Defensive landscaping

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Defensive landscaping is an excellent way to help make your bug-in location (BIL) or bug-out location (BOL) more easily defended and harder to break into while you are not actively defending it. Defensive landscaping makes use of various plants, fences, and other landscaping features to create hardened perimeters and passive defenses.


Basic Concepts

Defensive landscaping works on several principles, which are covered below. Defensive landscaping should also be pleasing to the eye to avoid unwanted attention.

  • Classifying the Opponent is one of the most important aspects of defensive landscaping; specifically identifying and classifying potential intruders so that they can be dealt with effectively without doing more harm than necessary. Nuisance children, for example, will be on foot and can be a source of legal liability if they are injured; children are best deterred by an obviously present threat such as fencing and thorns. Animals are another intruder, they can be extremely damaging to gardens and other property and are generally best dealt with through fencing. Hostile, adult humans are the most serious threat, they might approach on foot or vehicle, openly or stealthily, and are far more diligent than other intruders.
  • Passive physical barriers are the first defensive landscaping feature, they generally are simple yet difficult to pass such as ditches and boulders to stop vehicle and fences to keep out more easily dissuaded intruders.
  • Pain and Trauma can be inflicted by some barriers such as plants. These are usually thorny or otherwise sharp plants and objects that are easily spotted yet unavoidable to anyone trying to access the places they defend (i.e. roses below a window).
  • Visibility is a careful balancing act of providing yourself with good lines of sight while concealing yourself from view as much as possible. Put simply, you want to conceal yourself without providing concealment for intruders.
  • Guiding Intruders is also important. No intruder can be fully controlled, but making some pathways (such as the one to your hopefully sturdy front door) easier than others will help to persuade a potential intruder to take a path that is more predictable and has other defenses at the ready (i.e. dogs, reinforced entrances, etc...). This is accomplished with careful placement of barriers and lighting.
  • Protecting Points of Entry such as windows, often requires the most effort, always make sure to plan your defensive landscape in such a way as to protect vulnerable points of entry.
  • Upkeep is important to maintaining the appearance that someone is home. A lawn that has not been mowed, for example, generally indicates you are away or no one lives here.

Defensive Landscaping Features

Barriers, Fences, and Walls

Fences, walls, and other barriers are an extremely common part of landscaping, using the proper type of barrier will help contribute to the security of your home or BOL. Fences, typically used to keep out animals and people, must have their posts anchored properly in sufficiently deep concrete and be high enough to be impractical to jump over or climb. Other types of barriers are typically oriented towards stopping vehicles, these must be very large and extremely heavy.

