Once upon a time, if you found a frog in the garden, you’d probably kiss it. Or bash it against the wall. Modern variants take certain … liberties with the story.
Just ask Shrek. Or Tiana. Either way, finding amphibians in the garden can be delightful … or distressing. It all depends. So … what should I do with a frog in my garden? Let’s dig in and get some answers!
What Should I Do with a Frog in My Garden?
Tip #1: Love it or Leave it?
As we’ve seen, Disney is all about kissing frogs while the Grimm Brothers had darker plans in mind. Similarly, some home-owners love frogs and would love to build a sanctuary for their webbed beloveds. Others would rather put them in their soup. With booze. And garlic!!
So the first thing to do is pick a side. Do you want the frog to stay and should you make it go away? We’d like to help out both sides of this amphibian situation, pun intended. So we’ll share tips on what you should do if you want to pet the frog, pot the frog, or pit the frog.
Tip #2: Name the Frog
No, we don’t mean Harold or Naveen. We’re more interested in the … family … of your frog. This is a key question because some frogs are poisonous while others are safe enough to eat. If you’re French. Get as close as you can (or zoom your smartphone camera) for a good look.
First, figure out if it’s a frog or a toad, then try to decipher its species. At least check its skin colour and size, these may offer hints. Do an image search or find a frog directory. Don’t hold the frog though, at least not with bare hands. Lots of them have toxic skin and glands. And even if their skin is safe, your hands may hurt the frog or stress it out. So look, don’t touch.
Tip #3: To Keep the Frog, Make it Cosy
In the UK, it’s illegal to move amphibians out of your garden. So if you plan to keep the frog around, make it a nice habitat. We assume frogs love ponds … and they’re amphibians, so duh! But frogs spend a lot of time on land – more than they spend underwater, to be honest.
So yes, you can construct a pond for your little froggie friend, but you don’t have to. It’ll be just as happy if it has a small cooling puddle (a bird bath works) and sufficient food. Have lots of hiding spots – logs, well-kept compost, hügelkultur, and plants that attract frog food.
Tip #4: To Chase the Frog, Dry It Up
We’ve seen that frogs don’t need water to live in or sleep in. They like ponds, and probably prefer them, but they don’t need a pond to survive. That said, frogs, toads, other amphibians, and waterborne pests are drawn to stagnant pools and neglected puddles. Even snakes!
So once you spot the frog, follow it to see if it’s nestled in dirty water. Clear any ‘artificial swamps’ and water bogs in your garden. This prevents new frogs and could scare off existing ones. And cover your swimming pool. Pool covers deter slugs and other aquatic pests as well.
Tip #5: To Keep the Frog, Stay Organic
Pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, weed killers, and other chemicals can potentially harm your froggie friends. They use their skin to breathe, so those toxins could easily suffocate them. Especially because they’re taking in more toxins at a time – their whole body is absorbent.
So what should I do with a frog in my garden? Do an immediate outdoor audit to verify what chemicals you’re currently using. Swap them for organic alternatives – use farmyard manure instead of ammonium nitrate. Try castor oil, cloves, and catnip instead of bromethalin.
Tip #6: To Chase the Frog, Serve a Little Java
Ironically, frogs stay away when it rains. Like a lot of us, they prefer water sources beneath or around us rather than above us. So ponds and Jacuzzis are great. Rain showers … not so much. The ground is still soft after the rain so that’s a good time to caffeinate the soil.
Spread used coffee grounds and split tea bags around the area where you saw the frog. The spent caffeine (and other compounds) will keep frogs away. But these beverage dregs are rich sources of nitrogen so they’ll make the soil more fertile for your garden plants and flowers.
Tip #7: To Keep the Frog, Slope Gently
The most populous garden amphibians in the UK include common frogs/newts/toads, palmate newts, smooth newts, and crested newts. You want to create a ‘frog house’ that suits the species you’ve spotted. Remember though, it could take years to populate your pond.
