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June 22, 2010

Of Scapegoats and Squirrels: Make a Home for Garden Friends

When is a squirrel not a squirrel? When he's a toad

  • Funny-looking squirrel. Janet Snyder/The HSUS

  • Toads seek cool, moist places to spend the summer. Janet Snyder /The HSUS

  • Make your own toad house—see the how-to below. Janet Snyder/The HSUS

by Janet Snyder

I have always had a thing for strays: dogs, cats, even trees. To save the little trees I find growing in unwelcoming places, I dig them up and pot them until they get strong enough to transplant in my urban wildlife sanctuary.

It is a frustrating endeavor though, when other forces of nature interfere. Frequently I find the pots upset, soil scattered, and sometimes the little trees askew. I am quick to blame the squirrels. After all, aren’t they responsible for most of the damage done in the garden?

So imagine my surprise, upon examining my little forest one morning, to find this handsome fella—the real culprit—in my flowerpot. On steamy days like we've been having in Maryland, toads typically seek out relief from the heat under loose leaves or cool mulch or soil. I like to think my new friend wanted to chill for a bit before a long day of running errands, garden parties, and badmitton on the lawn. I hope he's got a good book close by.

Make your own toad abode

Want to offer your own garden toads respite from the heat? They'll appreciate it—and you may, too—given the natural "pest" control these little guys can provide.  Here's what to do.

1. Snag an old, plastic flowerpot—8-10 inches in diameter will do.

2. With a marker or pencil, draw a toad-sized "doorway" along the rim of the pot. Cut out the doorway with scissors. This is the part where you can decorate the pot if you think your toads are fancy.

3. Then, stake out a shady, cool area of your yard or garden for the toad's new pad.

4. Dig a 6-inch hole in this spot, and fill it with rotted and wet leaves ... they dig this stuff for natural air-conditioning.

5. Plant the pot, upside-down, in the hole. For extra credit, place a small saucer of water just outside the pot. A toad-sized wading pool always hikes up property values.

6. Finally, sit back, and wait for your new garden pal to arrive.


 

Janet Snyder is our resident garden/wildlife whisperer. When she's not growing goodness in her backyard (which she sells every summer to earn donations for local wildlife rehabilitation groups), she's directing outreach and training for The HSUS's urban wildlife program.

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