Whether you love reptiles or not, no good garden is complete without them! Garden reptiles eat critters you would rather not have around your home and plants, including slugs, grubs, caterpillars, sowbugs, crickets, roaches, worms, firefly larvae, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, termites, and rodents.
Herps are a great way to bring more life to your garden and get rid of unwanted pests. Herps is short for herptile and it stands for reptiles and amphibians. There are some easy ways to welcome them into your garden and encourage them to stay.
Here are 7 ways to provide water, food, and shelter that attract reptiles, toads, and frogs to your garden.
Tip #1: Build a Small Pond
Ponds are a beautiful way to create a herp-friendly garden, providing a constant water source. Not to mention, they are great to look at, soothing to listen to, and, with the right plants, even pleasant to smell.
A variety of plants, edible and otherwise, flourish in wet conditions. The plants and access to water will invite beneficial insects, like bees and butterflies, to pollinate the garden, and other animals — birds, toads, and more — will come to enjoy feeding on pest populations. Inviting this type of biodiversity will create your own little garden ecosystem.
If you can’t have an inground pond, try a small water feature or use a bowl or metal tub. Place it in a sunny spot where shade can also fall and include rocks or large sticks as a ramp for lizards and turtles to access the water.
Tip #2: Make Rock and Brush Piles
Herps are relatively low on the food chain and need protection from their natural predators. Provide hiding places that provide shelter from predators, rain, intense sun, and winter temperatures. Stack rocks or brush piles and plant bushy perennials.
Tip #3: Let Your Garden Grow
Try not to overly manicure your garden. Let the grass grow longer and your plants spread over your backyard. Allowing more undergrowth and greenery will also provide some shade and additional hiding places. Make sure to avoid mowing in the evening or at night when reptiles are most active.
Some reptiles are herbivores, others are insectivores. A lush garden will ensure you have plenty of food sources to encourage them to call your yard home.
Tip #4: No Pesticides
Pesticides can be very harmful to herps and other beneficial insects. Try natural methods for pest control such as insecticidal soaps, companion planting, and inviting natural predators to your garden. Planting native plants that are more insect and disease hardy than many imported plants can also help.
Do not use weed killer in the yard. You can spot treat or hand-pull weeds. Try mulching your garden as well as thatching, reseeding, and mowing the lawn at recommended heights to create a healthier yard that will naturally deter weed growth.
Tip #5: Have a Toad Adobe
Toad abodes add a whimsical feeling to the garden and attract toads. Just like reptiles, toads want a place that they can call home, a hiding spot where they can get away from other animals or scorching sun. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a single adult toad can eat 10,000 insect pests over the course of an average summer.
To make a toad abode, all you need is a ceramic pot. Place it in a shady spot and make sure to prop it up on one side with a rock. Cover it up a bit with branches and leaves so it isn’t too exposed.
Tip #6: Basking Site
Reptiles, being cold-blooded, also need a place to bask in the sun, preferably a flat rock, stump, or wide log. Rocks, concrete, and stones absorb and retain daytime heat to warm them on those cool nights.
Tip #7: Keep Other Pets Away
Pets like dogs and cats target herps and chase them away. Keep your pets in at night to protect and preserve the herps that visit your backyard.
Reptiles, toads, and turtles can be a great addition to a garden. They are fun to watch, interesting to learn about, and a benefit to your local ecology. Adapting your yard for their habitat needs will invite them into your garden and encourage them to stay.