For most kids, tadpoles are great favourites in the garden pond – and the chance to watch them go through their fascinating life cycle has lots of educational value too. While frogs will happily breed in any almost water they can find – including puddles if proper ponds are in short supply – making your pond frog-friendly is a sure-fire way of making certain that when froggy goes a-courting, he’ll end up in with you.
Frogs are remarkably undemanding in their choice of breeding spot, so your pond doesn’t need to be specially designed for them – but include a few simple features and you’ll soon find your early spring nights echoing to the mating chorus of calling males.
Male frogs especially tend to take up residence during the breeding season, waiting for the females to arrive and lay their eggs. During the day they generally like to stay out of site, so if your water plants haven’t really got going, or you were very thorough in your pre-winter clean-out, it’s worth trying to provide them with a little extra shelter. Ponds with paving-type surrounds often allow frogs to hide underneath the overhang, but if yours doesn’t have this kind of hiding place, a log, plank or slate placed over the water’s edge and well-secured so it can’t fall in, will do just as well.
Getting In And Out
Frogs don’t have too much problem getting into ponds – they’ll happily just dive in – but getting out can be more difficult. Those overhanging slabs which concealed them so well, can now become an obstacle – and a lack of escape route is a particular problem later in the year when the tiny baby frogs are trying to get out of the water. While adults can use the bases of fountains or the baskets holding marginal plants as launch pads for heroic leaps out of the pond, youngsters are going to need more help; a log or stone positioned to act as a bridge between the pond and dry land will be perfect.
Unfortunately, there’s not much place in the truly frog-friendly pond for fish – at least not if you don’t want to have to explain to distraught youngsters why the goldfish are lunching on their little tadpole friends! On the other hand, it can offer an insight into the realities of nature at its rawest and even the most voracious and hungry fish are unlikely to eat them all, so some of the tadpoles should survive.
Planting Around The Pond
Frogs will certainly appreciate a good bog garden beside the pond where they can lurk during the day – hiding in the damp conditions before hopping out on nocturnal forays to hunt for slugs and other garden undesirables. Free pest control is another one of the fringe benefits of encouraging frogs to your pond!
A nearby rockery will also be attractive to them, especially if it has a few nooks and crannies for them to hide in; old logs or broken terracotta pots can also make great places for frogs to skulk out of the heat of the day.
It’s also worth leaving at least some of the grass or other plants around the pond to grow undisturbed to allow frogs to have a corridor to and from the water’s edge; if you’re lucky, this may also encourage some of their relatives – the newts and toads – to visit too.
With so many natural lakes and wetlands having been lost over the last hundred years or so – nearly three-quarters, according to some estimates – suitable watery breeding sites are very valuable and frogs have been very successful at making use of ornamental ponds. Left to their own devices, if you have a suitable pond in your garden, it’s highly likely that a few frogs will turn up all by themselves in a year or two. However, the patience of kids being what it is, you might want to introduce some frogspawn or tadpoles to get the ball rolling.
If you don’t know anyone with spawn you can have, local wildlife trusts often have good contacts, so it’s worth asking them, since some ponds attract such a large number of frogs at breeding time that they end up with far more frogspawn that they can possibly accommodate.
Despite their secretive natures, frogs are one of the easiest types of wildlife to encourage into our garden and they seem very happy to make use of the facilities that our ponds can offer them. It really takes very little effort to make a pond frog-friendly.