Marty's Garden, July 30th, 2017
I like frogs, all frogs AND toads. Always have, probably always will. In Holland, with its many rivers, canals as well as ditches around every field you will find frogs everywhere. As a kid I would go out hunting for frogs, or even better, find frog eggs and watch the whole metamorphosis from egg, tadpole into frog. One year I managed to catch a few stickleback fish, a pair actually, and they were put in a small aquarium. Later I also found some frog spawn and brought it home. Since the frog eggs and the stickleback fish both came from the same ditch I added the spawn to the aquarium. That was the year I found out that newly hatched tadpoles make an excellent meal for stickleback fish and I ended up with stickleback babies rather than small frogs. Well, it is one way to learn about nature.
In my old garden I attracted frogs to the pond but in THIS garden I have a wealth of frogs and toads. At the end of our block there is retention basin fully loaded with frogs. If that wasn’t enough, a little closer to home across the street is another small natural bog/pond containing more of the same. During last year’s hot and dry late spring and summer I attracted toads when the plants from the old house were temporarily put out on cardboard on the driveway while being shaded by sheets during the hottest part of the day. Each evening I watered the plants and the moist soil in pots and the moist cardboard seemed to be the perfect spot for toads to hide and look for insects to eat. Now I still find toads all over the garden; itty bitty ones in spring and big ones during the rest of the time.
So far I have come across four different types of frogs in the garden and they seem to get along well enough. First there are the bull frogs, the biggest frogs in the garden and the loudest. With a mouth that grins from ear to ear they are big enough to eat smaller frogs, large insects, mice or even small birds. They are also the most timid. When I open the back door to go into the garden I will hear a startled “eek” followed by a splash. There go the bull frogs. Once in a while a bull frog will be too far from the pond and as I walk closer to it, it will jump wildly, crying “eek” until it finds cover.
The green frogs are less shy. Once they get used to me I can actually get within inches of them before they move on. They like to sit in the water, right at the level where water meets land and close to cover. They are smaller than the bull frogs, but bigger than the leopard frog, another inhabitant around the pond. Leopard frogs, or at least the ones around my pond, are quite docile. They have a tendency to hang out around the edges of the pond, quite content to sit out on dry land for long stretches at the time as I garden around them.
The fourth frog species I found in my garden is the grey tree frog. One evening a few weeks ago I suddenly remembered my plants on the porch needed watering. My watering can was full and I started watering. Suddenly only a little trickle of water came out of the spout even though there was still water in the can. I looked at the spout and it seemed as if the spout was stopped up by some leaves. I nearly stuck my finger into the spout to dislodge the leaves before I took a closer look. Those weren’t any leaves; it was a little grey face with two big eyes looking back at me. I carefully put my watering can down, apologizing to the frog for disturbing its home. Ten minutes later curiosity got the better of me. I went back out again and found the grey tree frog hanging off the spout of the watering can! I think by now it has moved on, maybe to the back yard where there are actual trees. I don’t think it still fits into the spout of the watering can.
Since we have window wells on two sides of the house as egress from the basement I also find frogs and toads in the wells on a nearly daily basis. I learned shortly after moving into this house that it pays to put a saucer of water in each well unless you want to have dried up and desiccated amphibians in the window well. I make a daily check in each window well, lifting up the saucer to see if any frogs or toads are hiding under it. I also change the water in each saucer every other day; no need to breed mosquitoes while trying to save amphibians! After rainy evenings I find multiple frogs and toads in the wells. The most I every captured from one window well after a rain storm was 19 frogs and 6 toads. In short, in this garden I find myself surrounded by frogs and toads as I make a habitat for them. The garden will be richer for it, for them as well as for us.