Ornamental Fence.jpg

  • Chain-link fences are generally made of steel and make a strong barrier while also being virtually transparent. Unfortunately chain-link fence of a sufficient height is often not allowed in certain neighborhoods and it is also less than aesthetically pleasing and can attract unwanted attention. Chain-link fence makes an excellent structure for climbing plants, many of which are thick, thorny, and fruiting all of which are excellent properties for someone seeking to be prepared. Chain-link fence is often the least expensive and most quickly deployed type of fence.
  • Ornamental fences generally consist of evenly spaced vertical bars of steel, aluminum, or PVC. These fences are aesthetically pleasing, often feature a rather menacing top section, make excellent structure for climbing plants, and depending on material are extremely durable and strong. Unfortunately these fences tend to be much more expensive than other types of fence.
  • Picket fences can provide privacy (depending upon spacing), are generally allowed to be much higher than chain-link, and are considered by some to be aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately the privacy they provide can also conceal an intruder once they have penetrated the fence. Picket fences don't offer particularly good structure to most types of climbing plants. Picket fence is available in many different materials such as wood, concrete, and PVC, depending on what material and construction method is used, these fences can be very strong or relatively fragile.
  • Stone walls vary in popularity depending upon region and offer a very strong, privacy providing barrier that also provides an excellent structure for climbing plants. Their privacy is also concealment for intruders.
  • Water makes an excellent barrier against vehicles and many other possible threats, but ponds and lakes take a significant amount of planning and effort to either build. As a bonus, water barriers can provide food in the form of fish and aquatic plants. Water barriers can also be used as a source of water for household use.
  • Concrete Planters filled with earth and decorative plants are a popular method of stopping vehicles as they are both aesthetically pleasing and very effective if they are large enough.
  • Boulders are some of the most effective objects for stopping vehicles, as long as they are as large and heavy as possible, while also being attractive and inconspicuous.
  • Ditches are an inexpensive and very effective way to control vehicles, the deeper and wider they are, the more vehicles they will be able to stop. A vehicle stopping ditch should have its "entrance" (the side from which vehicles approach)sloping with a near vertical "exit" side.
  • Terracing is similar in some ways to a ditch as it places a near vertical earthen barrier in front of a vehicle, but it does require either that your home is on a hill or a great deal of dirt work.
  • Hedge Rows are one of the oldest and most successful barriers. They can be extremely dense, thorny, fruiting, self-repairing barriers that will stop virtually any intruder that doesn't have the time to hack through or burn down the hedge. Hedges are considered by many to be more attractive than other barriers as well.
  • Jersey Barriers are large concrete or water-filled objects commonly used on roadways, offer extremely effective barriers against vehicles, however, they lack aesthetic appeal and will generally look out of place on a residential property.
  • Electric Fence, Barbed Wire are wire fences generally allowed in rural areas as barriers to keep livestock in or other wildlife out of you property but are effective against general trespassing in remote areas of larger properties not easily monitored. Razor wire might fall under this category but would be quite noticeable and may attract undue attention by potential intruders. It could give the impression that the property contains very valuable resources that need to have hardened defenses.

High Ground

Having the high ground takes planning prior to building a home, but the advantage of high ground against hostile forces has been used throughout all of known history. High ground provides superior sighting as well as a more difficult approach for the enemy. High ground will also provide protection from flooding. On the other hand, placing yourself on high ground can make your dwelling far more visible.


Properly placed lighting, both always-on and motion activated, will generally be avoided by intruders guiding them into the darker areas that you can ensure are well defended by other means. It also allows you to see what is going on more effectively. Lighting that is projected from your house outwards gives you clear vision while blinding intruders.

Motion Detector Light.jpg


Plants are one of the most important parts of defensive landscaping, they create difficult to defeat barriers as well as passive pain-causing defenses. Certain plants are more desirable than others and can be identified by one or more of several specific characteristics. Unlike many other barriers, plants provide aesthetic appeal sometimes fruit.

Locust Tree.jpg

  • Thorns are one of the most desirable traits for defensive plants. Thorns cause pain to those who touch them and snag on clothing and gear making them difficult to work through, snagging can also collect evidence for later use.
  • Sharp edges are also desirable feature of some plants that easily cut clothing and skin, making them an excellent deterrent to potential intruders.
  • Climbing vines and other plants are extremely desirable due to their ability to cover fences and surfaces with thick, pain-causing or otherwise difficult to penetrate barriers that can improve the aesthetics of the structure they grow on.
  • Dense plants are more desirable than sparse plants for defense. The thicker plant growth is the harder it is to cut through or otherwise penetrate.

Example Plants

These are some plants that exemplify ideal defensive plants.

  • Raspberries and similar plants are some of the most ideal plants for defense and general preparedness. They climb, grow very dense, have thorns and as a bonus provide edible fruit.
  • Roses climb, grow dense (depending upon species), have thorns and are aesthetically pleasing.
  • Hawthorn
  • Honey Locust Tree
  • Yucca or Spanish Dagger
  • Cacti

Tree and Shrub Use

It is important to follow certain rules regarding the maintenance and positioning of trees and shrubs.

  • Trimming should be performed not only for general maintenance, but also to make sure that the lower portion of a tree or shrub does not provide ample concealment.
  • Location should not be too close to buildings as trees can be used to climb up to a window. Trees themselves can also provide a threat during inclement weather or if their root systems damage foundations and plumbing.

See Also


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