Gardening theft

by Kate Bradbury

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...

Padlock on shed doorThe 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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Gardeners' World Web User 04/02/2011 at 13:03

I, too, have experience of thieves "doing" a whole road of gardens,garages,and sheds in a night. They took a new strimmer from my garage "box as well as it was still in it" and lifted the whole window frame out, breaking the glass, to get it so the curtain idea is good. I asked my insurance co. if they would pay to have the window bricked up instead of replacing the window and they did. I've also been robbed when I was up the garden so I lock the kitchen door now when I am gardening.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/02/2011 at 13:42

I would appreciate some pointers on how to deter these people from allotment sites. Like many other people, I live a fair distance from my plot so I'm not sure there's anything I can do to stop them. However, I don't have room at home for all my tools etc so I guess I'll just have to take my chances. Perhaps I should advertise the fact that my plot neighbour is actually the local bobby!!

Gardeners' World Web User 04/02/2011 at 14:03

Interesting blog, Kate, if a little one-sided. As a confirmed, life-long gardening tea leaf, I have frequently been the victim of anti-crim prejudice. We felons put a lot of effort into gardening theft, and because we must, inevitably, ply our trade by night, we don't get to spend as much quality time with our families as we might. I must admit, I permitted myself a chuckle at your 'security' advice - we won't be deterred by some mimsy curtain, you know. All the best, Tubby Trinder

Gardeners' World Web User 04/02/2011 at 14:41

i had my shed broken into my edge cutters , solar lights were pinched but he got caught so i was pleased . didn,t get my stuff back but at leased thet caught him so happy ending

Gardeners' World Web User 04/02/2011 at 16:37

My mother had a beautiful Japanese maple stolen about ten years ago. She had had it about 15 years, and had looked after it really carefully. She was devastated.

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