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Living Smart: How landscaping can deter intruders, pests

Done right, landscaping can do much more than attract compliments and boost your property value. It can help you repel intruders, both human and natural.

Landscaping experts who’ve earned high marks from Angie’s List members say overgrown bushes and shrubs are like welcome mats to burglars. Keep plants and trees trimmed. Place thorny, but attractive bougainvillea or barberry bushes under windows, sending would-be thieves a sharp message to go elsewhere.

Other ideas for enlisting your landscaping as part of your home security system:

∎ Don’t give thieves the idea that nobody’s paying attention. Mow your grass and maintain plantings and trees. If you’re going to be away awhile, hire a reputable lawn service.

∎ Illuminate your home and property with security lighting. Options include motion-sensor lights, solar pathway lighting, uplighting on the house and downlighting in trees. Newer lighting controls are relatively easy to use and can turn systems on and off when you want. LEDs can be a long-lasting, high-value lighting option.

∎ While it may not be obvious, landscaping could be key to preventing a more natural intruder: rainwater. Take a look at how your lawn or flower beds slope. If they slant toward your home, guess where water flows?

Ways to address the problem include:

• Keep mulching materials about six inches from siding, to prevent mulch from wicking moisture to the siding and causing rot. It’s OK if mulch touches brick or block.

• Prevent rain pouring out of overflowing gutters from displacing soil and allowing water to pool. Cover the area with river stones or other decorative rock.

• Regrade your lawn. Methods include creating a “dry creek,” in which a simple trench, lined with river rock or cobblestones, channels water away from the house. Another option is a French drain, in which water flows into a gravel-lined trench, through a pipe and away from the house.

∎ Garden experts say you can repel mosquitoes and other pesky insects by planting or potting specific plants, flowers and herbs, including citronella, marigolds, basil and lavender.

Before you hire a landscaper for some of the more complicated projects, get estimates from several companies with good reputations on a trusted online review site. Confirm appropriate licensing, insurance and bonding. Contact references and get all pertinent details in writing.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

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