Twice now we've seen tiny garter snakes in our gardens. Once in the old rock gardens, once when we moved the spring compost. The 'spring compost' is the sum of the stems and seed heads of the perennials that stood all winter to feed the birds. And so clearly, garter snakes like two things: rocks and brush with bugs in it.
A neighbour up the street (the street's first naturalized and native garden proponent) suggested we more intentionally build a habitat. And so it begins.
First, for the months when snakes are active, we have various flat rocks in sunny locales, and the compost crib, where all of the material trimmed from the garden gets thrown. The compost crib is a tall and narrow (and mobile) cage for material too big for our conventional composters. It is about four feet tall, and six feet long by eighteen inches wide, built out of sticks and old materials from our century house (lathe, old trim, quarter round), and is a very attractive background for a bed of tall plants. The snakes should love it!
Second, we are starting to build a hibernaculum- a location where snakes can safely overwinter. We have a perfect location, on the south side of the new meadow, out of the wind and always in the sun. It also has to be two meters deep, full of rubble, and covered with brush. We are thus collecting rocks every day (mainly along the train tracks), bits of broken cement (from empty lots where it is illegally dumped), and twigs (saved from trimming shrubs and trees in the yard.)
So: this is where we are beginning this project, and expecting it to take two years to complete.