguarding Sheds and Garages
Fit good locks to shed doors and windows and always use them. Secure your garden shed doors with strap hinges secured by coach bolts.  These bolts can not be undone with a screwdriver or spanner. Fit up and over garage doors with additional lock fittings – ideally a padlock with a hasp and staple on either side.

Safeguarding Garden Statuary or Valuable Equipment
Write your postcode on every item of your property. Take photographs of valuable statuary and detail any particular identification marks on your property such as scratch marks. If you are unlucky and have a valuable antique or garden sculpture stolen try contacting the Art Loss Register.  For a small fee they will monitor auction sales and assist in trying to recover your property.  Their telephone number is 0207 2353393.

Safeguarding Your Plants and Garden
Wherever possible illuminate dark areas of your garden. Lay crunchy gravel paths. If you live in a town where your garden is easily accessible from the street it may be a good idea to chain planters to something solid. Remove price labels from plants, as you do not want to highlight their value. Unfortunately even plants tend to be dug up and stolen. Try fastening a chain or wire rope loosely around the base of the trunk of your tree or shrub.  Tie the end of the wire around a brick and bury the brick two feet into the ground adjacent to the plant.  Ensure that you loosen the wire as the years go by so as to avoid strangling the plant.