You can make the frog sanctuary more appealing by setting a gentle slope on one side. This allows your baby frogs to make their way to dry land as they hatch and shed their tadpole tails. The slope should rise into a shaded area so the pubescent frogs aren’t too exposed. If you can’t avoid a steep-walled pond, line it with chicken mesh or gopher wire for traction.
Tip #8: To Chase the Frog, Move Her Eggs
We’ve mentioned several times that you shouldn’t move frogs or their eggs. One, many frogs grow up and go back to the pond where they were spawned. And garden frogs need water to mate and lay eggs. The water is familiar, but it also has the right pH and habitat settings.
Plus … you’re not actually allowed to move frogs more than a kilometre from where you found them. So if you shift the eggs, tadpoles, or even grown frogs, they’re unlikely to find their way back. They might also die out due to the sudden change in their surroundings.
Tip #9: To Keep the Frog, Set Up Nightlights
‘Like moths to a flame …’ You know the cliché. But it turns out lights … and moths … are a good thing for frogs. Think of it this way: nightlights attract bugs. And bugs attract frogs. So if you’d like more frogs in your garden, install garden lights and automate them on and off.
The frogs are unlikely to hop into the light – they don’t want to expose themselves. But the abundance of food will lure them out of hiding and keep them in your garden. After all, everybody loves a spread. And the right garden lights make your yard a grand frog buffet. Put in some screen windows too though … some of those bugs will try to get inside the house!
Tip #10: To Chase the Frog, Corner It
This may seem counter-intuitive. But by making one small section of your garden attractive to frogs, you discourage them from spreading out. So consider making a small frog grotto at the very edge of your property. Fill the spot with light and insect breeding nests for food.
The frog corner can be artistically dishevelled. Messy yards provide endless places for frogs to hide so they’ll love the clutter. But you don’t want it so dishevelled that you risk more harmful pests like rats and snakes. So crowd the frog motel, but do it artfully. Clear the transition between frog territory and human space. This stops the frogs from crossing over.
Tip #11: To Keep the Frog, Protect the Pond
Frogs need shelter from extreme sunlight. They go towards the water to regulate their body temperature and stay hydrated. They also use water for baby-making and spawn-hatching. But everyone else in the garden is drawn to the water too. Including birds and predators.
These hunters know the water is a prime spot for prey. Predators may also need the pond for drinking and washing up. So make it harder for the hunters to reach your frogs. Plant tall grass and reeds around the water to offer some camouflage. Especially against birds.
Tip #12: To Chase the Frog, Salt Them …
… before cooking! This isn’t a recipe for grenouille. It’s a reminder that you’ll rarely hear of saltwater frogs. They breathe (and excrete) through their skins, and saltwater osmosis could dehydrate your frogs. Tadpoles and spawn can’t handle the seasoning either. It kills them. So if your puddles have shimmering black beads dancing in wobbly jelly, toss a lot of salt in.
You can also spray salt water, vinegar, or citric acid on your garden walkways. The acidity and saline will sting frog feet and have them hopping out of your yard to safer ground and more neutral waters. This only works on concrete though, it’s pointless to spray the grass. And you may harm your plants in the process. Mount a silt fence around any water source instead.
Tip #13: To Keep the Frog
In the US, homeowners sometimes freeze live frogs. Not enough to torture them- just enough to lull them. Once they doze off, they’re evicted. We don’t do that here. Partly because we’re not allowed to move them … and not advised to touch them. Avoid planting honeysuckle, azalea, daffodils and hyacinth in your garden – frogs hate them. Frogs hate ‘sand moats’ too.
Laying a few feet of sand around the pond or pool will therefore keep frogs away. So if you plan to host them, don’t do any of the above. Instead, set up a compost pit and a small water source in a shaded section of your garden. Add fairy lights, reeds, and tastefully broken pottery. The terracotta provides protection from the sun and collection pots for rainwater.
So … what are you doing with the frogs in your garden? Are you chasing them or keeping them? Tell us your frog story in the comments – we’d love to hear it, so ribbit ribbit!