Slugs, beetles, crickets, ants, cutworms, grubs, caterpillars…appetizing, right? To one of the most beneficial garden helpers, that menu sounds like the makings of a 5-star establishment.
Enter the American toad, an often misunderstood but lovable wildlife neighbor whose silent but diligent labor often goes unnoticed because most of it happens at night. These nocturnal amphibians patrol vegetable rows all night long when arthropod pest activity is at its highest. Carnivorous themselves, toads are lethal when it comes to pest control. Discover tips to attract these keepers of the garden and keep your plants happy, healthy, and bountiful!
#1. Minimize, but preferably eliminate, pesticide, herbicide, and chemical fertilizer use on your property.
Amphibians primarily exchange oxygen through their skin, so having exterior “lungs” makes them susceptible to the slightest chemical imbalance in their environment. These new age “canaries in the coal mine” require specific environmental conditions to thrive. If you notice a loss in the amphibian population from year to year, something is wrong; these indicator species let us know! On the flip side, if your local amphibian population is happy and healthy, that indicates your health and the health of your human and wildlife community is in a good place!
#2. Establish low-till vegetable garden maintenance.
Disturbing the soil in your garden has its benefits, but it also has studied disadvantages. Related to toads, tilling the soil disturbs their hunting, resting, and over-wintering grounds. Throughout the growing season, organisms, and nutrients team-up to build an exquisite soil ecosystem that is largely resilient. Often, tilling practices interrupt this process and can disturb wildlife of all sizes that keep our gardens healthy and pest free.
#3. Provide plenty of cover: “toad abodes.”
The easiest, and most artistic way to keep toads in your garden is to give them places to hide from prey and stay safe from predators. Say hello to the “toad abode.” This structure can be as simple as a hollowed-out log or as colorful as a painted overturned clay pot. (The color is for us to enjoy; toads could care less!) These spaces provide darkness and cover and retain moisture even on the hottest days- all things toads need to thrive!
If you are feeling creative, select a clay pot (between 4-8” diameter is best).
Come up with a simple or intricate design, whatever you’re feeling!
Add some color with acrylic paint in a well-ventilated space and let dry overnight.
Select a stone about the size of a golf ball, this will create a space for toads to come in.
Choose a shaded spot in the garden where slugs seem to be a problem and attract these beneficial keepers of the garden!