Saturday, July 23, 2016
Frogs, Toads, Lizards and Birds the Alpha Predators in Your Garden
As humans, we like to think of ourselves as the alpha everything. If we are honest, though, when it comes to fighting insects of almost any type, if you take away our chemicals and we are a sorry lot. That is why one of the main focuses of this blog is chemical-free pest control for our healthy organic gardens.
In past articles, we have discussed using predatory insects, smoke and Diatomaceous Earth as a means of controlling those creepy crawlies that love to munch on our plants. Today, I would like to introduce you to the true alpha hunters of the garden world frogs, toads, lizards and birds.
Toads are fairly easy to attract to your garden while frogs can be problematic to an extent. Being semi-aquatic frogs rarely will stray too far from water. However, if you are lucky enough to have a small pond in your garden or have one nearby, you are in luck. They are magnificent insect hunters and depending on the types your garden attracts, their chirping, croaking and clicking create very soothing nighttime music.
Toads, on the other hand, are very easy to attract. As long as you have some moist, loose soil and provide them with a little shelter they will come and stay. The soil they prefer is what most of us want in our gardens anyway.
Loose soil, high in organic content, like compost, is their favorite. Toads like to dig down in the moist soil to avoid overheating and absorb moisture through their skin. They actually drink and breathe this way.
To provide shelter I use either football sized rocks propped up on smaller stones, or broken flower pots to create little caves they can shelter in and stay out of the sun. As most regular readers will have realized by now, I try to never waste anything and this is an excellent way to put those broken pots to good use.
Much like frogs and toads, lizards are uncanny hunters able to stalk insects and devour them in amazing numbers. They will eat virtually anything that will fit into their mouths, which makes them effective not just common insect pest but caterpillars as well. They come in a huge array of types and again as with the frogs, many are very vocal.
One key point with lizards is that they like cracks and crevices to use as cover. Adding a few small rock piles to your garden and leaving a few cracks in garden walls will help you attract and hold them.
I know birds can be problematic in a garden. Yes, they eat insect but they also eat seeds and fruits. Still, they can be a great help in the garden provided you properly provide for them and attract the right types.
Members of the wren and sparrow families are the best insect hunters, in my experience and I openly admit I have a soft spot for bluebirds in particular. Bird houses and baths are a great way to start attracting them to your garden and to help prevent them from causing damage of their own; a bird feeder should be kept well stocked to feed their need for seeds.
For me, one of the joys of organic gardening to observe and learn from nature. I guess I may have crossed the line between being a gardener and becoming a naturalist of sorts. I find nothing shameful or cruel about watching one animal survive by feeding on another. It is the way nature intended things to be.
As a bonus to all of this, I have found that by working with nature I have to exert a lot less effort and actually achieve greater results. By attracting predators to my garden I not only minimize the damage that insect pest cause to my veggies, I have the slightly sadistic joy of knowing that they eventually end up as fertilizer to help my plants grow. And the circle of life continues.