Question: My garden is filled with toads all year long. I’m cautious when digging so I don’t hurt them, and I don’t till. However, I feel like there’s more I could be doing for these beneficial creatures. What do you recommend?
Answer: To befriend toads (and virtually all other small wildlife), one must meet the animals’ specific needs: feeding, reproducing, and hiding. Toads are not too difficult to please if you remember that they’re predators and that they feed on other living things, including snails, slugs, worms, pillbugs, ants, and roaches. Also, toads are amphibians, meaning that although they live on dry land, they must return to water to reproduce. And finally, toads dry up easily and need shelter during daylight hours and dry weather.
Here are some suggestions that will benefit toads in urban communities:
1. Increase the amount of non-grassy areas in your landscape by creating flower beds and ground covers, which make good, long-term microcosms.
2. Mulch flower beds heavily with organic material. This increases important soil moisture and provides temporary habitats during inclement weather.
3. Delay tidying up old plant matter in fall to extend microhabitats.
4. Increase the time between lawn mowings to give soil dwellers more undisturbed time.
5. Add a small log or rock pile to your garden to provide convenient hiding places during all seasons.
6. Provide a source of ground-level standing water for egg laying. Larvae (tadpoles) feed on algae and organic debris. If a small water source isn’t feasible, you may still attract toads because they tend to be very mobile.
All in all, make your home turf appear less like a golf course and more like a wildlife-friendly habitat. For additional information, visit the websites for the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society, and North American Butterfly Association.For a chance to see your gardening question answered in print, email it to Letters@HeirloomGardener.com.