Before we get into my garden security tips, let me start this post by telling you a story.
Back when I was living with my mum, she would constantly tell me off for not closing my bedroom window properly. You see, I would pull the window shut, but would rarely bother turning the handle to secure it. My mum would argue that “anyone” could climb up onto the roof extension and break into the house through that window… while I reasoned that they would first have to make it up onto the extension, which seemed incredibly unlikely.
We would have this debate all the time, and I never really took her seriously. That is, until one day when we were having a family BBQ. We had reopened the conversation, but this time in front of my visiting step-siblings. As my mum and I made our cases for the umpteenth time, my younger step-brother simply gets up and goes around the side of the house.
As we watch, he scrambles up the flimsy wooden fence and just launches himself across to the roofline of the extension (which must have been at least five feet away). He grabs the edge of the roof, hauls himself up, saunters over to my window, pulls it open and casually lifts himself through.
I’m going to gloss over my embarrassment at being corrected so effectively, and get straight to the point: getting into your home or over a garden fence might be much easier than you think. Especially because would-be intruders are quite probably going to be younger, stronger and more agile than you’re expecting.
Obviously, this occasion was a huge lesson for me and it changed the way I thought about home security. I paid more attention to garden features, and have since been very interested in all the ways your garden can make your home seem like more or less of an easy target to would-be intruders.
Garden Security Tactics and Ways to Deter Trespassers
So, it’s important to start by saying there are, broadly, two kinds of people that are a threat to your property. On the one hand, you have opportunists, who will take advantage of a one-off vulnerability – like walking in through an open gate, or taking something from an unattended front garden. On the other hand, there are intruders who are specifically targeting your home, and are more likely to take the time to form a plan.
Both types of people are looking for an easy way in and out of your home, so these garden security tips will highlight ways you can make it difficult for them, so they ultimately decide it’s not worth their time. I should say though, it’s always important to form good security habits (like locking doors and windows), and hiding valuables.
If you leave your Maserati on the drive with the keys in the ignition, no amount of gravel is going to help you.
1. Secure your secluded secondary entrance
Most of us have two ways into our home, whether it’s a back door, a side door, or entrance via a garage or cellar. These are usually much less obvious than the front door, which actually gives intruders a bit more privacy for getting in and out without getting seen.
If you know exactly which door I’m talking about, the most important thing is to keep it locked unless you’re literally right next to it. You should also give it the same security treatment as your front door in terms of lights and cameras.
Consider whether you could actually make that door a little less hidden, too. It’s not always practical (privacy is nice, after all), but if even a couple of neighbouring windows overlook the area, it can make an opportunist think twice about trying to get in.
2. Don’t advertise your money out front
Fancy landscaping and expensive fixtures in the front garden suggest that the goods inside your home are even more luxurious. While you’re keeping up with the Joneses, would-be thieves will notice that breaking into your home might have a better pay-off than the others on your street.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with maintaining your curb appeal, but take a look at the houses around you and try not to be too ahead of the pack. Keep your front garden simple, and don’t leave your luxury cars and racing bikes out on the driveway.
3. Go for Gravel
One of the glorious things about gravel is how it can quickly make even the simplest outdoor space look sophisticated and put-together. Another wonderful feature is that unmistakable crunch as someone approaches your front door. It’s great for letting you know that your visitors are arriving, but will also alert you to unexpected guests, at any time of day or night.
4. Keep an Eye on Who’s Visiting
Talking of visitors – do you know who drops by when you’re not home? What about people that come up to the front door without knocking? Smart cameras are super inexpensive these days, and can help you check on your front door without being a curtain-twitcher.
Smart cameras have a range of features, like recording anyone that comes up your driveway, texting or calling you when a delivery arrives and allowing you to actually speak to someone that rings your doorbell. Handy.
5. Act like you’re home
An under-loved property will gain the wrong kind of attention as much as a flashy exterior. From the street, it will either look like you’re barely there (possibly away long-term), or that you simply don’t care about the state of your home… including, perhaps, forgetting to maintain your locks.
The solution is really one of the simplest garden security tips in this post! When you’re home, mow your lawn occasionally, keep the path clear from overgrown plants and move your bins around.
What if you aren’t going to be home, or it’s an empty property you’re responsible for? Invest in some kind of bin storage, and consider replacing the lawn and plants for something lower-maintenance, or arrange for someone to come by once every couple of weeks and trim things in your absence.
6. Don’t leave bulky things lying around
As a teenager, I had a friend who would frequently forget his house keys. When he got home at night, he would use the wheelie bins to hop over the rear wall, then use the key hidden under a plant pot to get in the back door.
