Friends With Benefits: Snakes in The Garden, UK

With great gardens come great responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is how you choose to protect your plants. Protect them from pests such as slugs, let's say. But using chemicals might harm not only the harmful but the harmless too. So do you want me to share you a secret on what you're supposed to do?

Well, as it is in real life - if you have a problem with someone you simply let loose lions in his/hers apartment and the issue is gone. Your solution for the garden pests is pretty much the same, but it does not involve lions, nor does it sound this insane.

So let's say you have an issue with:

Rodents that perambulate your garden in search of food, which you kindly disagree to share with them.

The bloody slugs. No one likes slugs when it comes to gardening. Not even slugs themselves. They feel disgusted with themselves from the harm they do to the garden, yet they prefer to remain destructive and live in denial.

So who would your hitman for these nasty buggers be? Let me suggest the one true mighty hunter that only a fool such as a slug or a rat wouldn't fear. Yes, that's right, we're clearly talking about the

SNAKE.

But not a rattle snake or a python. You only want to send away rodents, not humans. We're talking about the

GRASS SNAKE.

The grass snake will happily aid you in getting rid of whatever of the aforementioned (and more!) in return of a shelter on your side.

This thing is the longest snake in the United Kingdom reaching the amazing 1 meter of length and they are also the snakes that are most likely to pay your backyard a visit! But this should not scare you, for they are not venomous nor do they bite. They only kill. How is that not comforting? Here's a picture of a man holding it for your comfort:

Why are they so likely to visit my garden though?

Because, unfortunately, as men tend to do, the natural habitat of these creatures is almost entirely destroyed by the human kind. But we could make up for our mistakes and you as a noble gardener can provide these guys with a shelter and a place to stay for a while until they continue on their life journey of constant murdering and sadness. Apparently gardens have everything a grass snake would need to be happy for some time(until it eats every slug or mouse in sight).

When do we want grass snakes? Now! How do we encourage them? With ponds!

You simply need to build a small pond in your garden, as apparently that's the way to attract beneficial amphibians to your garden. The grass snake is a huge water fan and would gladly come and take a lap or two in your pond, no lifeguard needed! They also like relaxing in compost piles as they are warm and welcoming for them*.

*Note: Grass snakes are the only British snakes to lay eggs, and if they decide to do so they might come to your garden and nest in your compost heap.

So they will be the ultimate predator in my garden and I will have nothing to worry about?

Not quite. Hedgehogs, a bird or two, foxes and even domestic cats will surely pick on "your" snake. Some might even eat it. So our advice is not to bond with it and certainly not give it names. Mother nature is cruel and you need to keep your relationship with your snake business-only.

Bonus: A snake that is not actually a snake.

Yes, there's this critter that for an uneducated person would look like, act like, walk like and talk like a snake. But it would not be one. Its name would be...

A slow-worm.

Spoiler alert: it's not a worm either.

WHAT IS IT THEN?

It's a legless lizard. Not even joking. Slow-worms are amphibians that have all the characteristics of a lizard but lack limbs(which we would agree is a significant part of being a lizard, but we simply don't argue with science).

What would those characteristics be?

Here are the main ones:

  • lizards have eyelids and therefore can afford the luxury of blinking. *wink wink*;
  • lizard's tongue is rather rugged where the snake's one is slick. I want to see you check that;
  • lizards can shed their tail. Despite it looking like a tail with head, biologists distinguish a body-part and a tail.

Slow-worms are also beneficial for your garden and the same rules for encouraging them into it apply to them as for the snakes. Build a pond and watch wildlife doing its wonder.