Spring’s coming! While you prepare for another round of gardening and landscaping to feed your family and be more self-reliant, here’s a few insights to consider that will help you boost your security at the same time.
Hopefully, you’re going to plant edibles and homeopathic remedies rather than just fostering a pretty lawn for football. While you do so, though, here’s some multipurpose landscaping tips that will boost your security at the same time.
Please note that for this post, I’ve purposely omitted some of the more clearly-advantageous setups like standard fences and tripwires for trespasser detection since they may not serve any landscaping purpose other than security. That doesn’t mean they’re not essential, of course. These multipurpose landscaping tips are meant to assist the effectiveness of your home security plan, not to be your whole home security plan by any stretch of the imagination.
10 landscaping elements you might not’ve been using strategically:
1. Open Space
If nobody can approach your home unseen or hide in its nearby shadows, then your home is less attractive to thieves and it’s absolutely easier to defend your home and avoid being surprised. A good 30 to 50 feet of clearance is desirable, and that’ll help you defend your home against fire as well.
2. Concrete Planters
Strategically place these monolithic, decorative pots and you’ll be sure to stop or at least slow most vehicles. Alternatively, you could create foot-high concrete-based flower beds that will also stop vehicles while offering even less concealment value to intruders.
Deep ditches with steep walls can also stop vehicles, but properly used serve to route excess water around your property. You could also put one directly around your home, which would make the climb into a window more difficult for possible intruders and give you firefight coverage. Just make sure you don’t create a solution where someone could be hiding out right by your front door as you approach it.
Whether done around the perimeter of your property or just right around your home, a steep trench can also give you the medieval joy of filling a moat around your house if a wildfire springs up in your area. Just remember than the fighting lads in the World Wars took cover in trenches for a reason, so don’t prefabricate an excellent defensive position for your potential enemies.
4. Hedge Rows
Hedges are an ancient, proven, and aesthetic barrier that definitely slows and perhaps even harms those who attempt to go through them. These could be done around the perimeter of the property and also along vital access routes so that all those who enter don’t have an easy way to approach from an unexpected angle. For example, instead of having easy approach to your house from all four directions, you could use hedges to block off two of them (you’d never want to block off all but one, obviously).
Shrubs immediately around your house may prevent attempts at your windows, but will also hinder your escape attempts if you need to flee through a window – so if you go that way, plan for the situation. Generally, defensive shrubs immediately around the structure itself shouldn’t be more than a few feet high because you don’t want people to be able to use them for concealment close to the main building. Something to consider, also, is that vegetation immediately around your house will encourage spider and snake populations around it.
Relatedly, trees shouldn’t be immediately around the house in such a way that they can be used to readily gain access to the upper stories.
A lot of folks don’t recommend having a thorny hedge around the perimeter of your property because it provides concealment for intruders, but that also depends on your position. For example, if the hedge is at lower elevation than your home it provides less concealment; if higher it provides more. If the edge of your property is significantly distant from your house, then this argument also carries little weight.
If you’re currently separating zones of productivity, like your animals from your garden, using regular fences, you should really read this article to see the many advantages of using a “living fence” instead:
Living Fences: How-To, Advantages and Tips
Possible candidates for defensive hedges include:
Raspberry bushes, which bear edible fruit. Remember that if you plant anything that produces edible fruit, more wildlife will be attracted onto your property.
Blackberry bushes, which also bear edible fruit. Both these and raspberry bushes can grow to about 10 feet in height.
Hawthorn bushes, which also bear edible fruit and additionally have medicinal use. Actually, these grow to trees about 25 feet tall with a fragrant odor.
Blackthorn bushes, which bear semi-edible fruit suitable for preserves and in the making of some kinds of wine and port.
Japanese Rose isn’t all that multi-use, but is extremely resilient to salt, is attractive, and can grow 4 feet in height in just a year (up to about 7 feet tall). A quick solution, this plant is considered a noxious weed in the U.S., per Wikipedia. It attracts nesting birds.
Trifoliate Orange bears fruit that is widely used in Oriental medicine for allergic inflammation. It is hardy in colder climates and so might be a good alternative if you’ve been pretty damn cold recently.
Berberis is another thorny shrub that bears edible fruit.
Oregon Grape, the state flower of Oregon, has spiny leaves and produces edible fruit. This plant also attracts birds, which some might find pleasant. It grows to about 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
Firethorn produces fruit that’s edible when cooked and is specifically known for creating dense, impenetrable structures. It can reach a height of 15 feet.
Osage Orange is arguably the king of protective hedges. It was widely so used before barbed wire and its wood is excellent for the making of bows and tools. This plant can also be used to make die, burns well when dried, can be used to prevent soil erosion, and produces inedible fruit that repels spiders.
