5 Ways to Help Amphibians in Your Ecosystem Garden

Frogs and Toads are in great danger You can help them in your wildlife garden

Ecosystem Gardeners are in a great position to develop habitats forfrogs, toads, and other amphibians on their properties.

These habitats must include both aquatic and terrestrial environments, and provide access to food, shelter and migration corridors, plus aestivation, hibernation, breeding, and nesting sites.

Install a Garden Pond

Since most frogs and toads need water at least in some portions of their lives, the first order of business is to install a garden pond in a sunny location. Flexible or rigid liners work fine as long as there is some way for the amphibians to get in and out, such as gently sloping sides or the placement of rocks or logs to allow access.

Cover can be provided by planting native emergent plants around the pond edges. It is important to use native plants because the primary food of adult frogs and toads is insects. Native insects may not be attracted to non-native plants. Some of these plants should be species that attract night-flying moths as toads are nocturnal feeders.

Amphibians or their larvae may winter over in the pond. For this reason, it is important to allow the accumulated leaf litter to remain so that these species can burrow into it. Because garden ponds are relatively small, the installation of a pond deicer will keep a small hole in winter ice to prevent the loss of all oxygen during the colder months.

Do Not Stock Fish in Your Pond

It is important not to stock fish in the pond, either native or introduced. Fish are predators of the eggs and larva of amphibians, and also of dragonfly and damselfly larva.

It is also important to allow frogs, toads, and other amphibians to arrive at your pond site on their own (the “If you build it, they will come” philosophy). Do not stock them from other areas. Most larvae do not survive being transported to a new location.

Leave Some Areas Wild

On land, some areas should be left wild—using native flowers and shrubs to provide cover, moisture, and shade, and also allowing leaf litter to remain around the bases of these plants. Salamanders spend most of their time beneath this litter. It also provides a winter haven for overwintering toads.

Cover can also be found beneath loosely stacked rocks or logs piles as well as brush piles. Log piles may also harbor overwintering butterflies and other insects. Decaying wood is an integral element of forest communities and provides a home to many insects which supply an additional source of food for amphibians.

Do Not Use Chemicals

Most importantly, do not use pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. Amphibians breathe through their porous skin and are highly susceptible to these chemicals, which can cause skin lesions, disease, and death. If you leave the leaf litter in place, that will provide all of the nutrition necessary for your garden.

Help Preserve Native Wetland

Even small efforts to preserve native wetland and forest remnants can have a great impact for amphibians. When habitat conservation is combined with reductions in the use of toxic chemicals and reduction in greenhouse gases and ozone destroying emissions, this benefit can grow substantially.

To continue to help amphibians, we need to promote enforced protection of ecosystems, especially forests and wetlands, strict regulation of toxic chemicals, invasive alien species, and greenhouse and ozone-depleting gases, inventory and monitoring of amphibian populations, education on the ecological and cultural significance of amphibians, sustainable use of amphibians and their habitats, and training of herpetologists

Update: New study: Pesticide drift has negative impact on amphibian populations

How are you helping amphibians in your wildlife garden?

Show off Your Wildlife Garden–we’d love to see what you’ve got, so pick your favorite photo of your habitat garden and get the chance to be published at Ecosystem Gardening

© 2009 – 2010, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of EcosystemGardening.com If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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About Carole Sevilla Brown

Carole Sevilla Brown is a Conservation Biologist who firmly believes that wildlife conservation begins in your own back yard. Carole is an author, educator, speaker, and passionate birder, butterfly watcher,  and naturalist who travels around the country teaching people to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, pollinators and other wildlife. She gardens for wildlife in Philadelphia, zone 6b, and created the philosophy of Ecosystem Gardening. Watch for her book Ecosystem Gardening, due out soon. Carole is managing editor of  Beautiful Wildlife Garden, and also  Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. Follow Carole on Facebook and also @CB4wildlife and on Google+


  1. Great article. I have seen amphibians persist in suburban environments where at least some strips of wild areas and breeding pools remain.

  2. Great piece as usual, Carole! Toads will live anywhere there is a damp spot and a place to hide. I see them hanging around our gutter downspout. They like to eat slugs and other underground bugs so they are definitely worth having around!

  3. Great article addressing some of natures often overlooked creatures. I especially liked the info on native plants, natural areas, and fish free ponds etc. I have had a breeding population of native Spotted Salamanders in my suburban woodland backyard now for 18 seasons. The babies are voracious consumers of mosquito larva. I would love to share additional amphib tips to you and others interested. A few lessons I have learned over the years you may find interesting… Healthy Amph breeding populations are of times an indicator of good water conditions. Some species like the spotted salamanders are very sensitive to pollution impurities.. so I use only rain water or thoroughly treated city water. ( rain barrel run-off from roof rain contains too many chems and is often toxic). Some baby frogs can co-habitate with small fish- such as green,pig,leopard,pickerel frog tadpoles. If there are no fish in the pond then be sure your herp larvae prefer to consume the mosquito larvae that will thrive.. Many tadpoles will not eat mosqito larvae.. One may wish to consider adding very small fish to eat mosquito larva ( in the South Gambusia are native, native shiner minnows in cold regions) or the BT “disks” for ponds to naturally kill mosquito larva.
    One final lesson learned.. Adult Bullfrogs will EAT anything they can get down their expansive throat.. including tadpoles and fish.. They are technically native to many regions but can upset the balance in a habitat. So,,, thanks for your garden/naturalist articles and promotion..

  4. Patti Lacey says:

    Great article Carole! We passed the health inspection from mosquito control here just as West Nile has been found in the mosquito population this season. All the young bullfrogs are able to eat the mosquito larvae because there is no spraying of herbicides or pesticides on the property. I will share this article with others!

  5. Amphibians like to have some cover around their wildlife pond remember so that they can easily get in and out of the water without being spotted. And of course they like to eat insects so I think planting nectar-rish flowers to attract insects into your garden as potential food sources can also be beneficial.
    How To Be Eco Friendly recently posted..How To Attract Dragonflies And Damselflies Into Your Garden

  6. Linda says:

    Frogs keep mosquitoes away too. They are eating insects that are harmful for our garden. So it is good to have frogs.


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