You’ve heard the Arnold Lobel “Frog and Toad” stories, right? Why not let your garden be the setting for your very own frog and toad tales? While you might think that you need to simply gather up of few of the amphibians and put them there, it’s actually illegal to release non-native frogs in most areas as they can end up taking over the place, crowding out and killing native species. Plus, the animals just don’t do very well when removed from their habitats, which means they may not survive.
Instead, it’s best to bring them to you. Frogs and toads benefit by having a habitat created just for them, and you’ll enjoy watching them and hearing their songs. They’re rather fierce predators with huge appetites, so if you have the environment and the bugs, they will come, and these tips will help you make that happen.
1. Create a small pond
Installing a small pond is probably easier than you think, and you can enjoy the many benefits that pond dwellers provide. Frogs need a lot of moisture in their environment and a small garden pond also gives them a spot to lay eggs for the next generation. Tadpoles, or baby frogs, are interesting to watch as they evolve from a tiny creature that looks like a fish into a frog.
Your pond should be located in an area of your yard or garden that’s partially shady, but also gets some sun. The most desirable type of pond for amphibians is one that’s rather shallow – no deeper than 20 inches at the center, and as shallow as 8 inches around the edges. You want the sides of your pond to have gradually sloping slides, rather than a sharp drop off. If you don’t have tapering edges to your pond, you’ll need to provide some sort of incline as the animals need a gently sloping exit, such as a slab of rock, so they can easily get out of the water.
It should have a muddy bottom as tadpoles like to lay down in the muck and filter feed through it so that they can pick up algae and a variety of organisms that help them grow. Dig the dirt from the area you plan to build your pond, making sure to remove any roots, sticks, or stones that could damage the liner. Then, place a rubber liner down, like polyethylene or EPDM rubber which creates a tight water barrier. Make sure that your liner is big enough to cover the entirety of your pond with a least two feet of excess on all sides. After the liner is in place, now put back all that dirt you removed to provide the muddy bottom they need.
Don’t add fish to your frog and toad pond as even the smaller species of fish will feed on the eggs, larvae, and adults. If you have pets, they’re a potential threat to your pond creatures, so you may want to put some type of barrier like a wire fence around it. It’s also important if you have small children, as they may be tempted to capture the animals and the pond is also a potential drowning hazard.
Placing clay pots around the edges of the pond, turned on their side, offers a cool, damp safety zone and additional shelter. Frogs prefer still, calm water, so you don’t need to add pumps, aeration, waterfalls or fountains.
2. Choosing the right plants
Choosing the right plants and avoiding the wrong ones is important in creating the optimal environment for amphibians too. Don’t plant cattails in the pond – you may frequently see them in natural ponds, but their thick stems are of little use to the animals in their development and breeding. They tend to proliferate quickly and can crowd out the beneficial vegetation in the pond.
There are also many plants that are poisonous to frogs, so you’ll need to think more about what’s going into your garden. If you have a vegetable garden, you’ll want to avoid planting the following near the pond, or any area where frogs and toads are likely to gather:
For flower gardens or landscaping, avoid planting:
As this is not a complete list by any means, you may want to closely review this more extensive list of plants that are poisonous to amphibians and reptiles found here.
The best type of vegetation for a frog pond is thin, vertical stemmed plants such as spike rushes, reeds, and sedges. Amphibians like to attach their egg sacks to the bases of these plants below the water surface after breeding. As these animals can make a tasty meal for many other creatures like birds and snakes, be sure to provide lots of foliage where they can have a safe hiding place.
3. Food For Frogs
One of the many benefits of having frogs in your garden is that they will keep the insects at bay to prevent them from destroying other things in your garden. They’ll eat moths, mosquitoes and their larvae, snails, slugs, flies, beetles, and cockroaches. By planting a lot of different shrubs and plants that are native to your area, by mulching garden beds, and keeping a compost heap, your garden will become a magnet to frogs and toads who seem to have a special knack for seeking out the best places to live and breed.
