Toads are a fantastic part of our ecosystem, they are nature's answer to pesticides. With one toad eating as many as 100 aphids and slugs a night they are wonderful plant protectors. Sadly their numbers are declining largely due to a loss of habitat. Therefore it's not surprising that we are finding toads, frogs and other reptiles in 'alternative' homes such as grow bags.
When Sarah realised she had quite a few toads in her garden she was pleased. This is because it shows they are an active part of the Pembrokeshire wildlife. In fact, one of her projects at Pembrokeshire Natural Burials is to restore the wetland. This should help support amphibians and reptiles in need of a native habitat. Finding 3 toads in one night is a good indicator the wetland, once restored, will have a positive impact on the population. Unfortunately, by the time she realised one of her toads had made his home in her grow bag, it was too late to save his home. This inspired her to find a way to offer him a safe place where he could live undisturbed.
We know many do not have the option to restore a native pond or wetland. Yet there are ways we can all help to support these wonderful creatures. One of these is to build a toad house. Soon after Mr Toad found himself homeless Sarah & Jesse were researching the best way to build a toad house. The house was soon ready to go. They have shared with us how they built their toad house.
Building a toad house
Sarah: “Building a toad house in your garden is very simple. It's a small and fun task that has a big impact. It isn’t something I had thought about until I uprooted our toad. When we looked at how much a toad home benefits both us and our little toads, we wished we had done it sooner. We felt it was a good idea that we should share. It's something you can do quickly if you find like I did, you have a toad without a home. If you haven’t got toads it's a great way to encourage them and support the growth of the toad population. It also encourages natural pest control in your vegetable patch.
When researching the best way to build a toad house we found there are lots of different ways. You can use natural materials like rocks and wood. You can also use a plant pot. It doesn’t cost a lot, in fact, the materials we used were recycled so it didn’t cost us a penny. We adapted a plastic pot as the base because we needed a quick solution. But, if you are creating a home in an area that you wish to rewild, natural materials are definitely the way to go.
Step 1: Finding the perfect spot for a toad home
If you have a resident toad you need to rehome it’s a good idea to do this close to where you found him/her. They have chosen that area for a reason so it must be a good place for food. It may also be close to their breeding grounds. If you are trying to encourage toads and frogs near the vegetable patch is perfect. This is because they help to control pests on your plants and you know there is a viable food source. You need a shady spot, somewhere that doesn’t get too dry or hot where the toad can live undisturbed. We found a shaded corner in our vegetable patch very close where we had found him. It was tucked out of the way so he wouldn’t get watered, but would remain cool and wet. It was a place he would be safe from our dog, where could munch on slugs until his heart was content.
Step 2: Good ground conditions
The next step is to make sure the ground conditions are right. A toad home with a base is no good as toads like to dig a shallow burrow in the soil. This stops them from drying out in the heat. We found a fun fact that in the winter, they can actually burrow down two feet to avoid the chilly frosts. You can choose an area with no soil, but you will need to add some soil. It doesn’t have to be two feet deep as your toad will find somewhere appropriate to overwinter. A layer of soil they can customise with a shallow burrow is perfect. Jesse placed some of the soil from the grow bag the toad had chosen to make his base. He decided to add a layer the same depth as the grow bag which was approximately 5 inches.
Step 3: Building the toad home
We chose to use an old garden pot to create a home for our toad. We used a plastic one because we did not have any ceramic available and had to create a home in a hurry. There are lots of alternatives you can use including wood or stone. You can even use a broken ceramic pot on its side. Anything that will give a nice covered area for the toad, away from predators, is perfect. After I had cut out a doorway Jesse pushed the pot into the soil about 1-2 inches down. That was the main structure complete. In addition to a safe space tther thing a toads needs is water to bathe in. We discovered ours was using a few water trays we had left outside. To make it a bit safer for him we moved one next to the home we built. As Jesse said, ‘lucky toad he even has a swimming pool’, we left the other tub where we had found it. We then decided to add a few finishing touches.
Step 4: The finishing touches
To make our toad home more appealing and to shelter it from the sun and rain we decided to add natural elements. We gathered some old wood logs and stones we had lying around. Jesse then built a log pile around the pot and placed the stones next to the pool to give it a bit of strength. Finally, we gently placed the planter our toad had fallen into on its side. We had kept him well covered so he didn’t get hot or dry out and he hopped straight into his new home.
This was the final result of our toad home. We hope he will be very happy there and it will help to support our wonderful amphibian wildlife in the future. A few days later we saw him again hopping through the pots, so we are glad he has decided to stick around.
Stories and thoughts from the Leedam camp.
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