Stamp out green-fingered theft

Make sure your garden and equipment are secure. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
Make sure your garden and equipment are secure. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

We may not have rare plants in our gardens that are worth a fortune on the black market, but our ornaments, costly containers and mature trees would cost a lot to replace.

As reports that the increase in thefts of valuable rare plants is forcing the RHS garden at Wisley, Surrey and the Royal Botanic Gardens in both Kew and Edinburgh to assess security and install extra CCTV, now is the time to think of our own plots.

Each year, property owners lose millions of pounds worth of garden equipment, including mowers, furniture, expensive statuary and ornaments and even York stone paving slabs and turf.

Here are ways to minimise the risk of theft:

BOUNDARIES

Fit trellis on top of a fence to improve security. Trellis is fairly fragile - it won’t support the weight of a human - and difficult to climb. However, anything higher than 2m and you’ll need planning permission.

Grow spiky hedges of holly, berberis, hawthorn or blackthorn. Most conifers will form a thick hedge that is difficult to get through. Thorny shrubs are most effective. Other thorny shrubs which will make a medium to large hedge up to 1.8m (6ft) include pyracantha and Rosa rugosa, while low-growing thorny shrubs can be positioned at the base of fences and below windows and drainpipes to deter intruders.

PATHS

Gravel paths act as a deterrent as any visitor will scrunch up the driveway or gravelled approach in the back garden, alerting the home-owner.

PLANTS

You may not have rare plants, but you could have valuable mature specimens in pots. If you have bay trees framing your front door, invest in the heaviest pots you can to deter thieves.

Tough, deep roots are the best anchorage. So grow plants from small specimens to allow them time and space to mature and their strong, developed root system will make it very difficult for opportunist thieves to easily dig them up.

Invest in a specialist land anchor when planting expensive trees and shrubs.

Plant new shrubs through a layer of chicken wire topped with soil, which makes them harder to dig up.

ORNAMENTS

Take pictures of your ornaments in case they are stolen and write your postcode on them in ultra violet pen so they can be traced back to you if retrieved.

Fit alarms which will go off if they are moved, but won’t respond to wind or rain.

Secure them to the ground or to a nearby post or pillar by chaining them to an ‘anchor’. You can buy proprietary land anchors, most of which are based on a permanent stake to which the item is bolted or chained. Or fix coach bolts through the pot’s drainage holes and bolt the container to the ground. Urns, statues and large planters could alternatively be cemented in place.

SHED

Check that your shed is secure. It needs strong hinges and a good padlock. Consider fitting a battery operated alarm or even extending your house alarm to protect it.

Security mark all tools, mowers, garden furniture, ornaments and other valuables so if they are offered for sale and the thief apprehended, you may be reunited with them.

FRONT GARDEN

Keep front-garden hedges and fences low - 1m is ideal - so intruders can’t hide behind them.

Hide your best specimens from view. If you really want your hanging baskets in the front, consider padlocking them to their supports, or chaining bay trees to a pillar. But remember, what is not on view is less likely to be stolen.

If you have a padlocked gate connecting the front and the back, make sure it is as high and strong as your fencing. Use locks at top and bottom and make sure the hinges are fixed to the gatepost so the gate cannot be lifted off its hinges.

LIGHTING

Install motion-sensitive lights both front and back. This can be a great deterrent.

Consider installing CCTV - look for systems you can monitor from your mobile.

INSURANCE

Check your household insurance policy covers theft from your garden and outbuildings.