Create a habitat feature!

How to Create Habitat Features for Pest Control

One of the best ways to work with nature on your property is to create a habitat feature. While this may sound technical, it’s really quite simple—and you will love the results. Your new habitat features will result in less pests and more harvests for your family and community. Let’s get started!

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So what is a habitat feature? A habitat feature is a space for beneficial critters and wildlife on your property.

There are lots of different types a habitat features, but the simplest to create are rock piles and piles of logs.

It might seem strange that making rock or log piles could result in less pests, but these habitat features provide the homes for the predators that eat pests like slugs.

Without shelter, the predators won’t stick around on your property. The result will be ongoing pest issues.

Wild Tip:

Piles of rocks and logs are simple, easy habitat features, but there are many more possible options. Other examples of habitat features are ponds, bird houses (owl boxes are a great way to attract these predators), bat boxes, and even flower patches.

Even plants are habitat features! But you should not limit yourself to plants alone.

The more habitat features you create, and the more diverse those habitat features are, the more diverse group of predators you will be able to attract.

But once you create habitat features, the population of predators will increase and help keep your pests under control.

So let’s get started creating habitat features! The rest of this post will cover the best way to build rock and log piles and how to incorporate them into your growing areas.

And before you scroll down, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print worksheet all about the predators you can attract with habitat features. This guide covers 9 types of predators that are great at helping you to control common garden pests that you can attract using habitat features.

Why Rock and Log Piles are Great Near the Garden

Create habitat features next to your garden

Every garden I build always has rock and/or log piles next to it. I want the predators of my garden pests to be right where I need them. This is a new garden bed for my kids!

When I build a new garden for growing food, I make sure to add rock and log piles nearby, and often right in the gardens themselves.

The reason is because of the types of pests that tend to cause problems in gardens—especially in temperate climates.

I don’t know about you, but my biggest pests are slugs and pill bugs. It turns out that the predators of these pests love to shelter in and under rock and log piles.

In my area, garter snakes, ground beetles and centipedes are all common predators of slugs. But there are many others.

Chances are, if you live in a temperate area, then rock and log piles will create the perfect shelter for the predators of slugs and other garden pests.

How to Create a Rock or Log Pile

Kitchen garden with habitat features

My kitchen garden consists of 3 large beds—each of which has at least 1 snag and 1 rock pile, plus some native flowers. The garden bed is also made out of stacked logs. The result is a wide range of habitat areas for garter snakes, ground beetles, and other predators of garden pests. This is a picture from last spring when the garden was brand new.

I have learned some simple tricks to make the best habitat features out of rocks and logs. While it may seem simple to make a pile of rocks or logs, there are some mistakes that you should avoid.

The first big mistake is to use small rocks. A rock pile with too many small rocks won’t have very many gaps for snakes, frogs, or other beneficial critters to fit through. Centipedes and ground beetles may fit, but you will want some bigger gaps for the larger predators.

I like to use a wide range of rock sizes, from boulders down to small rocks. Mixed together, they provide more habitat than a pile made from rocks of the same size.

Wild Tip:

Snags (dead standing trees) are also great habitat features. I like to put them next to my rock and log piles, or even to make them a part of the main habitat feature. To add a snag to a habitat feature, just take a log and stick it in the ground like you would a fence post.

The second mistake that I made when creating habitat features out of rock and logs was not sheet-mulching the area well enough first.

I built what I thought was a great rock pile. But then grass started growing up through it. Eventually, I had to take the rock pile apart and put cardboard and woodchips down to get rid of the grass.

The garter snake living in the rock pile was not happy with me!

I also discovered that mixing logs and rocks together was a better choice than creating a habitat feature that was made out of either rocks or logs by themselves.

Creating a habitat feature with a diversity of structure will provide the best habitat for the predators of garden pests.

So here are the steps I recommend you follow to create a habitat feature out of rocks or logs.

Steps to Create an Awesome Habitat Feature from Rocks and Logs

  • 1
    Sheet-mulch any existing grass or other plants you don’t want growing through your habitat feature.
  • 2
    As you’re adding woodchips or other mulch material as part of the sheet-mulching mix in some logs or boulders. Bury them partway in the mulch so they stick out partially.
  • 3
    Finish applying the mulch and then start adding large rocks and logs. Keep gaps between the rocks and logs but make the gaps wind through the pile. Reptiles and amphibians need to be able to get out of the cold so winding gaps are best.
  • 4
    Add smaller rocks to some of the gaps but don’t fill them all in.
  • 5
    Add large rocks to the outside of the habitat feature. These will shield the rest of the feature from the weather and can also serve as sunning areas for reptiles.
  • 6
    Plant flowers (native flowers are a great choice) that attract beneficial insects around the habitat feature to further enhance it.

Getting Started with Creating Habitat Features

Create habitat features today!

This is one of the first rock piles that I made on my property. Even this small little rock pile provides some incredible benefits. The key is to just get started and add a large number of diverse habitat features to your property!

When you start to create habitat features using rocks and logs, I recommend starting close to where you’re growing food. This way the predators you attract will be right where you need them.

If that does not work for you, then pick a spot that is as close as possible. 

But you will also want to create habitat features throughout your property. You can even hide rock and log piles under your shrubs or in your hedgerows. This is a great option if you (or your neighbors) don’t like the look of these habitat features.

While you can start small with some simple rock piles, you will get more benefits from larger piles that mix in large rocks and logs. But any rock pile will help.

As you create habitat features around your property, you will see more predators and less pests. Over time, you’ll find yourself spending less time and energy controlling pests and more time harvesting your delicious fruits and veggies.

What kind of habitat features do you have on your property? (Or what would you like to add?) Leave a comment and let us know!


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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created this site to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.

  • I am absolutely going to do this all along one side of my veg patch. One habitat I’ve seen was a stone surround wall filled in with sand and a snag in it. Lots of insects need bare ground for nesting.

  • Maria says:

    Oooh, never would have thought of this! Thank you!

  • Christopher says:

    I usually hear about people adding water features to draw amphibians and other pest predators. This is a great tool to add pest-control to one’s natural areas, no matter the size!

  • Jen P. says:

    I love this post. I’m on a new property and while I “know” what to do, it gets overwhelming sometimes and posts like this make me go “oh yeah!” and give me a nudge and some direction. Thanks, Daron!

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