Homesteading, Gardening, and Off-Grid Living

The Best Mulch to Keep Snakes Away From Your Yard

By: Zac Friedman

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If you’re concerned about attracting snakes to your yard, there are some steps you can take to keep them away. One of the best ways to keep snakes out is to use the right mulch. This guide outlines the best mulches to keep snakes out of your yard. I’ll also list some helpful tips to get rid of snakes if you have a snake problem.

Generally, snakes don’t like sharp mulches and mulches they can’t hide in, like gravel and lava rock. Choosing the wrong mulch can attract snakes to your yard. Snakes thick and soft mulch, such as straw, grass clippings, pine straw, or shredded leaves because it provides a good hiding place.

Snakes are attracted to your yard because there are lots of hiding places. Landscaping features such as rocks, plants, and mulch are great places for snakes to live. Your yard can also be a food source for snakes. Irrigation attracts worms, slugs, and insects that snakes eat. 

In most of the U.S., the species of snakes you’re most likely to find in your yard are non-venomous snakes such as garter snakes or gopher snakes. They are pretty harmless but they can be a nuisance. There are some venomous varieties as well such as rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral snakes that you really want to keep away. 

Does Mulch Attract Snakes? How to Keep Snakes Away From Your Garden

Use a Mulch With Sharp Edges 

Snakes are less likely to move over mulch that is made from a hard material with sharp edges. Some examples of sharp mulch include lava rocks, gravel, and some types of wood chip mulch. 

Snakes can and will move over these materials if they have to but they won’t be attracted to them. These sharp materials are harder for the snakes to move across. They won’t burrow or nest in them.

Use Cedar Mulch

Cedar contains natural oils that repel snakes. These oils have a strong odor that snakes don’t like. Cedar is actually toxic to reptiles in high concentrations. The oils in cedar also help to repel insects and other pests (snake food). This also helps keep snakes away.  

Snakes are unlikely to pass over cedar mulch. They also will not burrow in it or nest in it. They have no reason to inhabit it because it does not contain any food.

For more info, check out my guide: How to Use Cedar Mulch to Repel Pests.

A garter snake in the grass

Avoid Soft Mulches

Soft mulch can be a great hiding spot for snakes. A few examples of soft mulch include straw, pine needles, shredded leaves, and grass clippings. 

Snakes can easily burrow into these materials and hide out while they wait for prey. They can also nest in these materials. It would be easy for you or your pets to step on the snakes when they’re hiding in your mulch. Other pests, such as rodents, can also nest in these mulches. 

If you have a snake problem, it’s best to avoid soft mulches. Instead, use hard, dense, and heavy mulches that snakes can’t burrow into. For example, river rocks can work well. Snakes won’t hang out in a large open area where they can’t hide. 

A garter snake in pine straw mulch

Don’t Apply The Mulch Too Thick

If your mulch is too thick, snakes can more easily burrow into it. Try to keep your mulch around 2-3 inches in depth. Snakes and rodents won’t be able to nest in the shallow mulch. If your mulch is 4-6 inches thick, snakes can burrow into it and live in your garden. You also should avoid leaving piles of mulch around your garden for this reason. 

A thin layer of mulch will still be deep enough to be effective. It will suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, provide nutrients as it breaks down, insulate the soil, and reduce erosion. You don’t need a thick layer of mulch to enjoy the benefits of mulching. 

Avoid Mulches that Attract Rodents or Insects

Snakes are attracted to areas where they can find food. Some types of mulch attract small rodents and insects that snakes eat.

For example, rodents will burrow into straw mulch, hay, or shredded leaves. Compost and manure can attract insects. This, in turn, can attract hungry snakes that are looking for a meal. 

Avoid Mulches Made With Large Stones

Large stones are the perfect hiding places for snakes. They can burrow underneath and nest. This invites snakes into your garden. If you have a snake problem, you should avoid using large decorative stones or logs. 

