Garden habitats for frogs

by Kate Bradbury

I seem to have created the perfect habitat for my frogs. It's not a large garden, marsh or meadow, but a tatty grow bag from last year, screened by willow edging and topped with dead foliage.

Frog, photo taken by Julie WatsonI seem to have created the perfect habitat for my frogs. It's not a large garden, marsh or meadow, but a tatty grow bag from last year, screened by willow edging and topped with dead foliage. It's an absolute eyesore and I hate it, but to my frogs it's five-star accommodation.

Last July, I responded to a Freecycle email from someone who'd filled in her established pond and razed her entire garden to the ground, prior to a redesign. It was no longer a safe habitat for frogs, and those she'd found she'd caught and kept in a jar, ready for anyone who could give them a good home. I had intended just to take them to the local park, but they were all babies (and, I imagine, fairly traumatised), so I took them home. When I released them they all hopped off in different directions. Some headed for the long grass, some dived under the shed and others found shelter in the grow bag. I'd see them from time to time, but generally left them alone, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find fully grown frogs poking their heads out two months later, when watering my tomatoes.

Kate's grow bag frog habitatIn autumn, determined that the frogs and insects would have a safe place to spend the winter, I left the grow bag in place, cutting down the tomato haulms and placing them and other plant debris over the top, for extra shelter. In January I added the branches of the Christmas tree I used to make my bee hotel. Then in March, when I'd had quite enough of looking at it and was convinced the frogs had taken shelter elsewhere, I set to dismantling and removing it, only to find around 15 frogs buried in the compost, asleep. I quickly covered them back up and left them alone again.

Frogs residing in grow bags is nothing knew. I spoke to frog expert Jules Howard, who said grow bags make the perfect habitat because they're damp, while the compressed soil makes them ideal for overwintering (they love squeezing into cracks and tight spaces, apparently, so will even crawl beneath the bags). The fact that my grow bag has the additional shelter of dead foliage makes it even better, as it attracts other creatures eaten by frogs, such as slugs, snails and beetles.

Seemingly, my grow bag habitat is so good, the frogs still haven't emerged. They're awake now (I checked), and I can hear them thumping about among the debris. And while I would love to get that ugly mess out of my garden, I can't evict them. At a time when there isn't so much lush foliage and long grass, the grow bag provides them with shelter and safety. They're (probably) still too young to be interested in spawning, so they may as well stay there. I'll just make sure I make it look slightly prettier next year, and I hope they come out before I'll need to plant out my tomatoes.

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/04/2011 at 18:29

What a lovely frog saga. A hedgehog once spent the winter in one of the black bin bags which I use to collect leaves for leaf mould and which resides in my potting shed - the back of the garage really. I often find frogs asleep in the morning in pots in my cold frame which I have watered the night before. Wild creatures do make good use of whatever is available, Kate, as you have found out. I found some blackbirds' nests in my monstrous yuccas, when I was trimming them, with crisp packets, bits of fleece etc beautifully woven together. The storks in The balconies in Hong Kong build their nests of nothing but street detritus and as they are very wide they use plastic bags a lot.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/04/2011 at 08:18

That is such a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us. Maybe you could consider having a permanent little frog sanctuary in a corner of your garden you seem to have the right magic for it. My pond is full of little tadpoles although I had heard from anecdotal sources there was a shortage of them this year, so I am delighted to see them back again as usual.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/04/2011 at 08:48

So now, the frogs are designing your garden? Excellent!

Gardeners' World Web User 02/04/2011 at 13:41

I was worried I would'nt get any frogs this year as I found over 20 dead in my pond ( it was when we had all that bad snow & cold weather ). It was very upsetting as over the years I have saved the tadpoles from being on my fishes dinner menu, so have become quite attached to the frogs. But to my delight this week I have heard croaking & found a hugh ball of frog spawn in my pond :) to which I have moved to what I call my tadpole nursery. Hopefully they will soon replace all my lost frogs from this winter!! To be continued.....

Gardeners' World Web User 02/04/2011 at 17:04

oh your so lucky to have frogspawn,as of yet i havent got any in my pond....over the winter i found 2 large dead frogs [second year running],i have only seen 1 frog in my garden this year normally this time of year there are loads hoping around on the lawn etc...i wonder if i will get any spawn? kate,i do so love your story and how sweet they are still with you,are you gonna do a pond for them?

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