Who needs pesticides to protect your flowers and vegetable garden when a single toad can eat thousands upon thousands of pesky garden insects in a single season? In fact, they may eat as many as 50 to 100 slugs, flies, grubs, grasshoppers, and cutworms in just one night! Toads could care less about eating your garden crops. They are only interested in the bugs eating them. Here is how you turn your garden into a humble abode for toads.
Is It a Frog, or a Toad?
Actually, it is both. Toads and frogs are in the same family, but they do have some physical characteristics that are commonly used to tell them apart:
|Toads have:||Frogs have:|
|Warty, dry skin||Smooth, slimy skin|
|Stubby bodies with short hind legs||Long hinds legs with webbed feet|
|Paratoid glands behind the eyes||Two bulging eyes|
|Eggs laid in long chains||Eggs laid in clusters|
|Group of toads is called a KNOT||Group of frogs is called an ARMY|
(Source: Hamline University Center for Global Education)
If You Provide It, Toads Will Come
First off, never remove toads (or tadpoles) from their natural habitat and transport them to your garden, and discourage children from capturing toads both from your garden and elsewhere. If you provide the right environment for them, eventually toads will come. And not only will they show up, but they are also likely to stay a while. Toads can live from 2 to 40 years, so once a toad decides to make your garden his abode, he is likely to provide you with non-stop insect control for years to come.
All you need to do to make your garden a toad-friendly place is to provide the basics: shelter, food, and moisture.
Toads can be somewhat secretive, after all, they like to lie low and wait patiently for their meals to crawl or fly by. Creating a toad abode is easy. Leave some leaf litter under trees and shrubs in the garden and plant native plants and grasses. You can also build burrows for them to hide in. To do this, create a shallow depression in the soil around ferns, shrubs, or flowers, and surround the depression with layers of flat stones piled 6 inches high. Broken terra cotta pots also make the perfect toad abode when flipped over in a moist, shady spot. And remember, a well-manicured lawn may look nice, but it isn't necessarily "toad friendly".
Insects are not hard to find in the garden, and to the sticky tongue of the toad, nearly anything creeping or crawling is fair game. Adults feed mainly on insects, which means itís wise to avoid pesticides. After all, pests are their food supply. You can also erect a toad light, set no higher than 3 ft off the ground. Place this near a border between a garden or rockery and your lawn. The light will attract insects to one area, which the toads will happily munch on at night.
Toads are amphibians, which means they like to live on land and in water. The most obvious way to add moisture to you garden is by installing a water feature such as a pond. It doesn't have to be a deep pond, because unlike frogs, toads hibernate over winter either in the aquatic vegetations of lakes and ponds, under the water, or under leaf litter on the ground. Some even turn into "frog-cicles"-with the partial freezing of their body fluids while buried under leaf liter on the forest floor. If you do decide to install a pond, surround it with rocks, logs, and native plants that mimic a toad's natural habitat.
If you don't have a pond, it's still essential to provide moist places where toads can cool off and protect their skin from the heat. Hiding saucers or small, shallow pans of water in cool shady areas throughout your garden will provide toads a respite from the heat and enable them to jump in and out as they please.
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