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Column: Using your garden to ward off burglars

It’s summertime and thoughts turn to weekends at the cottage, camping in the mountains and leaving your home potentially vulnerable to unwanted guests.
Lynda Pasacreta
Lynda Pasacreta. Image: Wendel Genosa

It’s summertime and thoughts turn to weekends at the cottage, camping in the mountains and leaving your home potentially vulnerable to unwanted guests.

In Richmond, we have a number of vacant properties, collecting newspapers, with deteriorating landscape advertising loudly that no one is home. Quite often we are “blessed” with the ongoing sounds of home alarm systems competing with the sounds of birds with no apparent panic to determine what is setting them off.

To avoid encouraging intruders on to your property when going on vacation, there are steps you can take to ensure your home does not look abandon, including landscape design.

Installing home security systems and using deadbolts are obvious first steps, but using the landscape of your property to intimidate and ward off burglars is a great step towards prevention.

The key element in your landscape design is to not block views of your house. For example, overgrown shrubs and trees placed right in front of a window provides great hiding places for the bad guys.

Studies have shown that most burglars use the first-floor windows to gain entry to your home. Popular hiding places include overgrown shrubs, bushes and trees that are near windows and doors. It is important to minimize these places by trimming branches and limbs that could hide someone from plain sight.

Clean-cut landscape design, as opposed to messy, jungle-like landscaping, will give your house a more secure, polished look.

Good visibility of your house for neighbours, who can be on the lookout for you when you are not around.

Leave ample space between the roof of your house and treetops. The bad guys can use trees to climb up to the second story of your house.

Try to limit access to your property by creating a border around your lawn with trees, bushes or a tall fence. Your house is more exposed if it is accessible from all sides.

Keep sheds and garages locked and secure at all times as these are popular hiding places as well.

Consider planting rose bushes in a raised bed in order to avoid the potential of cut power and cable lines buried along the foundation of a house. Edges of leaves that are spiny like Oregon grape holly or berberis can help protect windows and entryways. Using gravel instead of mulch is a great idea so intruders cannot silently walk near your house.

Anatomy of a burglar reports that they usually search for homes that appear to be unoccupied. With the help of unique lighting, you can make your home look occupied even when you are away.

Consider installing several motion-sensor exterior lights around your property that will stop burglars in their tracks.

Up-lighting and down-lighting in your trees helps to illuminate your entire lawn. If you are going to be out of town for a quite a while, consider setting your lights on a timer system so your home will look occupied for the night.

Landscape can be used to your advantage to protect your home but you need to keep up with it. If you don’t have time or you will be away for extend period of time, consider using a landscape company or a friendly neighbour to keep lawns mowed, plants watered and shrubs trimmed and maintained. Cancel newspaper delivery and mail service or ask your neighbour to keep up with it.

So before leaving on your summer vacation, take a walk around your property to make sure the bad guys won’t choose to visit your property and follow these simple steps to protect your home year round.

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club. For more information and to find about upcoming events, visit