Garter snakes on a rock

Other Ways To Keep Snakes Away

  • Mow your grass frequently and keep it short- Shakes are less likely to move through short grass because they are exposed to predators such as hawks and owls when passing through open areas. They are easier to spot in the short grass. Tall grass provides a hiding place for snakes.  
  • Avoid overwatering- Overwatering will attract certain critters to your yard such as slugs,  frogs, and insects. This can attract hungry snakes that eat these critters.
  • Keep your trees and shrubs trimmed- Keep the branches trimmed so they don’t touch the ground or your home or garage. Ideally, there should be at least 1-2 feet between the branches and the ground. This makes it harder for snakes to hide. It also makes them easier to spot. Snakes don’t like being out in the open.
  • Stop feeding the birds- Birds scatter seed on your yard. They are messy eaters. This attracts rodents. The rodents can attract hungry snakes. If you have to feed the birds, make sure your bird feeders are far away from your home. 
  • Don’t leave pet food outside- Feed your pets inside instead. Pet food can attract insects and rodents. Again, this can attract snakes that are looking for a meal. If you have to feed your pets outside, immediately remove any remaining food after they’re done eating. 
  • Don’t store firewood or wood piles outside- Piles of wood are excellent hiding places for snakes. Store them in a garage or shed to keep snakes away.
  • Don’t leave piles of leaves or compost around- Leaf piles and compost heaps also make good hiding places for snakes. After raking leaves, remove them from your property. If you want to have a compost pile, keep it away from your home or use a compost tumbler that holds the compost off the ground.
  • Avoid using large rocks in your landscaping- They are great hiding places for snakes. Instead, use smaller tight-fitting rocks such as river rock or gravel. 
  • Choose the right type of mulch- Avoid loose and soft mulches because snakes can burrow and hide in them. Examples of loose mulches include straw, hay, and pine needles. Instead, choose mulches made from rocks or hard materials. Snakes can’t burrow in these mulches and they find them unpleasant to move across. 
  • Seal cracks in structures- Large cracks can be hiding places for snakes. They can also allow snakes to enter your home, garage, or crawl space. 
  • Install a snake fence around the perimeter of your property- A fence can help keep snakes out. The fence needs to be buried a few inches into the ground to prevent snakes from burrowing under it. It also needs to be at least 36” tall to prevent snakes from crawling over it. 
  • Make your yard less appealing to snakes- Snakes will only be attracted to your yard if they can find food, water, and shelter in it. If you can remove these things, snakes won’t stick around. Avoid garden ponds, rain gardens, and fountains. You want to make sure there is no water source for snakes. Choose your landscaping design carefully so there is no comfortable shelter for snakes. Try to control the insect and rodent population in your garden. You don’t want your yard to be a food source. If there is no food, water, or shelter for the snakes, they will leave on their own. 
  • Use snake repellant- There are some natural products that can repel snakes. Some options include cinnamon oil, clove oil, and cedar oil. There are products on the market that are designed to repel snakes. Some people also use mothballs to repel snakes. Another option is powdered sulfur. You can use these repellents in areas where you have seen snakes in your garden and in areas where snakes might want to hide. Personally, I recommend against using chemical repellants because the chemicals can harm animals and insects.
  • Use snake traps to reduce the snake population- It is possible to trap snakes and relocate them or kill them if they are a real problem on your property. There are a variety of snake traps on the market. Probably the most common type is glue traps. They are cheap and effective. There are other types of traps that keep the snake alive. Keep an eye out for snake activity to help you decide where to put your traps. One problem with traps is that they can catch other animals such as rodents. They can also be inhumane, depending on the type of trap you use. It can take days for the trapped snake to die. Still, it is an option. 
  • Hire a professional pest control company- If you have venomous snakes on your property and you can’t get rid of them, consider hiring an exterminator to kill them or remove them. They know how to deal with the snakes safely. You don’t want to risk snake bites by dealing with them by yourself. 
  • Don’t use guns or shovels to kill snakes- Using weapons to kill snakes is dangerous. Instead, use a trap or hire a professional. Don’t touch the snakes unless you know what you’re doing. It can be difficult to identify snakes. You wouldn’t want to accidentally get bitten by a venomous snake. It’s not a good idea to handle snakes you find in your yard. 
  • Spray the snake with a water hose- If you see a snake, a great way to get it to move along is to spray it with some water from a distance. Usually, it will slither away.
  • Don’t put wooden eggs or golf balls in your chicken coop- Some people try to kill egg stealing snakes by placing fake eggs in the chicken coop. Snakes eat the eggs. They get stuck because the snake can’t digest them. This eventually kills the snake. It’s best not to do this because it is inhumane. It causes the snake a slow and painful death. 
A snake hiding in a garden

My Experience

The best mulches to use if you have a problem with snakes in your flower beds include lava rocks, pea gravel, river rocks, and cedar mulch. Wood chips and bark chips can also work well. It’s best to avoid straw, pine needles, shredded leaves, hay, and grass clippings because it’s easy for the snakes to burrow in. 

Mulch alone can’t keep snakes away. You will have to make some changes to your property to make it less habitable to snakes. Make sure there is no standing water. Seal up any potential hiding places around your home. Also, try to keep the rodents and insect populations in check. 

If you have a severe snake problem or if there are poisonous snake species in your yard, use traps or call a professional to remove them. 

Another option is to simply ignore the snakes. If you spot a harmless garter snake in your garden from time to time, it’s not a big deal, unless you have a serious fear of snakes. 

Have you had a problem with garden snakes? Share your experience in the comments below!

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How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Yard

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