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?

Latticework that Works!

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Lattice fencing has been a go-to tool for gardeners forever. Its classic crisscross or grid structure has remained unaltered since its inception for one reason: it works! And as we all know, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Indeed, the lattice is the one "fixing" things – it provides privacy fencing for yards, serves as a blank canvas for clinging vines and ivy, helps climbing vegetables to reach new heights, keeps out unwanted critters, and functions as the main building material for decorative arbors, trellises, screens, pergolas and more!

Let’s learn a bit more about lattice by delving into two of its main purposes: vertical gardening and natural pest control.

Vertical Vegetables

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One of the wonderful things about the overlapping strips in latticework is the structural support they provide for climbing vines and vertically-growing plants and vegetables.

In the world of trellis climbers, you can’t go wrong with selections such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peas and pole beans.

Once the frost threat passes for your region, lay out your garden in front of your lattice incorporating each plant’s specific spatial needs – this info can be found on the transplant’s nursery container.

After placing each transplant in its specified hole, cover with soil (mixed with compost for nourishment) and water liberally. From here, attach each of the climbers to the lattice by looping a soft piece of twine around the main stem of each plant and tie the loose ends to the lattice.

As the plant grows, the twine will guide the stems to grow vertically against the lattice. As soon as the vegetables ripen, harvest them and enjoy a homegrown bite of your hard work!

Natural Pest Control

Another fantastic use for lattice is as a tool for border control for those annoying animals that threaten to move into your home, completely uninvited. Just take a look around at all of the crawl-space homes surrounded with lattice under-fencing and you will understand the widespread infestation issues that lattice solves in such a lovely manner!

But more to the point is how to keep hungry critters like rabbits and deer from feasting on the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labor: installing lattice fencing is a great way to keep their grubby little paws off your peas and carrots and little hooves away from your rose bushes.

Although a picket fence works well as an exterior border surrounding your entire yard, if it is not at least 6 feet tall it may not thwart all deer, as some can clear that height in a single leap. Rather than installing a completely new fence, consider adding a level of lattice at the top of your existing fence.

Attaching a length of lattice to the upper railing of your fence not only provides the additional height to keep the deer at bay but it also adds texture and interest to your fence and can soften the entire look of your yard if you allow vines or ivy to grow on the lattice. Plus, you are repurposing what you already have which is a great way to save some green for the planet and your wallet!

When it comes to rabbits, here’s a quick tutorial on installing a lattice border around your garden:

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You’ll need:

  • Wire rabbit fencing, with openings no larger than an inch: Ensure you have enough wire for the length of your entire garden area that is at least four feet wide
  • Decorative lattice, in the same length as the wire fencing and at least three and a half feet wide
  • Garden trowel

To build your border:

  • Use the garden trowel to dig a narrow channel around the perimeter of your garden, approximately 12 inches deep
  • Bury the wire rabbit fencing in the trench – there should be 12 inches below the surface and three feet above ground
  • Fill in the trench halfway, leaving six inches of space from the surface
  • Enclose the wire rabbit fencing with the lattice, burying the lattice approximately six inches deep
  • Replace the remaining soil and firmly pack the ground around the new fencing

With this type of border, you have form and function. The decorative lattice masks the presence of the wire rabbit fencing, at least partially, and cursory garden admirers may not even notice it, depending on the style of lattice you choose. By burying the fence in the ground, you discourage burrowing and digging and at three feet tall, even Bugs Bunny will have difficulty breaching your barrier!

What other garden projects do you plan to complete with lattice?

Chris Long, a long-time store associate at a Home Depot in Illinois, writes for the Home Depot website. He enjoys writing on outdoor projects ranging from lattice to lumber and fencing.

How to keep termites out of your home

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Termites are the last insect most homeowners ever want to see on their property.  Their voracious appetite for wood can do untold damage to even the newest and best-built homes in any neighborhood.

Making sure they don’t do this to you takes persistence and anticipation.  Waiting for signs of termites before you initiate a treatment program is the wrong way to handle it.  If you don’t already have termites, don’t think of it as a treatment program. Think of it as a prevention program, or else it may become a treatment program.

You must deal with professionals on termites.  An infestation requires skills, tools, and chemicals that homeowners do not have.  Finding a reputable exterminator is as easy as dropping in on www.pestcontrol.us and placing a phone call.  From that initial contact, your situation will be handled by people who are well-trained in termite issues.  Don’t select some no-name startup local company, staffed by freshly-minted technicians who might not be able to find termites in their own homes.  To get the best results, work with the best people.  This is your home we’re talking about!

Calling a professional isn’t exactly how-to instruction.  But there is a significant DIY component to the process of termite-proofing your home.  We’re getting there…

First, you must limit the availability of cellulose.  That can best be handled at the time of construction, of course, but even with renovation you can look for places where wood is within six inches of soil.  Consider lattice work, structural members, and decorative items.  And note that pressure treated wood is not immune to termite damage.

Second, don’t store wood on the ground.  Whether it’s firewood or scrap lumber, placing it on the ground is making it a vector for termites.  When you grab a 2×4 block for a household repair, it may already be infested with termites.  Bringing in an extra armload of firewood to get you through the night will also bring in a squadron of these destructive pests.  Mulch, in excess, can stay moist enough to provide a home for termites that’s just inches from your home.  If you like to replace mulch annually, rake away last year’s accumulation (and any previous years’!) and use a modest layer that covers the soil just enough to get the look you want.  Don’t let mulch mound up in a thick, damp layer.  That is Club Med for termites.

Finally, manage moisture.  Termites are soft-bodied insects that cannot survive very long in a dry environment.  By taking away the moisture that keeps them alive, you will force them to relocate elsewhere.  That applies to inside your home and out.  Check for damp areas around your foundation.  Ensure that gutter downspouts can easily drain away from the home.  Get a dehumidifier for summer use, and make sure you keep it emptied as needed.

The battle against termites never ends, but with vigilance on your part and skilled work by professionals on theirs, you can stay ahead of the monsters that would eat your home.