Hibernating

Besides preventing the animals from escaping, good hibernation spots are an important condition. I built raised beds in my garden made of rocks and rubble (see: ‘Construction and Maintenance’). These beds are up to one meter high and are situated against the fence. They are covered with a layer of soil and nearly completely grown over. At the front I finished them off with parts of stone walls, as you can see in the pictures. This construction works fine, the lizards find enough hiding places and places to hibernate. It is easy for the animals to enter these “heaps” from different places at the top and sides. It is recommended to use 40 or 60 mm thick PVC pipes. Position the pipes in such a way that the animals can enter these “rubble heaps” from the sides and from the top and reach the bottom of it (see picture). First roughen the inside of these PVC pipes by pouring watery cement through them. It is important that enough open spaces remain in the rubble. When you cover up these heaps with soil you shouldn’t “soak” them. Plants, especially native ones, but also all kinds of rock plants will thrive on such an airy construction. In late autumn when all the animals are long hibernating, I apply a thick layer of fallen leaves as extra isolation.

Where do the lizards hibernate?

This is important to know! It is the place where in early spring (and of course in autumn) the sun shines first and longest. The animals can warm up in this place in the first sunshine of spring (and in the last autumn sun) right next to their hibernation spot.
I made the mistake of thinking that the animals would choose the warmest spot: under or next to the house, but no! Bear this in mind when you adapt or lay out your garden.

Instead of raising parts of the garden with rubble to create hibernation spots you can also dig a few large holes and fill them up with rubble and cover them up with a layer of soil. In this way the animals are also well protected against periods of frost. Be sure to first check the level of groundwater in the winter! It can differ tremendously with the level in summertime and thus could cause many animals to drown during their hibernation. Keep in mind the entering possibilities for the animals, so make sure there are passageways and pipes reaching all the way to the bottom of the rubble. During long-lasting periods of frost I temporarily cover up the raised hibernation spots with bubble wrap, so far that works fine. Of course, there are more possibilities to protect these hibernation spots from freezing over. You can certainly try experimenting with electric heating cables or small petrol heaters, such as winegrowers sometimes use. I have never lost any animals during the winter despite several periods of temperatures of over minus 10°C. It is important that the animals well know the layout of the whole garden and thus the hibernation spots. Therefore, introduce new animals into the garden in the spring and NEVER towards the end of summer. This way they have enough time to get to know the garden and find a good hibernation spot.