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Toadpoles

May 11th, 2011

Last year Mr Chiots and I installed a small pond in our garden. We filled it with goldfish and surrounded it with rocks and plants. Sadly our fish didn’t make it last summer but we did see the occasionally toad soaking in the pond. We let the leaves collect in the pond over the winter to get a good layer of natural muck in it before adding some new fish this spring. We figured this would make the water more like regular pond water. So far it seems to be working as our fish have survived longer than they did last year (last year they got the ick).

When I was out looking at the pond a week ago I noticed toad tadpoles – or toadpoles as we call them. It’s super excited to see the pond swimming with thousands of these little guys. Why was I so excited to see so many toadpoles?

Toads are one of the best forms of “organic” pest control that you can have in the garden. They eat slugs and many other common garden pests. When we first moved in, our garden were infested with slugs and earwigs. We didn’t want to use any chemicals, so layed a few boards in the flowerbeds to attract toads. The next year we saw a big toad and ever since then I rarely see a slug or an earwig.

To encourage toads to move into your garden place a few large flat rocks or small boards in your flowerbeds. Installing a small pond will also attract not only them but other beneficial things as well, like birds. Of course you’ll want fish to keep the mosquitos at bay. You don’t necessarily need the pond, but it sure does help if they have a spot to reproduce.

Toads appreciate moisture all season long, so if you make sure you have moist areas for them to encourage them to stick around. Perhaps you can keep one area of your garden watered more than others, add some water loving plants. You can also install simple water features for toads, beneficial insect and birds by placing a pot saucer on the ground filled with river stones. Make sure you dump out the water and add fresh each week to keep mosquitos from breeding (although mosquitos feed bats, hummingbirds and other animals so I don’t worry too much about them either).

Be warned, if you use any kind of treatment for slugs, even “organic” ones you can inadvertently kill toads, frogs, birds, and fish. So don’t use them if you’re trying to attract toads to your garden. Remember, if you want a beneficial insect or animal to move in you often have to allow the pest insect population to reach a certain level to attract them. You may lose a crop of something one year, but you’ll save so much time and money by not having to use pesticides (even organic ones). You’ll also end up with a healthier ecosystem in your garden, which in turn makes your plants healthier!

Do you have toads in your gardens? Do you do anything specific to attract them?

Free Protein?

November 4th, 2010

I’m not much of one to care about seeing caterpillars on my plate after eating broccoli, I figure it’s free protein. I’d rather see this on my plate than not see it and have broccoli full of chemicals. Of course you can use “organic” methods of keeping them away, but I don’t bother with those either or my wrens might go hungry.

Have you ever finished eating your broccoli and seen this on your plate? What did you think?

Peppermint for Beneficials

September 17th, 2010

The peppermint is blooming in my garden right now and the bees, butterflies and other pollinators are loving it. I’m so happy that it’s blooming at this time of the year when nectar and pollen are quite scarce. I love watching the peppermint patch as it’s abuzz with all types, sizes, and colors of pollinators.





I must divide these plants and add more clumps around the gardens. I know they can be invasive, but in my woodland gardens invasive things barely hold one against the saplings and wild flowers. I find myself trying to incorporate more and more plants that bloom and provide nectar or pollen throughout the season just to provide sources of food for these lovely little insects.

Do you have any plants blooming for the pollinators? Do you plant with them in mind?

The Flight of the Monarch

September 13th, 2010

Earlier this year Mr Chiots and I watched The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies. It’s a documentary about the migration of the monarchs. I’ve read about this incredible natural wonder before and always thought it would be neat to see. We have a few monarchs around here in the summer, I see them occasionally, but yellow swallowtails are our most prolific butterflies.

Last night about 7:30 Mr Chiots and I headed out to take Lucy on a walk and I looked up at the sky and noticed a few butterflies flying over. Then I noticed a few more. We kept watching and noticed they were monarchs and they were clustering high in the trees above Chiot’s Run. I couldn’t get any photos because they were high up in the trees and it was getting dark. It certainly was an amazing site to see them clustering up for warmth and to see so many of them flying over. We may try to get up early to see them leave, although we’re not sure when that may be. These monarch will most likely we overwintering in Florida to return next spring. Here’s some interesting info about monarch migration if you’re interested.

Do you have monarchs in your garden?

Making Peace with Hornworms

August 27th, 2010

When I first started growing tomatoes I used to pick off the tomato or tobacco hornworms and squish them with a rock. Then one year I missed one and spotted it with the tiny white eggs from a parasitic wasp on it’s back. Ever since then I’ve made peace with the hornworms in my garden. I never pick them off or do anything to get rid of them. They get to eat some tomatoes leaves and a tomato here and there in complete peace. Why the change of heart?

I don’t want to get rid of them and risk the parasitic wasp not having a host for it’s eggs. I also don’t want the birds to go hungry, as they seem to find these giant juicy worms a complete breakfast. The truth is they’re not that damaging to tomato plants. Perhaps a little defoliation is good for tomatoes this time of year and I don’t mind losing a couple tomatoes, I have plenty to go around. The truth is that often when we step in we upset the balance of nature and make our problems worse down the line. If we squish or kill all the hornworms we’ll never have the braconid wasps in our gardens. Without the wasps we’ll end up with more hornworms, aphids and other insects. We may also inadvertently kill a hornworm that has already been parasitized by a wasp since it takes a few days before the white worms appear on their backs.

I’m convinced that I’m encouraging biodiversity in my garden by making peace with hornworms and other things viewed as “pests”. I have noticed that the less I interfere with nature the more balanced things become, even in my small quarter acre garden. I encourage you to let the hornworms live and see how everything balances out in a few years!

Do you have any pests that you’ve made peace with?

Here’s an interesting article from the BBC about how plants can send out SOS signals to predatory insects when they sense they’re being attacked by caterpillars & other insects. And the specifically studies hornworms.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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