Raking out the garden in the spring before planting often reveals land exploding with life. Toads, and plenty of them, ranging from tiny half-inchers to beefy, three-inch beasts, can find refuge in the damp leaves and detritus blanketing the ground. Although most of us don’t give much thought to the humble toad in the garden, their presence is more than welcome, as each of these cute little guys make gardening easier by eating thousands of insects over the course of the growing season. I may occasionally disrupt their home, but I want these pest-eating amphibians to stick around. Encouraging toads to the garden is all about providing them with safe, comfortable digs. It’s time to add a toad house to the garden.
At its simplest, a toad house is a shelter where toads may lounge, protected from the sun and potential predators. Left to fend for themselves, toads will seek out fallen branches, leaf piles or other spots with nearby access to water and food. Once they have settled on a home, they will return year after year to patrol the yard, gobbling up garden pests like grubs, slugs and insects.
Selecting a toad house. Toad houses come in many shapes and sizes. Although a variety of fancy houses can be purchased to add a bit of elegance to the garden, toads aren’t quite so particular. A simple toad house can be constructed from just about any small, opaque vessel with an opening large enough to accommodate its residents. A coffee can or plastic container will work, but using a container of stone, ceramic or clay will provide better protection against the mid-day heat. If using reclaimed materials, turn the container upside down and cut a “doorway” at least three inches wide for easy access. To fashion a basic house, a flowerpot may be turned on its side and buried halfway in loose soil. Toads like to burrow into the ground and the floor of toad houses should always offer exposed earth in which to dig.
Location is key when establishing toad houses. Find a shady spot adjacent to the garden where they can hunt for protein-rich insects or other prey. Easy access to water is also important to these garden friends and may be as easy as placing a shallow reservoir nearby. Use a trowel to expose bare soil and make sure the house does not rock when bumped. A small handful of leaves may be placed inside the house to provide bedding material. If pets frequent the site, try to place the house where it will be difficult to access. Although most toads are harmless, a few secrete toxins that can make pets sick if ingested.
Once a good spot for your toad house has been established, do not attempt to relocate toads to the new shelter (they will quickly return to their established haunts). In spring and summer months, young toads or adults whose homes have been disrupted will be in the market for new digs. It may take a little time, but eventually this prime piece of real estate will be bustling with tenants delighted to earn their keep by keeping the pest population down in their new neighborhood.
Originally: How to Create a Toad House