by Matt Gibson
So, why would you want to entice a family of frogs or toads to hang out in your garden croaking all the time? You might be surprised by the answer. Attracting frogs and toads into your garden is a pesticide-free and natural way of greatly lowering your pest population.
Frogs and toads are seasoned predators with nearly insatiable appetites, and they dine exclusively on insects, so having a few on hand can help reduce pests in your garden. That means you don’t ever have to worry about sharing your produce with the local insect population or being forced to spray your precious plants with chemicals to get rid of pests.
That said, do not run to the pet store and purchase frogs and toads to release into your garden. Deploying an army of storebought amphibians is a bad idea for multiple reasons. Pet stores usually carry non-native species of frogs and toads, and it is actually illegal to release non-native frogs or toads in most areas because they can end up taking over the ecosytsem pretty quickly, crowding or even killing out native species. Either that, or the non-native amphibians quickly die off, as they cannot survive outside of their native environment.
Instead of importing a frog or toad family to go to work on your garden pests, simply create an environment that will lure these tiny helpers into your garden. Once you’ve created the proper habitat, as long as your garden have bugs for them to feed on, the frogs and toads are sure to come after them. Just follow these tips to make the frogs and toads hop your way.
Provide Water for Frogs and Toads
Instead of drinking by using their mouths, frogs and toads actually hydrate by submerging themselves in a body of water and absorbing water through their skin. Adding a water feature to your property is a wonderful way to make your garden an amphibian haven. If you’re up to the challenge, see the section of this article on adding a small pond.
If that is not an option, consider this alternative—that doesn’t require renovating your garden—to give your local frogs or toads the water they need to survive. All you need to do is place several containers filled with water in a shady area in your garden. Be sure to clean the containers and change out the water at least once per week.
If you skip the upkeep, you risk creating a habitat for breeding mosquitoes instead of the friendly, beneficial amphibians you’re working to attract. See the section on adding a shelter to make the most of your newly frog-friendly garden.
Eliminate Chemicals from Your Routine
Pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers can poison and even kill frogs and toads. You won’t be needing pesticides any more, now that you have a thriving predator population—and many gardeners prefer using organic fertilizers instead of synthetics anyway. Building healthy soil, employing companion planting, and rotating crops will also help keep your garden/amphibian habitat healthy and happy for years to come.
Create Shelter and Places for Amphibians to Hide
The majority of toads and frogs are nocturnal creatures, so they take care to avoid large doses of sunlight to prevent dehydration. These insect-eaters love damp, shady areas and prefer to relax in the comfort of a natural shelter, both to stay cool and to keep out of the way of predators.
Create a frog and toad shelter near one of your garden’s water sources by stacking stones together to create a small cave-like hollow where amphibians can relax. Another cozy hideaway could be created elsewhere in the garden using an upside-down flower pot that’s lifted from the ground by a few rocks so that frogs and toads can crawl into the cool interior and hide inside on warm afternoons.
Add a Small Pond to Keep Frogs and Toads Happy
Ideally, having a small pond in your garden is the best way to ensure a healthy frog and toad population. Build your pond in an area of the garden that is primarily shady but still gets some sunlight. The perfect toad or frog pond would be approximately 20 inches deep at the center, with a gradually inclining bottom that moves outwards from the center. The water feature should be as shallow as eight inches around its edges. The pond also needs a gently sloping exit, or some rocks that stick out of the water, to provide a way for the frogs or toads to exit easily.
Amphibians, especially tadpoles and other young ones, enjoy a muddy bottom layer. Dig the dirt up from the area you’ve chosen for your pond. Remove any rocks, sticks, roots, or other debris that could damage the pond’s soft bottom. Place a liner down, such as polyethylene or EPDM rubber, to cover the section that you’ve dug up and create a tight water barrier. Make sure that your liner is big enough to cover the entirety of your pond with at least two feet of excess material on all sides.
Your pond still needs a muddy bottom, however, because tadpoles like to lay down in the muck and filter the food they eat through the mud so that it picks up algae and a variety of organisms that help them grow. So after the liner is in place, you’ll need to put back all that dirt you removed so your pool provides the muddy bottom frogs and toads need.