Those bins would be just as convenient for someone else. So, even if it seems like a lot of effort to move them, remember that a thief is going to see garden furniture, DIY materials or big tools as a helping hand into your home. Suddenly, that high-up window is within reach, and the leverage to bust open an old lock is on hand.
In terms of garden security tips, do your future self a favour and invest in some garden storage, like a shed or a lockable unit. At the very least, keep larger items like bins and tables away from the side of your house or walls. That way, they’ll need to be dragged across a noisy surface before they’re any use.
7. Keep your front fences low, and your rear fences high
You’ve planted tall hedges at the front of your home so you don’t get people gawping in your living room window as they pass by. In your rear garden, your picket fence lets your dog see out while you can lean over to chat to the neighbours.
The thing is, tall fences at the front of a property are pretty unusual, and are more likely to pique the curiosity of passers-by than regular ones. Plus, if someone does come boldly up to your front door, tall fences will actually provide them cover from potential witnesses on the street. Lower your fences or trim your hedges (about 1.2m is normal), and put net curtains in your window if you want privacy.
At the back, low fences will give an unobstructed view of everything that’s going on in your garden. It makes it much easier to see when you’re home, what valuables you might have, and whether there are any security features to contend with. Not to mention that a low fence is much, much easier to climb over – making it an easy exit route for your home and neighbouring buildings. A tall fence – 1.8m or so – will maintain an air of mystery that is more likely to deter a trespasser. Take a look at some garden fence ideas to help you find new ones.
8. Illuminate garden blind-spots
Good garden landscaping makes use of layers and levels of foliage and structure. Although this looks beautiful, it has the unfortunate side-effect of creating lots of hiding places throughout your garden.
Always keep the area surrounding your doors and windows clear and open, and aim your garden lights down shadowy pathways. A fun way to test your setup is to have one person try to approach the house from across the garden, while someone else watches from the house (upstairs and downstairs windows) or using a security camera, if you’re installing one.
9. Don’t put your stuff in a spotlight
Equally, having a floodlight shining across your whole garden all night means that anyone peering in can see exactly what stuff is where. Rather than showcasing your garden like it’s a shop window, opt for motion-sensitive lights on timers, which will trigger when there’s something going on outside.
10. Remember to lock up
There are two things to remember about a shed or garden storage unit. The first is that they’re great for having a secure place to organise your outdoor tools and hobby equipment. The second is that they’re essentially a treasure chest for thieves – if there’s any garden booty to be had, they know it’ll be in your shed or your garage.
So, if you have an outdoor storage space, it’s absolutely essential that you keep it secure. That means keeping it in good repair (especially the roof and hinges), and always using a padlock – combination ones are good if you’re worried about keeping track of keys. You might also want to invest in a shed made from metal or reinforced wood, especially if you’re using it as a home office or garden gym of some kind. If there’s a window, position it so people can’t see in from the street, and close the curtains when you’re not inside.
The same goes for rear gates and side gates, which should be the same height as your fence. Invest in padlocks if you rarely use them (and only need to access them from one side), or install a Yale lock if you’re constantly in and out.
Talking of keys, stop leaving a spare key near your front or back door. Even if you think you’re being smart by leaving it under the doormat or beneath a plant pot – or you’ve got one of those fake rocks, or a hollow brick. That way, only people you tell will know where to look.
Sorry to burst your bubble! Experienced burglars will have seen every variation of “key hidden near door”. They know what a fake rock looks like, and no nook or cranny or your porch is too random to check. If you absolutely have to leave a key for the property unattended, invest in a lockbox with a combination code.
12. Use the power of plants
Your plants can be so much more than decorative. For example, did you know that you can legally extend the height of your fence with a trellis? It’ll make it much harder to climb, and you can make it an extra-prickly route for trespassers by growing climbing roses up it.
Alternatively, a thick, thorny hedge like hawthorn or firethorn will put-off anyone thinking about climbing up and over the edge of your garden (and can also provide privacy).
13. Label your stuff
Furniture and valuables that can easily be identified as your will be much less appealing to thieves. Paint, carve or etch your house number and postcode into furniture or garden equipment and not only is it less likely to go missing, you’ve got a better chance of it returning home if it does.
Another thing you can do is take photographs of expensive items and make a note of their serial number (which will come in handy should you ever need to make an insurance claim for them).
If a thief can’t see your security measures, they might think you don’t have any. Of course, you don’t want to advertise every single defensive feature, but having an obvious home alarm, doorway camera or flood light gives the impression that breaking into your home might have its challenges. Secure fencing and gates – and even evidence of a dog – can be deterrents too.