How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Garden
Questions About Snakes

How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Garden

Wild snakes that you may encounter in your garden are usually non-venomous, but some venomous species are hiding in the leaves and bushes, such as coral snakes. This is a problem if you’re a keen gardener or have young children or pets. You don’t want a member of your family to get bitten.

How do you keep snakes out of your garden? Keep snakes away from your garden by getting rid of their food source and removing any low ground cover that they can hide under. You can use snake traps, anti-snake fencing, and repellents.

The trick is to use several methods at once. Using a fence won’t stop snakes from climbing nearby walls and trees before entering your yard. And using repellents won’t get rid of all snakes.

How to Keep Snakes Away from Your Garden

Preventing snakes from entering your yard, rather than removing them once they’re already there, is the preferred option. Preventing snakes from accessing your garden hardly costs any money.

Different Kinds of Snake Proof Fencing

There are two main kinds of a snake-proof fence. Each stops snakes from climbing into your garden, but in different ways. These are as follows:

  • Fences that lean outwards at a slight angle. Some snakes are quite good climbers, and can climb up vertical wooden fences and walls. But if the fence leans out, away from your property, they can’t get any purchase to climb. The same applies to anything—snakes will have a much easier time climbing trees that are at an angle, for example.
  • Fences that have chicken wire around the base. You can turn a picket fence into an anti-snake fence by using chicken wire with small holes. They can’t get through it because the holes are too small. And they can’t climb it because they can’t get any purchase on it.

This is a brute-force solution to your snake problem. The more complete your fence, the fewer snakes will be able to get in. So, if you can surround your entire property with fences like these, then snakes can’t crawl into your yard.

There are a couple of problems, in that you’ll still need a gate that can open and close, and neither of these fencing solutions looks all that nice. But they are highly effective.

Not only that, but you’ll still get snakes trying to get onto your property through any way they know how. They can climb trees or anything else nearby and drop onto your property. So, even if you do have snake-proof fences, you’re not entirely ‘safe.’

Get Rid of Their Food Source

Snakes, like all reptiles, are only trying to live their lives. They need to find food to live, and they need places to hide, too.

So, even if you do put up a snake-proof fence, if the snake can still smell food inside your yard/garden, they’ll try and find another way to get in. Snakes have an exceptionally strong sense of smell, and they can sense prey from a distance.

So, what can you do? Get rid of their food source. For the snakes that are getting into your yard, that means mice, rats, squirrels, and any similar small mammals.

By repelling these snake prey items, you’ll get rid of the main reason why snakes even want to get in your yard in the first place. You can use regular traps.

best snake repellent for yards

Or, you could make sure that there’s no food source for the rodents, either:

  • Make sure that nearby garbage cans are sealed, and that no rodents can get in
  • Make sure that any holes they can hide in are plugged up
  • Hire an exterminator to get rid of any mice or rats inside your house

This is why there are stories of escaped pet snakes, living in attics. Attics often have rodent problems, and snakes can take full advantage of that.

It’s even how ‘corn snakes got their name, because they’re often found near corn or grain stores, where there are lots of mice. So, get rid of the mice, and you get rid of the problem.

Clear Your Yard and Flower Bed

Another thing that snakes like about peoples’ yards is that they offer excellent ground cover. Most snakes spend the majority of each day under cover. That means they’ll seek out foliage, bushes, flower beds and similar so that they can hide underneath them.

They aren’t doing it to scare you, though. It’s either so that they can hunt for mice/similar rodents, digest, or get some shut eye.

To make sure you stay completely snake-free, go through your yard and garden, and clear away the following:

  • Any long grass that you haven’t mowed in a while
  • Any bushes that the snakes would have access to
  • Any equipment or furniture that they can get under

If you were to get rid of all these things, your yard might look quite empty. And, unfortunately, there’s no way around that.

The perfect way to ensure that there are no snakes in your yard is to pave over it with concrete completely. However, you can compromise by keeping your yard as clear as possible.

Clear Overhanging Branches Away

If you find that snakes are still getting into your yard, even though you’ve put fences up, you could try clearing away any overhanging branches.

