There are a lot of homes with wrought iron fences around them in the area where I live. This comes from the strong Hispanic population in the area. In Mexico, it’s common to build cinder block walls or wrought iron fences around a home as a means of protection (remember, they don’t have our Second Amendment rights). So, what we have here is merely a carryover that they’ve brought with them when they moved to the United States.
This is rare in the rest of the country, where we are accustomed to wood fences in the backyard and open front yards. Our fences aren’t built so much for security, but for privacy. We even call them “privacy fences.” In reality, those privacy fences don’t do much to help protect us, considering that the horizontal bars provide a ladder. They aren’t even secure from the other side, as all it takes is a hammer and pry bar to pull the fence apart.
Coming Up With an Alternative
So, what do we do? How can we provide ourselves with some level of perimeter defense, without making it look like we’re trying to turn our home into Fort Knox?
Before we go any farther, let me clarify something. No passive defense system you can build will keep your home safe, unless you build an actual castle, moat and all. However, it can do several things for you: 1) It can slow down your attackers, giving you time to react. 2) It can channel the avenue down which your attackers come. 3) It can limit the access points to your house.
I recommend planting hedges. First, it can be just as effective at blocking access to your property as a wall can. Perhaps even more so, especially if you use a plant that has thorns. There’s just something about those thorns that people don’t like. Secondly, it won’t look like a wall, so it won’t convey the message of being a part of your defenses, even though it is.
There’s another real advantage of planting a hedge rather than building a fence: The hedge is a whole lot cheaper. Our hedge, which surrounds our front yard, consists of 84 bugambilia bushes. Since I bought them from a wholesale nursery, it cost me less than $200 to plant my hedge.
Creating Your Defensive Hedge
If you decide to plant a defensive hedge, the first thing you must decide is whether you want a slow-growing plant or a fast-growing plant. The slow-growing one will take less maintenance, as you won’t have to trim it as often, but it will be considerably longer before your hedge is at the point of being an effective part of your defenses. A fast-growing one, on the other hand, will augment your defenses within a few months, but you’ll end up having to trim it every week or two.
We planted our hedge in one day, with the help of some friends. While we were doing the project, I took advantage of the opportunity to install underground soaker hoses for watering, cutting down on my maintenance work. I also put a swath of landscaping fabric under the bushes, covering it with mulch. This eliminates the problem of having to mow under the bushes.
You will have to decide how far apart to plant your bushes, based upon the type of bush you select and how fast it grows. Mine are two feet apart, which worked out extremely well. But if I had used a slow-growing plant, I would have planted them closer together.
As part of your planning, decide what openings you are going to leave. The only ones we have are at the front walkway, coming up to our front door and the walkway that connects to the driveway. At the end of the hedge, where it connects to the neighbor’s fence, we have grown the hedge several feet past the corner, eliminating any opening there that can be used to squeeze through. So, we have positive control over the access routes that attackers can use. Those are covered by surveillance cameras.
The most important part of the process begins once the bushes start growing. That is to interweave the branches, crossing them over those of the adjacent bushes. In some cases, the branches on our bushes are actually crossing three other bushes before reaching the top. This makes it impossible for anyone to push their way through the hedge. They would have to cut through it first.
I’ve made that difficult by threading some quarter-inch diameter steel rod through the hedge, with one course halfway up its four-foot height and another about a foot above the ground. It is tied off to the trunks of the bushes where possible. This also serves to keep people from being able to low crawl under the bushes, even though our small dog can still escape that way.
The Psychology Behind the Plan
It’s important to understand what I’m trying to accomplish here. It’s not so much to keep people from being able to approach my front door, as it is controlling how they approach my front door. Without the hedge, people could cross over from my neighbor’s front yard and approach my front door without me having a chance of seeing them. That could mean that my first notice that my home was about to be invaded would be someone’s boot kicking my front door.
Other than trained military operators, people will pick the easiest way to go around or through any obstacle. So, by blocking off my front yard, while leaving open the front walkway, I can pretty much guarantee how people will approach my home. And, thus, my home is safer.
Have you ever used hedges for home defense? Share your advice in the section below: