About us

We are two friends, one living in town and one in the country, who love to cook and entertain at home. We share a passion for our gardens and for the easy-going lifestyle of sub-tropical eastern Australia. And, yes, we both have garden ponds teaming with frogs.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Simple pleasures: frogs in the garden

In Eastern Australia, if a home has a garden or even a few potted plants on the balcony, it is likely to be visited from time to time by the ever-smiling Litoria caerulea or Green Tree Frog - he’s the frog that croaks in the downpipes outside your bedroom and leaves footprints on the window glass you have just cleaned. 

The green frog’s shy friend, the Striped Marsh Frog, will be hiding nearby as well. 

Although elusive, you know these frogs are around by the frothy mass of eggs spawned in plant saucers, in puddles, in almost anything that holds water after rain.

About the size of a hen’s egg and well camouflaged, mature Striped Marsh Frogs are hard to spot even when they become frenetically active as the weather turns to rain. Then the breeding chorus of tock-tock-tocking from hundreds of these frogs rises from town stormwater drains and country ditches. Yet when the human frog-devotee tries to find them, the little guys become still and silent, sometimes with just the tip of the nose showing.More easily found, with the help of a good torch and by tracking their loud calls, are the small tree frogs (Litoria gracilenta, L. chloris, L. fallax, L. pearsoniana). 

Frogs are active at night so the best place and safest place to go frog-spotting is in your own garden, and it is not hard to attract these wonderful creatures into your patch. They like a bit of mess - places to hide by day and hunt by night. You don’t necessarily need a pond. A good deep layer of damp leaf litter under shrubs will hold essential moisture for frogs and their insect prey; small rocks or logs around the edges of garden beds provide nooks and crannies in which frogs can hide. Save damaged glazed ceramic pots or china and tuck these into sheltered spots among the shrubs. An ordinary un-glazed garden-variety pot will draw moisture from the frog it shelters. Half-buried pots provide insulation against heat and drying, a place to hibernate, and a haven that domestic pets can’t get into. (Lidless teapots lying on their side seem to be especially popular. Frogs don’t object to the odd broken handle or chipped spout.) 

Stoney Creek Frog
This little frog and his hundreds of siblings seems to have a happy home life living all together among the rocks and leaves of a fairly dry shrub garden. After rain, large fallen leaves from the banksias hold water for a few days, and this seems to be enough to keep the cycles of life going round. A garden pond, however, guarantees there will be frogs. It can be small and shallow (a child’s sandpit-shell, for example), but needs to be well-planted with reeds and weeds and grassy things, and to have a few little fish to eat mosquito larvae. And, in our part of the world, it is a good idea to make the pond Cane Toad proof - which is not hard because, no matter how big and ugly they grow, Cane Toads (the introduced species Bufo marinus) can’t climb. 

Bufo Marinus - Cane Toad
They are also fairly lazy creatures, unwilling to push through thick marginal plantings around any serious in-ground garden pond.

This little pond, made by placing a piece of builder’s plastic into an ancient zinc washing tub, is only 20 cm deep and holds 45 litres. (I picked the tub up second-hand for $5, cheap because it had a few holes in it, and the plastic cost $2 at the hardware store). It is high enough to keep toads out; wide enough for a good number of plants necessary for a balanced micro-habitat; safely located near shrubs, damp leaf-litter and frog-hiding spots. There is piece of mesh cut to size which sits across the top when small children visit - because a pond, no matter how small or innocently shallow, must be toddler-safe. A sturdy piece of mesh will also protect frogs and fish from ibis and herons - or horses, as the case may be.

Then, in town or the country, with the right habitat, all a happy gardener has to do is sit in a quiet spot by the pond to wait and watch.

For more on Australian frogs: http://frogs.org.au/. For more on the frogs and wildlife of South East Queensland, http://www.seqcatchments.com.au/LFW.html  also Field Guide to the Frogs of Queensland (Nov 2012; CSIRO Publishing)

Next: Frogs in a town garden

Written and compiled by two frogs.
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