Creating a toad habitat in my garden has been on my “to-do” list for quite some time. I’ve had an affinity for these creatures ever since reading the Frog and Toad Collection of children’s books by Arnold Lobel both as a kid and then again with my child. You can’t help but fall in love with the amiable characters in the books, and it turns out that they are equally charming in real life.
While both amphibians, toads, and frogs have differing traits. Frogs have moist smooth skin and spend most of their lives near water. Toads, on the other hand, have dry, bumpy skin and spend most of their lives on land. Both species are facing habitat degradation and pressure from invasive species. Having permeable skin that can absorb toxins makes amphibians particularly susceptible to pollutants in the water, such as acid rain, mining waste, untreated sewage, and concentrations of fertilizers and pesticides. Due to this susceptibility, several species are federally listed as endangered or threatened.
Giving these creatures a safe place in the garden seemed beneficial to us both. Toads and frogs are lovely garden companions, capable of eating up to 1,000 insects per day including cutworms, snails, slugs, grubs, mosquitoes, and beetles. Inviting these creatures into the garden offers a natural pest control method without the use of pesticides. Chemical use should be avoided once toads move in to keep your new garden companions safe.
There were several considerations that I needed to take into account when starting my toad habitat project. Firstly, I had to select a proper location, preferably a quiet site away from the primary traffic in the yard. It also needed to be protected and shaded for at least part of the day. I chose a spot under a maple tree near one of my perennial beds that offers shade in the afternoon’s heat. The area is also surrounded by a fence, offering some protection from predators.
Next, I needed to provide a source of water. Neither frogs nor toads drink water through their mouths. Instead, they absorb moisture through their skin when they sit in water. Offering a pool that toads could relax in was a priority and essential if I wanted to attract them to my garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the space for a pond, but toads are perfectly happy with smaller water sources. I purchased a fifteen-inch saucer and partially buried it into the ground, adding some rocks around the top to make it look natural. Placing stones within the dish will provide a place for the toads to get in and out with ease. The saucer will need to be cleaned regularly and fresh water should be added weekly.
Offering shelter was another necessity. Most frogs and toads dehydrate quickly in the sun and therefore prefer shady, moist areas. Being primarily nocturnal, they need a place to hide from predators during the day. Shelters can be as simple as arranging stones to create a cave or using broken clay pots set on their sides. Alternatively, you could have some fun and create a one-of-a-kind toad abode. As I enjoy crafts and building projects, I decided to create a unique toad abode out of an old funnel I found at a salvage yard and a plant pot. I turned the pot upside down and cut a hole to allow the toads to enter. I then used the funnel as a whimsical roof for the house.
Providing vegetation around your habitat helps attract toads. They will appreciate having foliage to forage in. You can choose to add some ornamental plants or keep it simple by adding mulch or moss. Since I had selected one of my perennial beds for my toad habitat, I already had plants that would provide plenty of opportunities for the toads to forage.
To complete the toad habitat, I chose to add some whimsical elements such as ceramic mushrooms and a handmade “Toad Abode” sign. I also added solar lanterns that will attract flying insects at night, offering the toads plenty of options on which to dine. Adding mulch to keep the ground moist and to help suppress weeds will also be beneficial. The finishing touch was to add my “prince charming” statue. He makes me smile as I imagine him waiting for his princess to come and offer him a kiss.
My toad habitat is now complete, and all I have to do is wait and see if anyone decides to move in. If a habitat provides all that toads need, they will return each year, hibernating underground each winter and reemerging in the spring. With a little luck, a toad will move into my newly created habitat, they may not be my prince charming, but they will make an excellent garden companion. That is good enough for me.