Help & advice Gardens & ponds Helping reptiles All native reptiles have been found in gardens and in some areas these are now an important habitat for them. The species most likely to be found here are the slow-worm and grass snake, although this varies across the country. The widely-ranging grass snake is more likely to be a garden visitor than a resident. Grass snakes are especially attracted to garden ponds which provide them with amphibian and fish prey, and they may also use compost heaps as egg-laying sites. A key factor in determining whether reptiles use a particular garden is its proximity to other reptile habitat. Reptiles may colonise gardens adjacent to external reptile territory, such as rough grassland, allotments, railway and road embankments or heathland. Adopting wildlife gardening principles will generally benefit reptiles; for example, creating a wildflower meadow, growing native plant species and minimising use of chemical pesticides. However, there are other, specific features of gardens that can be of benefit to reptiles: A diverse vegetation structure can provide a mix of insolated basking sites and nearby cover. Rockeries can provide good habitat for reptiles; the rocks and low-growing mats of vegetation provide cover and basking sites. Compost heaps or bins are invaluable to reptiles, especially grass snakes and slow-worms. The compost heap should be in a sunny location. The larger the heap the better. Having two heaps/bins allows slow-worms to be transferred from one heap to another as matured compost is removed. To help reptiles in gardens: Create a wildlife pond, to attract amphibians, which are the prey of the grass snake. Allow areas of lawn to grow long to provide cover, for example along the sunny base of a hedge. Create log or brash piles to act as refuges. Do not disturb compost heaps used as grass snake egg-laying sites from June to September, or during the winter. If space allows, place reptile survey refuges in sunny locations. Reptile refuges are described described in section 13 of our Reptile Habitat Management Handbook. In the garden, roofing slates or paving slabs provide visually less intrusive refuges than those commonly used in surveys. Garden netting should be used with care, or avoided. Stretching netting over a log pile or rockery may help common lizards to escape from cat predation. However, the mesh of any netting should be larger than four cm, and kept taught, as snakes can become fatally entangled in smaller gauge netting.