I omitted the buckthorn from the above because I’m not aware of any dual usage for it.
5. More Plants
If you’re in a drought-prone region, cacti such as prickly pear (which produces edible fruit) are an excellent choice that can be made into barrier walls.
Additional candidates include:
Bougainvillea vines, which are drought-resistant and could add excellent fortification to an otherwise lackluster barrier. It’ll crawl up about 35 feet!
Honey Locust trees tolerate poor growing conditions. Their legumes contain edible pulp also usable for the making of beer, and the legumes themselves are high-protein cattle fodder.
Mojave Yucca is a very valuable, spiky desert plant. Fibers can be used for rope and cloth, flowers and fruit can be eaten, and more.
Holly gets an honorable mention since it can grow to be quite dense and difficult to penetrate along with some varieties being good for caffeinated teas. Remember just how poisonous this can be to children and pets, though.
Bed of Nails has thorns that become worse after the plant dies, and produces edible fruit.
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac aren’t thorny and won’t prevent trespassers unless they know what it is and care. However, since it has a slight deterrent effect and I personally find the thought of inflicting thorns combined with rashes on interlopers to be humorous, it’s dual purpose. At least for me.
I omitted acanthus and pampas grass from the above because I’m not aware of any dual usage for them.
6. Exterior Lighting
Most attempts to secretively approach a property make use of unlit or ill-lit places. You can use this to your advantage; it doesn’t necessarily mean flooding the whole property with light. Instead, make heaviest usage of your most threatening thorny bushes and cacti in spots you specifically light less than other spots, to encourage possible trespassers to attempt to access the property that way. So, well-light the ill-defended areas and leave the flesh-shredding vegetation poorly lit for people who would choose to walk through them at night without a flashlight.
The angle of your lighting is also important. If you position your lights to beam outward from your home, you’ll effectively see intruders who will themselves be blinded by the lights. If you use the standard porch-light, though, you’ll be illuminating yourself and shrouding everything else around you in darkness.
You should also remember to keep as many of your exterior lights on separate circuits as possible. Tricking them out with motion sensors and timers are cheap ways to make them even more effective. Also, you probably want to use yellow halogen or sodium vapor bulbs to minimize bug swarming around your house.
Gravel is an excellent way to force people and animals to make noise as they approach. Paving all the access points may make it easier on your tires, but gravel is fairly affordable, can be attractive, and sure does crunch. If you’re not going to put something painful under your windows, gravel at least makes approach noisier.
On warm nights, let the dogs sleep outside. Right by an entryway, where someone would have to pass the sniff test.
Obviously, beehives provide both security and food. Vigorous bee activity may by itself scare off some possible intruders, and you could always rig the hives to be collapsible from a distance in case you wanted a swarm on call. Talk about a nice Swiss Family Robinson style surprise.
10. Pond or Swimming Pool
Bodies of water, if deep enough, are an obvious benefit in delaying or stopping both vehicular and foot traffic. Another possible pleasant benefit of a standing pond or pool is your insurance company may lower your fire coverage if the firemen have a readily available source of water near your home. Between the two, a pond is obviously preferable for a prepper since it can support a fish population.
Unfortunately, though, standing water is also a great way to breed mosquitos and other unpleasant insect populations. People sometimes say the fish will eat the bugs – and that’s true, but they won’t get all of them.
Pure Security Considerations
Home security is a very large topic, but here’s a few ideas for things exclusively in that area that you can do fairly cheaply:
Tightly space the concrete-filled posts you use for chain-link fences if you want them to offer some vehicle resistance.
Consider your space in terms of ways for people to easily and quickly get in and out without being seen. This is what thieves are looking for.
Remember that it’s been recommended by police that you don’t block off view or sound of your home from your neighbors, since that isolation can encourage people of ill intent to attempt to access the property and prowling thieves sometimes specifically look for high fencing. Likewise, although we all like our privacy, you need to keep an eye out for your neighbors. If you decide to go against this one, you most definitely need to consider tripwires or other early warning systems specifically for security.
Don’t overlook the simple sign as an elegant deterrent. The danger of a dog bite and advisement that the premises is monitored by security cameras are complications intruders before the SHTF probably don’t feel like dealing with.
Plan to replace sliding glass doors and large expanses of windows, if you have them. For the smaller windows, you can apply a hardening film to prevent them from shattering and/or you could consider adding storm shutters.
Consider getting a hardened, exterior door for usage in the part of the house your family will retreat into if necessary. Most doors inside homes are flimsy and hollow-core, useless for anything more than a second’s delay to anyone who doesn’t care about breaking them. Both internal and external doors should open outward rather inward and have hinges on the inside, to make forced entry more difficult.