Don’t add fish to your frog and toad pond, as even the smaller species of fish will feed on the amphibian eggs, larvae, and even the adults. If you have pets, they’re also a potential threat to your pond wildlife, so you may want to put some type of barrier, like a wire fence, around the pool. It’s also important to use a fence if you have small children, as they may be tempted to capture the animals, and the pond is also a potential drowning hazard.
Other Water Features to Attract Amphibians to Your Garden
Though creating your own backyard pond to house your frog and toad population is the ideal water source solution, building a pond yourself is not always possible. However, amphibians do require a water source that’s large enough to let them submerge themselves in order to stay hydrated. Frogs need water nearby in order to reproduce as well, since they spawn their offspring in water.
The ideal water source will accommodate both young and adult frogs and/or toads by containing both deep and shallow areas. If this type of pond is not possible, large, shallow containers are the best alternative. As with the pond, these shallow containers should be positioned in the shade and near a shelter where frogs and toads can hide from the heat of the day as well as the teeth of predators.
If You Feed Them, They Will Come
The main reason to court frogs and toads and invite them into your garden getaway is to keep annoying insects from damaging your crops and pestering you and your guests. Frogs and toads rely on insects, from giant moths to tiny larvae, and everything in between, for nutrition. Neither frogs or toads are picky eaters. Insects of any kind are potential prey: Beetles, aphids, cockroaches, snails, slugs, flies, and more are all potential lunch.
In order to ensure that your amphibious friends have an ample food source, there are several things that you can do to help. Plant a wide variety of native plants and shrubs, including several seasonal flowering plants that attract insects all year long. Keep a compost heap, and mulch your garden beds every fall. Do your best to plant an assortment of flowering plants that will produce blooms at different times so something is always blooming during the spring, summer, and fall months.
Choose the Right Plants to Lure Frogs and Toads to Your Yard
You might be surprised how many common garden plants are actually poisonous to frogs and toads. Vegetables to avoid planting include eggplant, rhubarb, snow peas, and potatoes, Flowers to avoid in your frog-friendly garden habitat include honeysuckle, hyacinth, hydrangea, azalea, and daffodils. Check this complete list of plant species that are harmful to amphibians to make sure the ones you grow aren’t included.
What plants are the best choices for stocking a frog/toad habitat? Long, thin, vertical-stemmed plants, such as reeds, rushes, and sedges, are frog favorites that serve a practical function as well. After breeding, amphibians attach their egg sacks to the base of plants like these just below the water’s surface. These egg sacks are a tasty treat for birds and snakes, so provide lots of foliage to help your frog and toad neighbors to hide their offspring from these predators.
Things to Avoid so Your Garden Welcomes Amphibians
Once your garden is set to double as a frog/toad habitat, there are a few words of caution that you should heed. Keep your grass as short as possible, mowing often to avoid killing your frogs and toads when mowing. Frogs and toads love to hide in tall grasses, so keeping your lawn clipped short helps avoid accidental fatalities.
If you are using mesh to protect your garden’s plants, keep an eye on it and make sure that it is kept taut. Also, use a mesh size that is at least 1.5 inches or larger, as smaller mesh sizes can trap frogs or toads and can kill them slowly if they end up trapped underneath it.
If you are a dog or cat owner, keep your pets out of your frog/toad habitat area. Pets will likely hunt and kill your amphibian friends for sport, which could drive away the frogs and toads that you are trying to attack and could also make your pets sick.
It is vital to protect your garden’s frogs and toads during the winter. The winter months are a hibernation period for most amphibians. You will find your frogs or toads at the bottom of your water sources. If your water source freezes, your garden pets will die due to lack of oxygen. Keep an eye on your pond or water source, and pour a pan of hot water into it during dips in temperature to keep the water from freezing solid and suffocating your frogs/toads.
Videos About Frogs and Toads
Check out this short film about why frogs and toads are valuable to gardeners and how you can start attracting frogs and toads to your garden today:
What is the difference between a frog and a toad? If you don’t know the answer, watch this video:
Really interested in frogs and toads? Did you know that frogs and toads have a history that dates back over 230 million years? Learn about their history and more in this documentary about frogs and toads, two of the most popular amphibians in the world:
Last, while you wait for your amphibians to arrive, you can simulate their presence with this four-minute clip collection of frogs and toads croaking: