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Giving the Toads a Happy Home with Earth, Water and… Garden Furniture?

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There was a toad that lived in my mother’s garden, and I always considered myself lucky to happen to catch a glimpse of him by a rock before he hopped back into the dense flowers and vegetables. When the summer rain was fresh on the plants, little toad would always be hanging out by the edge of the garden. I always wondered what his home looked like, and why he lived in the garden instead of the wilderness. Now that I have my own garden, I wanted to see more of little toad and other amphibians. They truly are amazing animals, and it is such an honor to be able to provide a good habitat for them so I can sometimes look in on their life and wonder what it’s like to be a toad!

After a bit of research into what type of real estate really does it for amphibians, I found out I need to provide shelter, hibernation spots, and a breeding area. Implementing a few structures with earth, water and garden furniture will really give amphibians a nice place to settle down in. Here are some tips for making your own garden toad-friendly, whether it’s because you like the amphibians or just their positive effects on gardens.

Rocks

Toads love to hide under rocks, so scatter a few throughout the garden in piles and border any paths or boundaries. You can also use wooden logs for this. Either way, it adds some more design to your garden and comfort for the toads. Some toads will also hibernate underground, digging deep below the freezing line, but others will rely on cracks in wood or rocks because they aren’t as good at digging.

Interestingly enough, Scientific American maintains that many frogs will freeze to the point where their heart and lungs stop beating in the winter. The level of glucose in their vital organs acts as antifreeze and the heart and lungs will start working again once the temperature warms back up.

Ponds for mating, hydration, and hibernation

Even if you don’t have a pond, you may still get a happy toad to live in your garden as they are a dry-land equipped amphibian. If you want more variety such as frogs or salamanders though, install a pond to prove the adequate hydration and ecosystem they require.

Putting a small pond in or near your garden isn’t as hard as it sounds. I just dug a hole in the ground, covered it in strong plastic, and waited for the rain to fill it up. You can also fill it with water from the hose, but you will want to make sure the chlorine has fully evaporated by the time any amphibians come near it. If you pick an area of low ground where pools form naturally, the rain should be fine to fill it up.

A pond also provides a hibernation spot for aquatic frogs. They will partially bury themselves in the mud below the surface and take in oxygen from the water.

Make sure the pond is far enough away from chemically treated lawns, poisonous trees or other plants that pose a threat to amphibians and reptiles. Instead, proactively install plants that will proved shelter and attract the kind of insects amphibians enjoy.

Garden furniture for hiding

I really like the wild, overgrown look of vines twisting into everyday objects, so I decided to incorporate furniture into my garden to provide shade, depth of space, and a dense hiding spot for the amphibian residents of the garden. I found a really cool, intricate looking wrought iron bench and planted Black-eyed Susan vine transplants, weaving them through and around the bench. I like to think that the frogs, toads and salamanders love the natural looking fixture as a potential hiding spot.

 Blackeyed Susan Vine

I also added another bench to the front-most outer side of my garden, this time using a cute little wicker design with cushions for actual sitting. Depending on the season, I leave this piece of furniture protected with a garden bench cover for the most part, and wait for it to rain in the early evenings. Once the rain ceases I go out to the garden and quietly uncover the bench for some amphibian (and rainbow) viewing relaxation. It’s probably one of the best things ever!

Amphibians are magnificent creatures, but they’re not the only garden-beneficial animals. What is your favorite garden wildlife, and how do you attract them to your yard?

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Multiple rain barrels hooked up with common garden hose connectors

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Last summer I setup some cheap rain barrels which I describe in this post which worked great though had one major flaw.  If you wanted to do some maintenance or add any new barrels you would have to literally have to saw them apart.  This time around I came up with a design that is not only simple but can be done with almost no tools and uses common garden hose connectors.

Materials needed

 

Construction

Knowing Pascal’s principle I wanted to take advantage of all the height I could safely get.  I chose to elevate my rain barrels by taking cinder blocks 2 wide and 3 high.  I then place two 4”X4” lumber cut at 4 foot lengths to provide a few additional inches of height, but also provide some room for my connections under the barrels.

Now I have a firm foundation not it is time to get these barrels hooked together so I can get maximum water pressure and access to the water in all of the barrels.

The caps on the barrels (pretty common) I picked up had a nice feature of including some nice threads on the inside of them.  This provides me a nice 1 inch thread I can get a nice tight seal.  The only problem these are sealed closed.

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Not having a drill bit just under one inch in diameter I used a pocket knife to carefully cut the inner cap off being careful to not harm the threads.

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Whats also great about this threads is they match that of standard garden hose connections.  So my taking the male end of one of the garden hose splitter with a 4-5 wrappings in Teflon plumbers tape and screw it into the cap you opened up in the previous step.  Repeat this process for all of your remaining rain barrels.

Note: This addition of Teflon plumbers tape is technically optional should be water tight without this but seems like a cheap insurance for the alternative of having a slow leak under your barrels.

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Next add one end of male the garden hose to the end you typically would hook up to your faucet and hook the other end (other male end created using Male garden hose mender mentioned above.  For this I cut an old garden hose which had a couple leaks in it to proper length since obviously 25 feet of hose between barrels would be some serious overkill.

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If you have more than two rain barrels you can then use short lengths of typical garden hose (one male/one female) and link them together in a similar manner.

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For overflow I went with a pretty simple option of drilling a hole and manually threading a pipe fitting that attached to piece of tubing (easy finds at your local home improvement store)

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Better picture of overflow…this tube goes right down to the drain the water used to flow down with the drain spout.  So once all the barrels are full all the excess water will just flow down here.

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Speaking of the drain spout I used some cheap vinyl drain pieces to redirect the water into a 3 inch hole I cut in the top of the barrels.

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I added a piece of screen to filter out the leaves and little piece of sediment that may come from the roof.  I also screwed on a plastic lid I scavenged from the recycling bin which I cut a matching 3 inch hole into.  This had a decent lip on the lid to help direct the water into the barrels when the rain starts coming down pretty hard.

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Overall I really like how this came out.  Not only does this allow me to easily add new rain barrels and I decide to add them but I also with the valves on the 2 way garden hose splitter I can easily start/stop flow from any barrel and do maintenance on another barrel without having to draining all of the water from the system.

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This year I have decided to make my own potting soil with very little effort and much less cost.  Given I just recently harvested my compost bin and got about 15 gallons of screened compost as my starting point to make my own mix.

CVG Potting Soil Recipe

Ingredients:
Directions:

Add all ingredients to 20 gallon trash container.  Mix thoroughly with large shovel until everything is well incorporated.  Cover with lid with several holes drilled in the top (otherwise moisture+no light = mold growth)

 

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You can use a smaller container than 20 gallons but would not recommend one smaller or it can be a decent reach to get the last of the soil out of the bottom…

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