If there’s a tree adjacent to your property, then snakes can climb it and drop down into your yard. It’s like they’re learning military-grade techniques to break in.

Solving this particular problem is easy. Just clear out any branches that hang over your yard. You don’t necessarily have to cut the entire tree down.

Make sure that you have permission to do so before you do. The same goes for anything similar nearby that they might be able to climb up like posts, furniture or anything similar.

Use Snake Traps

Last but not least, you could use snake traps. These do exactly what you imagine. Some can actively lure snakes in, while others are passive traps that catch snakes as they pass by.

There are two kinds you can choose from:

  • Glue traps. Harris’ Snake Glue Trap, for example, is as basic as they come. They’re large enough to catch a snake, as well as anything else you might want to catch (like mice or rats). They also come in packs of one or three. They don’t kill the snake either, so if you want to use a humane trap, these are a good choice.
  • Classic live traps. These are more expensive, but they’re reusable. The Tomahawk Live Trap requires bait, but can be used again and again to tackle a recurring problem. It’s essentially a cage, with a small opening on one side. The snakes can get in easily, but can’t get out. You can then release them elsewhere, or kill them once they’re caught.

Both traps are effective, but you start by trying to prevent your snake problem entirely. Begin by getting rid of any rodents and any ground cover that the snakes can hide under. See if the problem persists, and only then start investing time, money and effort into trapping them.

If you do want to trap them, it’s best to use a trap with a lure. The best lure is a small rodent, dead or alive, since small rodents are the prey of most U.S. snakes.

If you have a glue trap and a rodent infestation, then the odds are that you’ll actually catch some rodents anyway! If you have an old-fashioned trap, then you might have to buy one from a pet store or similar.

Anti-Snake Home Remedies

Because we’ve lived alongside snakes for hundreds of years, there are many home remedies that people use to try and get rid of them. Salt, diesel fuel, lye, and certain plant species are supposed to repel snakes. But do they work? And if they do, why?

Does Sulfur Keep Snakes Away?

There’s no evidence to say that sulfur keeps snakes away, although it is the primary ingredient in many snake repellents.

Again, sulfur can be toxic to certain animals, and it certainly doesn’t smell nice, but it won’t repel snakes. A paper at the Second Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conference assessed many supposed snake repellents like sulfur, mothballs, skunk scent, lime, cedar oil, coal tar, creosote, liquid smoke, and king snake musk. Researchers placed the snake in an enclosure along with each item to assess the snake’s behavior.

They found that nothing they used had any effect on the snakes. The snakes would happily crawl right through whatever it was that the scientists put in their way, be it gourd vines, coal tar or wood smoke. They weren’t affected in the slightest by any of the preparations used.

Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t a snake repellent. It’s clear from the reviews of many products that some of them do actually work. But unfortunately, that isn’t backed up by empirical study. It’s up to you as to whether you want to take the word of reviewers.

Snake Proof Fencing

Does Salt Keep Snakes Away?

It’s an old campground myth that a ring of salt around your campsite can keep snakes away. It’s unclear why people think it might work.

It seems like the idea might have been borrowed from the fact that slugs and snails can’t crawl across salt, because it dries them out. It’s a common misconception that snakes are sloppy and slimy like slugs—they’re reptiles, not mollusks.

And there’s nothing about the smell of salt that keeps snakes away, either. Snakes do have an incredible sense of smell, but salt isn’t toxic to them, so they won’t avoid it.

Not only that, but it’ll wash away whenever it rains, so even if it did work you’d have to keep applying it constantly.

Does Vinegar Keep Snakes Away?

People use apple cider vinegar for just about anything. For some reason, certain lifestyle blogs and similar resources claim that vinegar can get rid of snakes. The thinking is that snakes can absorb moisture through their skin, and as such, they won’t crawl through the vinegar.

Well, occasionally vinegar does work if a pet snake won’t let go of your hand. They don’t like it, so they’ll let go of you if they come into contact with it.

However, it isn’t because it’s toxic to snakes—they probably don’t like to get something acidic on themselves. As for whether they’ll avoid the area because of a little vinegar, the answer is probably no unless you can spray it out of a lawn sprinkler.

Does Diesel Keep Snakes Away?

