GARDEN TIPS - 19/10/18
An unfortunate part of our job is to visit customers who have recently been burgled. We are asked to replace or repair fences, gates, sheds and other parts of their home or garden that have been damaged as a result of the break-in. We are also often asked what steps can be taken to improve security around the property.
We are not, of course, security experts. That said, we have picked up a few pointers from local police over the years, so thought it might be useful to write a short piece on the subject. After all, thinking about security before anything untoward happens might just prevent it happening in the first place.
Your garden should be the first line of defence from burglars, so it's important to install strong fences, walls or hedges around it. Ideally any of these at the front of your house should not be more than 1.2m (4') high. If it’s next to a public path or road, anything higher usually requires planning permission. Not only that, but by keeping the height of these down, it doesn’t give potential burglars a n easy place to hide from passers-by.
A standard 1.8m (6') wall or fence at the back of your house is usually enough. However, if there is public access on the other side of these, then consider increasing their height to 2m (6’ 6”). Anything higher would usually require planning permission.
If there is an access point to your garden at the side of the house you should have a strong lockable gate. Garden gates should be at least the same height as your fence with hinges securely attached to the gateposts. Consider also fitting some trellis above it, ideally another 60cm (2’) above the top of the gate. This may make a burglar think twice about trying to climb over it - see our note on trellis below.
You can increase the height of fences and walls with trellis fixed to the top. This is more difficult to climb over. If you do install trellis, think about using quite thin/fragile support timbers. The wind shouldn’t break them, but the more fragile a trellis looks, the less likely a burglar may be to try to climb over it. The sound of breaking wood may well attract attention to their endeavours.
We hear a lot of customers tell us that thieves have broken in to sheds to take one specific item, often a beloved bike, and that it looks like they have worked their way through a number of gardens looking for something they want to steal. If your shed has a window, think about covering it up with some plywood. Otherwise, perhaps paint over the window so thieves can’t see what’s being kept in the shed.
Improve the security of your shed door with padbolts and close-shackle padlocks or even a padlock alarm. Sheds - even good quality ones - are often not as secure as they might be, so think about reinforcing hinges using coach bolts and large backing washers.
You might also think about installing a shed alarm and a lockable tool chest for valuable equipment.
For customers with valuable bicycles, we have in the past set heavy duty ground anchors into concrete underneath the shed and cut a hole in the shed floor, so they can chain their bikes to it. This may sound extreme, but most of us know someone with at least one bike worth a couple of thousand pounds these days.
One plant definitely worth considering is Pyracantha. Not only does it have masses of colourful berries in autumn/winter, a great source of food for birds (see below for more on this), it’s also one of the most effective burglar deterrents we’ve come across. Grown trained along walls and fences - even over the top of gates - its thorns are lethally sharp (we know - we’ve pruned hundreds!). Any jobbing burglar will know of the Pyracantha and think at least twice before trying to climb over it.
Other prickly plants worth considering for around the perimeter of your garden are Firethorn, Climbing Roses and Hawthorn.
Consider putting gravel on paths and beneath doors and ground-floor windows around your home. We are told that burglars don't like it because it's noisy to walk on, which can attract attention. Don’t use the small 10mm pea shingle though - we know from bitter experience that the local cat population can confuse it for a large cat litter tray!
Lighting in your garden is an excellent deterrent, especially in areas near to doors and windows. Choose lights that can be triggered by movement - and spend a little time adjusting the sensitivity of the sensors when you’re installing them. We visit so many garden where lights are installed but not working properly - either because the sensors are incorrectly/not adjusted or because they are dirty. Regular checks and maintenance are key.
Never leave a ladder in your garden close to the house without locking it to something solid. It could be used by a burglar to climb into an upstairs window. Similarly don’t leave tools or gardening equipment lying around - they could be used to force entry.
Be aware that garden furniture can be used to climb on so use chains to anchor it to the ground, or at least position them away from the house, if possible.
Finally, keep photos of your garden valuables in case anything is stolen or vandalised. Keep a record of any serial numbers too, as these will help when dealing with the police and your insurer.
…and on a lighter note….
Encouraging birds, insect and animals
In October you might spot a jay looking for somewhere to bury fallen acorns - usually a sure sign that winter is on its way. Now is a good time to think about using your outdoor space to give a helping hand to birds, animals and insects over the coming months. Apart from anything else, it’s a fantastic way to get to watch them as they go about their business.
If you let seed heads form on flowers and weeds like Alliums, Honesty, Teasels and Thistles you may well attract finches. Frost on seed heads looks really good too.
It won’t be long before you start noticing starlings gathering in large groups on treetops and telephone wires. If you can let your lawn grow a bit longer than it would usually be during Spring and Summer, they’ll appreciate it. Starlings, as well as Blackbirds and Thrushes (among others) need to places to hunt for insects. A higher cut lawn will create a great environment for insects to thrive - thus providing birds with a place to feed.
It’s always good to have a bird table and feeders in the garden. If they’ve been out all year, perhaps think about giving them a clean.
Squirrels like to feed on bird food too (they do need to eat after all), but if you have squirrels coming into your garden regularly, consider hanging feeders on thin metal poles, instead of using a table - just to make it as difficult as possible for them to climb.
As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the national hedgehog population has fallen a reported 90% since the 1950’s. If there’s anything you can do to help the remaining population to survive, that’d be great. Read what we had to say about that here. We have hedgehog food in stock!
A source of water is critical to wildlife in winter. Try to remember to put out (or top up) a bowl regularly. Wildlife will quickly learn where they can get food and water reliably and start to make daily visits.
Nectar and pollen tend to be in short supply in the autumn, but they are still essential foods for many insects that over-winter as adults and then become food for birds in early spring. Try to make sure you have some late-flowering plants like Michaelmas Daisies, Sedums and some types of Salvia. Also, plant winter bedding - Pansies, Violas, Hellebores and Cyclamen to keep the nectar flowing.
If you can include some native plants in your garden - Holly, Elder, Birch or hawthorn, for example - you’ll be sure of creating natural food supplies for birds through the winter. Now’s the perfect time to be planting all of these.
As always, please do get in touch if we can help with anything.
Have a lovely weekend.
The Lancasters Team.