Planting a range of seasonal flowering plants that will attract insects year-round, is a great way to supply an abundance of food. If you can, aim to always have something in bloom during the spring, summer, and fall so that bugs will flock to your yard.
4. Other water options
If creating a pond is not an option, you can place a number of shallow containers filled with water in the shade, near shelter (ideas below). Amphibians need water to sit in as they don’t drink it through their mouths, rather they soak it up with their skin. Frogs also spawn in water, so ideally, your water source or sources should be large enough to accommodate adult and young frogs. At least once a week, rinse your containers out and fill them with clean water.
5. Creating shelters
Frogs and toads avoid the sun to prevent dehydration, so shelter is important. In addition to lining the edge of a pond with clay pots, there are other shelter options too. You can simply arrange some stones to make a small cave, and/or use upside down planters and pots, propped up slightly with rocks, so the frogs and toads can get in. They should be placed in a quiet area that gets lots of shade.
6. Avoid the use of chemicals
Frogs are sensitive to chemicals in their environment, making it important to avoid using things like insecticides, chemical fertilizers, and herbicides when you hope to attract them into your garden. Use integrated pest management to control insects, and fertilize the garden with compost or other natural sources of nutrients. Garden organically, build healthy soil, companion plants and use crop rotation and organic gardening techniques.
It’s also important to remember never to handle any type of amphibian without rinsing your hands first. The animal’s skin is very porous, like a sponge, which means if your hands have some type of bug repellant or other chemicals on them, it will be absorbed right into the frog’s body and will poison it.
7. Keep garden grass short and mowed regularly
Frogs and toads are at risk from careless mowing too. Try to keep your grass short, and mow it regularly as frogs often use long grass for shelter, which means you probably wont see it hiding there when you’re mowing.
8. Other hazards to watch out for
If you’re using nylon mesh to protect plants in the garden, be sure that you keep it taut, and that the mesh size is 1.5 inches or larger, otherwise it can trap and slowly kill toads and frogs if they end up underneath it.
9. Taking care of your frogs and toads in the winter
The majority of male frogs will hibernate in your garden pond through winter, lying dormant near the bottom. As they need oxygen to survive, it’s important to check your pond regularly during freezing winter temperatures, if your area is subject to them, and thaw part of it by placing a pan of hot water on it.
Why you want frogs & toads in your garden…
Beyond hearing their peaceful sounds, there are lots of reasons to want frogs and toads in your garden, including these.
Frog & toad populations. The populations of amphibians like these have been hit hard by environmental changes that have seen much of their habitat developed or polluted – and, they’re essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems. You can help protect local frog and toad populations while improving your own garden or yard by creating an enticing, safe environment for them.
Natural pest control. Frogs and toads provide outstanding natural pest control as they eat insects like beetles, mosquitoes, moths, flies, cockroaches, snails, slugs, and the like. These amphibians can consume up to 10,000 insects in one summer, and their favorite meals happen to be potential disease-carrying mosquitoes and flies. As they also eat things like caterpillars and cutworms, which can destroy your entire garden if left unchecked, frogs are a fantastic form of natural pest control, eliminating the need to use harmful pesticides altogether.
Frogs are great bioindicators. You can learn a lot from frogs – you know that when they’re happily breeding and living in the area, that it’s a healthy place to be. When they aren’t, it tells you that something is wrong. You can also use their indications to learn if the conditions in your garden are good. For example, if you had frogs dwelling in your garden and they suddenly leave, you know there is a problem.
Teaching your children about wildlife and the environment. Not only can children enjoy watching frogs and toads hop around, they offer a great way to help them learn about the wildlife and the environment. Be sure to teach them the importance of not handling them to avoid causing the animals harm. For most kids, tadpoles are a favorite in the garden pond – and the chance to watch them go through their fascinating life cycle offers a lot of educational value as well.
You’ll sleep better at night. One of the most pleasant sounds to sleep to is the unique songs of frogs and toads. They’ll serenade you at night in warmer weather, helping you drift off peacefully. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for health and will help you better handle difficult tasks thrown your way and even keep unwanted pounds at bay.