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The mailbox at Gardeners’ World magazine is brimming with letters and emails from gardeners who have been victims of theft. From these letters alone, it would seem that thefts from gardens and allotments are becoming more widespread, while gratuitous vandalism on allotments remains horribly common. Thefts range from handfuls of fresh fruit and veg to expensive garden tools, while whole sheds are reported to have been torn down and burned for ‘fun’. As gardens and allotments are quieter now than they are than in summer, they may be more at risk of falling prey to opportunistic thieves and vandals.
My first allotment was robbed in winter. Nothing expensive was taken (there wasn’t anything expensive to take), but my plastic, walk-in greenhouse vanished overnight, leaving my poor orange tree to fend for itself in sub-zero temperatures (it survived, but hasn’t flowered in the four years since). A cold frame, some lovely wooden seed trays and a hose pipe were also stolen, no doubt to be sold on for pennies at the nearest car boot sale. I was devastated at the time, but quickly accepted it as an inevitable part of allotment life.
Garden theft isn’t just perpetrated by lone opportunists. Gardening is big business, and so is ‘organised’ garden crime. Rare plants, garden gnomes, stone ornaments, expensive bonsais and even whole ponds, hedges and fences are just some of the items regularly reported as stolen. A friend of mine had one of two box cones stolen from outside her front door. Apart from ruining the symmetry of her front door display, the theft made her question whether or not she would replace it, knowing she would have to invest in ugly chains to secure it to the house.
In my heart, my garden is an extension of my house (in lots of ways it means more to me than the bricks and mortar), but I don’t secure it in the same way. It wouldn’t take much for someone to hop over the back gate, force open the shed and remove its contents. Again, there’s nothing expensive inside, but it’s all useful and is somehow part of the emotional attachment I have with my garden.
So, apart from investing in heavy duty locks and lobbying allotment committees to improve security measures, what can we do? Growing prickly hedges such as barberry along our boundaries will prevent most burglars from climbing, or hiding within, while creating noisy gravel paths will also deter them from entering. Shed windows can be covered with a curtain or blind to shield items from view.
Has your garden or allotment been targeted by thieves or vandals? What steps did you take to prevent it happening again?
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