How to Keep Snakes Off Your Lawn and Out of Your Garden

By: Christine Hennessey How to

Snakes are efficient predators and beneficial to your garden. If you see one slithering among your peppers and tomatoes, try not to default to fear or disgust. A snake’s presence is often a sign that your garden is healthy and thriving, offering the right conditions for a host of organisms, insects, and animals—including snakes.

Snakes move quietly, disturbing very little of their surroundings and are able to get into small spaces where their prey hides. They eat insects and rodents and can quickly and naturally rid your lawn or garden of grasshoppers and rats in mere weeks.

Most species are nonaggressive and not known to attack or even approach humans. In many cases, snakes are—to surface an old adage—more afraid of us then we are of them, and that’s saying a lot. This is true for garter snakes, green snakes, ribbon snakes, water snakes, and other non-venomous varieties. Note that rattlesnakes and vipers should be avoided at all costs.

Despite their benefits, you’re not alone if you avoid your garden or lose the ability to enjoy your yard after spotting one. Here are a number of methods for repelling snakes.

Garter snake The garter snake is a nearly harmless species whose diet consists partially of rodents.

How to get rid of snakes naturally

1. Minimize hiding spots for snakes

During the day, snakes avoid humans and hide in tall grass, thick mulch, heavy bushes, and low trees. If you want to keep snakes away, minimize these hiding spots. Mulch only with compost and keep the bottom of your plants dried and pruned.

Not only will these habits dissuade snakes from moving into your garden, they’ll make your plants healthier and stronger.

2. Spray cold water

If you see a snake slithering through your garden, simply spray it with cold water from your garden hose. The snake will quickly retreat, but won’t be otherwise harmed.

3. Plant marigolds

The jury is still out on whether certain plants repel snakes, but many gardeners have reported strong anecdotal evidence that marigolds are effective. Marigolds also repel mosquitos, so even if the snakes remain, at least one pest will be deterred.  

4. Put up a fence

While a fence is labor intensive and can be expensive, it’s effective and won’t harm the snakes at all.

To be truly secure against these agile reptiles, the fence must be made of galvanized hardware cloth with a quarter inch mesh, extend six inches into the ground, and slant outward at a 30-degree angle.

5. Make a natural repellant

Snakes are fairly picky creatures, and there are a number of homemade repellents that will keep them away. Our favorites use common ingredients from around your house, and won’t cause any lasting harm to the snakes.

The first uses equal parts crushed raw garlic and rock salt. Simply mix the two together and then sprinkle around the perimeter of your garden.

The second is a mixture made of essential oils—specifically cedar, clove, and cinnamon oil. In a spray bottle, mix together 30ml of cedar oil, 5ml of clove oil, and 5ml of cinnamon oil. Add two cups of water and shake well. Spray the perimeter of your garden and any spots where snakes may congregate. The strong scent of the essential oils serves as a repellant and will keep them away.

Ribbon snake The ribbon snake is a species of garter snake commonly found in the eastern United States.

How to get rid of snakes chemically

Take extra care when using chemical snake repellents. Some are dangerous to children and pets and should not be used in gardens where plants are grown for consumption.

1. Use mothball flakes

Note that mothball flakes should never be used in your lawn or garden  if you have pets or children, or if you grow plants for consumption.

Mothball flakes are commonly sold as a snake repellant. They are made from naphthalene, which emits a toxic gas that snakes find extremely unpleasant. If you’re planning to use this method, combine the flakes with cat litter and spread the mixture in snake-prone areas.

Be careful when handling mothball flakes—they are a carcinogen and can cause adverse reactions in many people, while also posing a danger to children and pets.  

2. Sprinkle sulfur

Sulfur doesn’t necessarily deter snakes immediately, but it does irritate their skin when they slither through. If you sprinkle powdered sulfur along the perimeter of your lawn, garden, or home, snakes will realize fairly quickly that it causes an unpleasant reaction, and learn to stay away.

3. Try a commercial product

Many people dislike snakes, which means there are a number of products that claim to get rid of them once and for all. You can find these products in any home and garden store, and most have been proven effective.

Take care to choose a product with a good reputation, and make sure you read all the instructions before you use it, especially if you have children or pets or if you grow plants for consumption.

Many of these repellents are made with chemicals that could be dangerous to humans and/or yards, and the last thing you want to do while protecting your home from snakes is to put it at risk with something even worse.


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