Snakes are often helpful for their ability to keep pests like mice in check in our gardens — but you probably also don’t relish the idea of coming across a poisonous one in your yard while you’re weeding. We generally prefer them to be helpful at a distance, which we can encourage by what we plant and how we maintain the space to keep it free of excessive places they might like to hide and deter both them their food sources. Here’s what you can do to make your garden less snake-friendly.
Add in these plants that snakes don’t like to smell
Snakes smell with their tongues, through an organ called the Jacobsen’s organ that allows them to test out external environmental molecules, so they tend to be more sensitive to the smells of certain plants than we mammals might be. This means that plants with a strong smell can help keep snakes from taking up residence in your garden. Some good choices include:
- Herbs, especially lavender and related species
- Mother-in-law tongue
- Alliums, like onions and garlic
Avoid creating an environment for snakes to hide in
The other thing to take into account when you’re trying to repel snakes is the environment your garden creates. If you live in an area where snakes (especially of the poisonous variety) might be a problem, you’ll want to avoid creating environments in which they might like to hide. Keep the area clear of debris, low brush; in particular, rock piles and brush piles over top of rocks provide a warm hideout for these cold-blooded reptiles.
Plants that attract snakes are low vines and brush, and creepers, like morning glory, creeping thyme, and clover. Although some of these plants are popular for gardening, it might be a good idea to keep them to a minimum in climates where rattlesnakes or copperheads are common.
Avoid attracting a snake’s prey
Another thing to consider when planting to help avoid snakes is their main food source. Since rodents like mice and rats like low ground cover, too, keeping that to a minimum will keep a snake’s food source out of your yard and make it a less attractive place for them to hunt. Tall grasses, corn stalks, and seed heads like sunflowers will attract mice and chipmunks and give snakes a food source.
If you do have some of these plants in your garden, keep the area around them free of ground cover so snakes don’t have a comfortable place to hunt. Mice are also not fans of alliums, mint, sage, and lavender, and neither are snakes, so these are a go-to for repelling snakes because they’re a two-for-one deterrent.
Know that snakes might show up occasionally anyway
Common species that are food for snakes include mice, chipmunks, slugs, grasshoppers, and sometimes birds. This means that they will be attracted to a healthy garden almost regardless of what you do to deter them. Keeping attractions to a minimum will keep their numbers low, and make your yard less attractive to them than other more dense hunting grounds. But as long as snakes don’t take up residence, having them wander into the garden for a slung-eating visit isn’t so bad.
If you find a snake you can’t identify, give it a wide berth. For the most part, snakes aren’t interested in people because we’re too big to eat, but it’s better not to take chances. That said, an occasional visit from a snake should be no cause for alarm unless it’s a poisonous one that wants to move in.
This article has been updated since its original publication date.
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