Amphibians, including frogs, toads and newts, are beneficial garden creatures which can be helped by providing a pond where the tadpoles can develop. It is helpful to have at least one side of the pool that gradually slopes up to dry land.
Which amphibians are found in gardens?
Britain has two native frogs and two toads, and three species of newts.
- Of these, the common frog and common toad are likely to be found in gardens throughout Britain
- The common or smooth newt and the palmate newt are also widely distributed
- Some garden ponds may have the scarce great crested newt, while some gardens, especially in south east England, may have the non-native green marsh frogs
- The natterjack toad and the pool frog are unlikely to occur in gardens
These animals feed on a wide range of insects, spiders and other small invertebrate animals, including some garden pests.
- Although the adults and juveniles do most of their feeding on land, all of these amphibians must have still water, such as a pond, in which they will mate and lay eggs
- The eggs hatch into tadpoles that initially feed on algae but later they also feed on insects that have fallen in the water and drowned. The tadpoles gradually develop legs and, in the case of frogs and toads, reabsorb their tails, to take on the appearance of a baby frog, toad or newt
How to help amphibians
These beneficial garden creatures can be helped by providing a pond or other water body where the tadpoles can develop.
- It is helpful to have at least one side of the pool that gradually slopes up to dry land. This enables the young amphibians to leave the water in mid-summer once the tadpole stage is over
- If the pond has steep sides, fit a ramp covered in chicken wire in one corner
- Small amphibians can be heavily predated by birds, so grow plants around the pool to provide some cover
- When in the pond, frogs and toads need a point above the water on which to rest and breathe. In the summer a water lily pad may suffice but a more permanent solution is to position a few rocks or logs half in and half out of the water if there are no suitable areas of shallow water
How to attract amphibians to the garden
Newts are probably the most aquatic of British amphibians. Attract them by allowing grass to grow over the pond edge into the water and introducing non-invasive submerged aquatic plants. Newts use narrow-leaved water plants on which to lay their eggs, placing each egg between a folded leaf.
In the autumn, amphibians seek sheltered places where they hibernate until the following spring.
- Log piles provide good shelters but frogs, toads and newts will also find suitable places in hedge bottoms, compost heaps and under stones
- They will also hibernate in the bottom of ponds
- Allow new ponds to become colonised naturally by amphibians that are likely to be already present in the area, rather than transferring spawn or tadpoles
- Transferring spawn or tadpoles from other ponds runs the risk of spreading diseases, such as red leg disease of frogs, or introducing invasive pond weeds that can quickly choke the pond with vegetation
- To avoid disturbing amphibians, especially in the hibernation period, ponds should not be cleaned out unless this is really necessary