“Frogscaping”

frog smallDid your garden seem a bit too quiet last season? There is something disconcerting about summer nights that are devoid of a single chirp or croak from once abundant garden frogs and toads. Silence in nature is generally not a good sign. A garden filled with frogs indicates balance and a healthy ecosystem.

What’s the problem?

Amphibians, such as frogs and toads, are going extinct at an alarming rate. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one in three out of all amphibians are on their red list of endangered species.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation are big contributors to wildlife decline, as are pesticides, pollution, invasive species, increased UV radiation, climate change and over-collection of food by humans. We aren’t exactly making it easy for amphibians to thrive.

Creating a frog friendly backyard benefits us as much as it does the frogs. Mosquitoes, slugs and plant-damaging beetles fall victim in droves to these amphibian predators. Frogs and toads are a supremely effective, natural form of pest control. However, if you want to boost frog populations, you’re going to have to make some important landscape maintenance choices.

First, evaluate chemical use in the garden. Because amphibians have permeable skin, they are highly susceptible to pollutants, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Many pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture and home gardening are either lethal to frogs or can cause serious genetic and birth defects. So start by stopping the use of chemicals in your yard.

When you consider birds, butterflies, bees, and other native wildlife in your gardening choices, you’ll help frogs and toads by default.

Build safe spaces for frogs. The structures can help attract them. Things like upside pots or frog houses give them a place to hide for safety.

  • Water is the No. 1 frog attractor, so consider building a frog pond. Specifically, a fishless body of water that is shallow and sloping. Frogs and toads need a lot of moisture in their environments in order to reproduce. But frog ponds don’t need to be large or elaborate. They should be a “left to nature” pond, meaning you don’t want to clean it or add any chemicals. It’s desirable for natural fertilizers and debris to fall into the frog pond, as it enables frog food sources to breed. Frogs and toads also prefer still-water ponds, as opposed to ponds with pumps and waterfalls.
  • Create cover. Include nearby plantings where frogs and toads can retreat to find shade and places to hide. Plantings of ferns and other understory shade plants around the pond are useful. You can also install toad houses to encourage them to move in more quickly.
  • Plant native species and keep an eye on pets. Cats and dogs, especially cats, are very destructive to wildlife habitats and will eat frogs and toads.

Here’s a list of frogs and toads of Texas along with audio clips of their calls.

Get hoppin’