Yes, diesel does keep snakes away. They don’t like the smell. It’s a natural reaction for any animal to avoid a substance that smells like it might be toxic, and diesel is no exception. If you were to sprinkle diesel fuel around your yard, this would most likely discourage them from coming here.

  • Diesel fuel is toxic to any kind of life. So, while you might keep snakes away, you’d also kill everything else in your yard, from the birds to the squirrels and even your flowers and grass.
  • Diesel is expensive compared to other methods of keeping snakes away from your home.
  • Diesel smells awful to people, too, not just snakes. Why would you want to use diesel when you can take other simple steps to remove snakes?

So, while it might work, you should almost certainly pick a different way to deal with snakes. There are solutions that don’t involve creating a biohazard in your yard.

Does Lye Keep Snakes Away?

If you didn’t know, lye is a kind of caustic solution that’s used in soaps and similar cleaning products. It can react with certain chemicals to produce poisonous gases.

If you were to touch lye, it can seriously hurt you and burn your skin. It’s so powerful that if you add it to water, just the chemical reaction alone can cause the temperature to shoot north of 200 degrees.

So, lye is toxic to life. But can lye keep snakes away? The answer is just like that for diesel. Yes, it probably can (although nobody has thought to test it).

But if you’re planning on using lye to get rid of snakes, you’ll be damaging your yard to do it. It’s far better to use real, approved repellents rather than homemade ones!

Plants That Keep Snakes Away

Some plants supposedly keep snakes away. Each of them can be grown across the U.S., and some are even quite common. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Marigolds, which are used to deter many pests
  • Mother-in-law’s tongue
  • Lemongrass
  • Tobacco
  • Onion and garlic

The idea is that snakes either don’t like the way that the plants look or smell. Mother-in-law’s tongue, for example, has long green leaves that look ever so slightly like snakes. And lemongrass, onion, and garlic, of course, are fragrant plants.

As always, as for whether they actually work, that’s another question. You can give them a try but don’t expect them to work as well as proper repellents.

Best Snake Repellent for Yards

Fortunately, there are real manufactured repellents that are tested on real snakes. The ones we’ve found below all have positive reviews to their name, although none are perfect.

Most of them share some of their ‘ingredients,’ although they’re subtly different, with each having their own proprietary ‘blend.’ Let’s see which one’s best.

Nature’s MACE Snake Repellent (22lb Granular Pail)

Snake Mace is advertised as professional strength snake repellent, that doesn’t contain anything harsh, and won’t harm pets.

It looks a little like instant coffee granules. It contains sulfur and chemicals similar to those found in mothballs. Reviewers are mostly happy with it, although some people report that it only repels certain species.

Just sprinkle it around your yard. Concentrate especially on areas that you typically see snakes. So, for example, near a point in the fence where they typically try and get in.

Or on a tree that they climb to drop down into your yard. Take the time to see how they actually get in before you use repellents like these.

You could always sprinkle it anywhere and everywhere around your yard. That would no doubt give the best coverage, but you would be paying through the nose having to buy more repellent every week or so.

Ortho Snake B Gon Snake Repellent Granules

Ortho’s Snake B Gon granules are quite similar to Snake Mace, and have similar ratings. Ortho claims that it works by stopping the snake from being able to smell their prey, because it’s so overpowering.

They use a proprietary ‘No Stink’ formula made from essential oils including cinnamon oil, castor oil, peppermint oil, and clove oil.

Again, the reviews are mixed. There are plenty of reviews saying it works better than anything else out there. Plenty others pick up on the fact that it smells quite nice.

But others say they come home and find snakes sunning themselves on the ground where they sprinkled some just the night before!

Snake Defense One Gallon Spray Repellent

Snake Defense is a spray rather than granules. It has even better reviews than the other two repellents on our list. Like Ortho’s Snake B Gon, it uses essential oils.

The three active ingredients are cinnamon oil, clove oil and peppermint oil in equal proportion. But unlike Ortho, Snake Defense claim that it works by causing irritation.

You use it like you would use granules. You spray it around areas where the snakes are likely to congregate, or over your whole yard if you want to. Snake Defense themselves recommend spraying it all around the perimeter of your yard rather than just in select areas.