Garden Security: How to keep your garden safe

At Lazy Susan we sign up to several news services, keeping our eyes peeled on all the latest gardening, patio design, and outdoor furniture related stories. However, we've noticed that in recent months, they are being dominated with stories talking about the theft of garden furniture.

At Lazy Susan we sign up for several news services, keeping our eyes peeled on all the latest gardening, patio design, and outdoor furniture-related stories. However, we've noticed that in recent months, they have been dominated by stories talking about the theft of garden furniture.

Take this recent article from The Eastbourne Herald, this is one of several I've seen over the last few days.

Garden furniture theft is on the rise. As consumers, we are investing more in our gardens than ever before. Our furniture is seen as a soft target by thieves and garden security needs to be taken seriously.

Generally, the insurance companies require that our houses are burglar-proof, but more often than not, anyone can get into our gardens, break into our shed and take things. And if the worst should happen, we tend to assume that the loss or damage to our gardens is covered under our home insurance.

However, this is not always the case, and different policies have very different exclusions and limits.

Always check your policies as they vary dramatically. For example, Churchill covers garden loss but only up to £250. While Lloyds TSB Options cover includes up to £2,000 of garden cover as standard.

Choosing what cover is right for your garden is more than a matter of checking the insurer's small print. The first thing to do is assess how much cover you need. What is the cost of replacing your garden furniture, decor, shed contents etc?

1. Take Precautions

The most effective way of keeping thieves out of your garden is to make life as difficult as possible for them. Reduce the number of places they can hide by keeping hedges and shrubs low at the front of the house, and install security lighting in areas that are cast deep into shadow at night.

Gravel is an excellent deterrent as it's noisy when walked on, so will alert you to any intruders. Ladders and tools should never be left lying around, as not only do they make rich pickings for opportunist thieves, but can be used to break into your home, garage or shed.

But most importantly, be proactive. Take sensible security steps to protect your garden:

2. Security Lighting

Motion detector lights will turn on if they detect any motion, such as people or animals walking by. They are inexpensive, and most models can be programmed for range and sensitivity so that you can avoid having the lights go on each time a cat walks by the garage. Motion detector lights are a great deterrent to intruders—and the more lights you have, the better. Burglars practice an entirely different sort of performance art, and don’t like being thrust into the spotlight; they’ll run if they think anyone can see them.

3. Anchor your belongings

Another cost-effective solution for putting off the passing thief is to use a Sterling Security Anchor on the patio. It will bolt onto the decking or wall and then you simply pass a security cable through all your expensive patio equipment including the barbeque and lock them together.

4. Shed & Garage

Sheds may contain hundreds of pounds worth of tools and other equipment but are often overlooked when considering home security arrangements. Ensure that yours is in good condition, and replace rotten sections of timber and window frames if necessary. If you're buying a new one, position it so that it faces your house and isn't too close to a wall or gate, offering easy access to thieves.

Fit key-operated window locks on all windows that open, or if you never use them, screw them permanently shut. Add wire mesh or a grille on the insides of the frames, then hang an old curtain or piece of fabric so a casual observer can't peep inside.

Shed doors are often weak points, so secure them with two closed shackle padlocks on strong hasps, one positioned a third of the way up the door, and the other one-third of the way down, and reinforce the hinges with threaded coach bolts with backing plates or large backing washers which prevent the bolt being pulled through the wood.

Property inside the shed should be locked, so that anyone breaking in can't just walk off with it. Store smaller items such as tools in a lockable metal box or cage, and chain bicycles, lawnmowers, ladders and furniture to a floor anchor fixed into the floor, or link everything together with a lockable chain or metal cable.

Although garages are usually built from bricks and mortar and are stronger than the average shed, windows and doors are their weak points, so require sturdy locks. Secure up and over garage doors with locks fitted to the garage base or with mortice bolts fitted to each side, and double doors with heavy-duty hasp and staple, coach bolted through, together with a closed shackle padlock.

Access doors, leading into the garage or directly into the house, need a five-lever mortice or deadlock, and mortice bolts top and bottom. As in a shed, you should lock small items inside a metal box or cage, and thread larger ones together with lockable cable, possibly anchored into the ground, a wall or a post.

5. Property Marking

It makes sense to visibly mark your property with your postcode as such items are harder for thieves to sell on, and easily identifiable as stolen. They can be etched or marked in ink, UV marker or with self-laminated stickers, which wrap around handles and bicycle frames.

These are usually available from Crime Prevention officers, who should also be able to supply stickers advertising that the property has been marked. Finally, write down any serial numbers, and take photos to aid with recovery and insurance claims if, despite your precautions, anything is stolen.

6. Gates & Fencing

It is important to ensure the perimeter of your property is secure. Check that fences or walls are in good condition so they can't simply be kicked down, then add extra security measures to prevent athletic thieves from climbing over. Low fencing gives easy access, so go for panels which are at least 1.8 metres high, though you should ask your local planning office whether any height restrictions apply.

Fix sections of trellis on top which will break if climbed on, or run thin horizontal wires along the top of fence posts, and grow plants along them. Alternatively, consider bordering the fence with prickly hedges or shrubs, such as climbing roses, hawthorn or holly, which will make an uncomfortable landing for anyone who falls on them.

Gates at the back and side of the house should be the same height as the fence or wall, and secured with at least two good-quality padlocks and bolts. Make solid wooden gates more tricky to climb by adding insets so there isn't an obvious foothold, and check that the hinges are secure so that the gate can't be removed completely - either weld them shut or screw them in as tightly as possible.

7. Keep it locked

Get into the habit of locking toys, tools and lightweight furniture in the shed, garage or other outbuildings at night, and only leave things outside which are too big or heavy to be moved easily. However, weighty items are still potential targets, so fix furniture and barbeques to the ground with anchoring devices, and use security brackets to prevent hanging baskets from being whisked away. You may also need to anchor statues and expensive plants and place stones or bricks in the bottom of large containers to increase their weight.

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