Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

american toad

Toads have never been popular with humans and females especially.  The thing is, even though toads may be considered ugly creatures, they are actually quite beneficial to gardens and humans.  Much of this has to do with a toad’s diet.

What a toad will eat:

  • ants
  • mosquitoes
  • slugs
  • snails
  • grubs and worms

An adult American Toad, the most common type found here in Nova Scotia and throughout North America, can eat 1,000 insects in one day.  Consequently, just a few toads can have a tremendous effect on insect populations in an area.  A toad’s apetite for slugs and snails is also helpful in controlling these pests in gardens.

Toads can tolerate drier environments than frogs and also have long sticky retractable tongues that they can use to catch insects in flight.  So, how do you attract these darlings to your yard?

  • Allow shallow pools of water to sit in your yard in the springtime.  These temporary pools from excess rain and melting snow are called vernal pools and are all that’s needed for toads to lay their long strands of eggs.  (Frog eggs are laid in clusters).
  • Create piles of dead leaves where toads, which are mostly nocturnal, can bury themselves to keep cool and moist during the day.  They will also bury themselves deep under these as winter approaches.
  • Offer hiding places where toads can stay out of the drying sun.  These can be small caves made from arrangements of stones or overturned terra cotta pots.  Wild areas are also helpful in providing places where toads can remain cool among tall weeds.  Toads like to stay moist, which is a challenge during hot summer months.
  • Refrain from use of pesticides. This last point seems obvious to me, but might not be for gardeners trying to grow fragile non-native plant species.

american toad1

Snakes and loss of habitat are the greatest threat to toads, which can live for up to ten years in the wild.  Try attracting them rather than moving them into your garden from another environment, as they likely won’t survive.   Many toads and frogs will secrete poison to make themselves unpalatable to enemies, so it’s not recommended that you kiss them to see if they’re princes in disguise.

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The weather has been warm enough for the periwinkle fairy to do his magic.  Periwinkle flowers  are in bloom on the east side of the house.  Though some leaves die from year to year, the majority remain evergreen.  Thankfully they aren’t appetizing to slugs, so they’re content to grow among dead ivy leaves until I can get in there and clean up the bed.

periwinkle fairyI was first introduced to periwinkles on a visit to the Royal Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, a settlement established by Samuel de Champlain in 1605.  The flower is also known as Myrtle and is a North American native.  It has many uses in folk medicine.

Periwinkle is also a shade of blue that’s leaning towards violet, similar to lavender blue.  According to Crayola, its personality traits are serenity, purity and infinity. 

The image at left was taken from a tiny book called Flower Fairies of the Garden that I’ve had since the 1970s.  It contains poems and pictures by Cicely Mary Barker.  A beautiful website featuring all of Cicely’s fairies can be found at www.flowerfairies.com

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