Beautiful Beneficials: Snakes in the Garden

Most gardener’s fear finding spiders or snakes in the garden. I had an employee in the past who was always a little freaked out by a snake when it “appeared” out of its hiding. As long as he could see it before it saw him, he was fine with it. I admit that I have no desire to be around snakes, but the more I learn about the ecosystems in place around me and my gardens, the less worry I have over the few snakes that do inhabit my yard. 

Common Garter Snake in the Author’s garden

The smaller garden type snakes (garter, ringneck, lined, brown, and western worm) are common in my garden and are very beneficial to it. With this year’s abundance of grasshoppers, I saw an increase in the activity of snakes in my gardens. After learning that these small snakes eat grasshoppers, slugs, snails, and many other insects, I have become happier about their presence in the yard. 

DeKay’s Brown Snake

Snakes do not attack people nor “go for the leg” as many people afraid of snakes might suggest. Yes, snakes will defend themselves if cornered or stepped on, but what animal (other than an opossum) would not do that? Since most gardeners do not go out of their way to look for snakes, they do not usually see them. During the day, most small snakes will hide in mulch, in between or under rocks, in brush piles, or under thick shrubbery, where it is cool and damp. 

Small snakes, such as this Lined Snake, eat lots of insects

Snakes cause no damage to gardens like other animals. They do not dig their own holes, but use burrows created by mice, rats, gophers, and ground squirrels, after eating the former inhabitants. They cause no damage to plants or beds, and apply only well-digested manure. 

The Western Worm Snake is a pretty little snake with a good appetite for bugs

Despite your own fears of snakes, let them be in the garden, they are saving you a fortune in pest control. So set aside your hatred or fear of them, and let them work for you in your garden- you don not have to pay or feed them!


Happy planting!

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