Snakes, again and forever?

My wife warns that it is incorrect to kill snakes that have taken residence along the margins of our koi pond, but still she wants to be rid of them, by violence or persuasion, she doesn’t care. I remain conflicted. The Northern Brown water snakes are a bit of a nuisance, causing me to be overly cautious weeding stilt grass that invades clumps of irises where the snakes reside. Certainly, there’s no issue with the occasional fish they snatch since there are another hundred or more, but there is an uneasiness around the pond that is less than ideal.

The Northern Brown water snake is sunning on the step down into the pond where we feed the koi.

Generally, I prefer to let nature take its course with minimal interference. This constructed garden attracts diverse wildlife, which is appreciated, so if Japanese beetles or caterpillars munch a few leaves, there are plenty more. While no pesticides are sprayed, I spray a repellent to discourage deer, though this harms no creature except deer burn a few additional calories moving on to the next property.

Japanese stilt grass can be seen growing at the water’s edge. If there is a better habitat for snakes, I don’t know where.

Eventually, I’ll get around to pulling the stilt grass, but probably long after it’s dropped seeds for the next crop. I’ll do some stomping around before I do much reaching into the iris clumps, so perhaps this will be enough of a warning that the snakes will go off to the other side of the pond. If I was as brave as I claim, I’d snatch them up and relocate them down the road, but that’s a bit much for me. Mostly, I fear being startled and falling head first into the pond. Not that there’s much danger involved, but I’d prefer to stay upright and dry.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Bonnie C. says:

    Hi Dave!
    Would love to hear your regimen for spraying deer deterrent. Do you apply it to everything? Do you reapply after every rain, or do you find that the deer get used to avoiding items that have been sprayed a few times? Do you have a specific product that you find more effective than others?

    1. Dave says:

      I currently spray with Bobbex, but I’ve used other repellents with success. Every other month I add a hot pepper liquid that is used to treat birdseed against squirrels so deer don’t get used to it.

      In theory, I spray every month from May 1 to a double concentration in November on evergreens to get through the winter. In practice, sometimes this stretches to six weeks. Since I’m in the garden nearly every day, I see damage from deer, and quickly spray. I recently stretched to five weeks between applications after ten inches of rain in May. There must be some dilution with so much rain, but reapplication after each rain is not necessary.

      I do not spray every plant since some are clearly resistant, and some evergreens are only sprayed in November because they’re only eaten when there are few alternatives. I find, for example, that although hostas are favorites, ones with thick, corrugated leaves are not eaten. I don’t spray them, but if I miss another small leafed hosta it will quickly be eaten.

      1. Bonnie C. says:

        Thanks. I try to avoid planting anything that’s clearly “deer candy”, but our yews & azaleas take a real beating & I’m resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to start spraying a repellent if I want them to survive. Would be nice to see some blooms on the azaleas, which has yet to happen in more than a decade thanks to winter deer predation.

  2. Anne says:

    Dave, do stay upright and dry and safe! We very much look forward to reading your gardening blogs.

  3. Dave says:

    Years ago, I faced a decision to limit planting to deer resistant plants, or to take on the additional chore of spraying and plant anything I like. I don’t even consider deer when choosing what to plant.

  4. tonytomeo says:

    Oh heck NO! That snake needs to go!

  5. Bonnie C. says:

    Now, now – whether you personally like them or not, snakes are the GOOD GUYS! Unless you come across one of our venomous varieties (Copperhead or Timber Rattlesnake) close to living or livestock areas, the other guys should just be left to go about their business.

  6. Ruth says:

    I vote keep the snake Dave! Look how peaceful, happy, and contented he looks!!! He has a beautiful home! Personally, Iโ€™d let sleeping snakes lie but please donโ€™t fall in when weeding!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ s!

    1. Dave says:

      By the vote of my wife one, the rest of us zero, we’re outvoted. It is however, very unlikely that anything can or will be done. Out here, we’re in their world, and good luck doing anything about it. Certainly, she will not become a snake catcher, and if it’s left to me they’ll grow old here.

  7. Janice Roland says:

    What is the hot pepper product you use to deter squirrels who raid our birdseed feeders? Thanks. Enjoy your column.

    1. Dave says:

      A very small amount of Cole’s Flaming Squirrel seed sauce is mixed with the deer repellent. The hot pepper sauce is marginally effective in discouraging squirrels, but I suspect it is effective in combination with the deer repellent in giving two different scents.

      1. Bacardi1/Bonnie C. says:

        Ooooh – that’s a terrific idea, & I just happen to have a bottle of that Cole’s Flaming Squirrel seed sauce kicking around somewhere. I think the deer repellent I have is called “Deer Off”, & was highly recommended to me by a local azalea grower. I figured if it worked to keep deer away from his acres & acres of beautiful azaleas it would work for me. Time will tell.

      2. Dave says:

        I think I’ve used Deer Off with good success when I alternated two brands of repellents. Then, I got the wise idea to just add the small amount of pepper sauce. I warn to use only a little, and even then you must watch that you spray the deer repellent down wind. I’m rarely that cautious, so my eyes burn for an hour afterward.

      3. Bacardi1/Bonnie C. says:

        Oh, I’m well aware of the potency of that Cole’s stuff. I once opened a bag of commercially-prepared Cole’s-treated bird seed, & when I closed it a tiny puff of air from the bag hit me in the face. I was staggering around with tears streaming down my face for a couple of hours afterwards. It’s nothing to fool around with.

  8. Donna says:

    Being startled by a snake scares me too. Maybe the stomping will do the trick! Or a hard spray with the water hose might help. Good luck!

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