Toads Are Valuable in the Garden

Photo credit: rolfnussbaumer.com

Learn more about toads and why these amphibians are beneficial backyard guests.

When you think of garden wildlife, it’s likely that birds, butterflies and bugs come to mind first, but if so, you’re missing one of the most charming of backyard creatures: toads. Not only are they cute—in a lumpy, bumpy sort of way—they’re incredibly valuable in the garden.

Frog or Toad?

Toads are amphibians and closely related to frogs. There are about two dozen toad species in North America. Unlike aquatic frogs, toads are adapted to live in
drier land environments. They have dry skin, rounded bodies, blunt noses and short legs that they walk on as often as hop. Most have tan, brown or gray coloration to blend in
with soil, fallen leaves and rocks. Toads also have bumps on their skin. Contrary to myth, these aren’t warts. They are called paratoid glands and they produce toxins that protect toads from predators.

Pest Gobblers

Toads are strictly carnivorous. They feed on beetles, slugs, crickets, flies, ants and other invertebrates. Larger toad species even eat small rodents and snakes. All toads will try to eat anything they can pull into their mouths and swallow. When it comes to natural pest control, you can’t do much better than a healthy toad population on your property.

Why Toads are Valuable in the Garden | Birds & Blooms

Phillip Wittman/Terry Wild StockToad sitting on garden mushrooms

Environmental Indicators

Toads, like all amphibians, are highly susceptible to environmental toxins. Their skin readily absorbs pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other
pollutants. If exposed to unhealthy levels of these things, amphibians can’t survive. If you have toads in your yard, it’s a good indication of a clean environment.

Attracting Toads

Although toads don’t rely on plants for food, they do benefit from them. Native plants offer habitats to natural insect populations, which are a toad’s main food source. Plants also provide toads with cover to hide from predators. A bare lawn won’t help attract toads, but natural garden beds filled with native plants will.

Why Toads are Valuable in the Garden | Birds & Blooms

Terry Wild StockA simple toad abode

Create a brush or rock pile and leave a layer of fallen leaves to provide hiding places. Also, eliminate the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which can kill toads outright and eliminate their prey. A clean water source is also necessary. Toads lay their eggs in shallow ponds, and without water, they can’t produce the next generation. In most cases, a water garden a foot or more deep will suffice. Place a small tree branch in the water, as well as aquatic vegetation, and let some leaves accumulate. Toads attach strings of their eggs to twigs and branches, and their tadpoles use the vegetation as hiding places. Start welcoming toads to your yard and enjoy the magic of listening to the trilling mating calls of male toads on warm spring nights.

3 Ways to Create a Toad Abode

Build toads a space of their own. Place your new toad home in a shady spot near a water source.

  • Half-bury a large flowerpot on its side.
  • Tip a flowerpot upside down and prop one side up with a few rocks to create an entrance.
  • Gather flat rocks and build a toad-sized house with them.

Source: Why Toads are Valuable in the Garden – Birds and Blooms

6 Ideas How Plants Can Thrive in Winter

(Public Domain)

Try growing herbs indoors for fresh flavor in winter soups and stews! (Public Domain)

Keep calm and garden on this winter! Here are six different plant ideas to help you through even the coldest months.

1. BUY NEW HOUSEPLANTS.

If you haven’t been to the house-plant section of your garden center for a while, then it’s time to pay it a visit. Pick out something you’ve never heard of before, and give it a new home on your windowsill.

2. GROW ANNUALS INDOORS.

If you didn’t bring your own annuals indoors for winter, find a friend who did. Take a cutting from theirs and start some plants of your own. You have nothing to lose, and they just might make good houseplants until spring.

3. CONQUER KITCHEN SCRAPS.

This is definitely experimental gardening at its finest. Try to get an avocado pit to sprout some roots, or put a pineapple top in a jar of water. It’s fun to see what happens.

4. TRY A FEW HERBS.

Challenge yourself to try herbs that are completely new to you. If your go-to options are basil and thyme, then try growing rosemary and tarragon instead. All your favorite soups will definitely benefit!

5. EAT MICROGREENS.

Microgreens have been on the gardening scene for a few years. If you haven’t tried them, now is the time. Throw a handful of extra sunflower seeds (sprouting or organic) in a container. Once they sprout and have grown an inch or two, it’s time to harvest. And remember, those little pieces pack a punch of nutrients.

6. EXPERIMENT WITH AIR PLANTS.

If you haven’t tried air plants yet, you’ve been missing out. Air plants practically grow themselves because they don’t even require soil to live! They brighten up a dark space, too.

BONUS TIP!

Don’t have a bay window or ledge for plants? Don’t let that stop you. Just find a side table or stand instead. This is a great excuse to upcycle something from your local thrift store.

Source: 6 Ways Green Thumbs Can Thrive in Winter – Birds and Blooms

Tips For Putting Herb Gardens to Bed for Winter

 

Harvest Herbs Before Frost

Before a hard freeze or frost comes to your area, harvest the stems of the annual or perennial herbs you want to use, freeze, or dry.

Clean up beds

Begin fall cleanup by gathering fallen leaves to add them to your compost pile. After the first frost, your annual herbs—such as the lovely, leafy basils—will be reduced to a slimy black mess. Pull out frost-damaged plants and add them to the compost, too. Avoid composting any leaves that show signs of disease. Empty out containers of annual herbs and compost the soil and foliage.

Move Plants Inside

Many herbs that excel outdoors can make the transition to houseplants. Although the indoor “climate” differs dramatically from the one outdoors, some herbs grow indoors with a little help. Leave annuals outdoors. For use in foods, it makes better sense to dry or freeze annual herbs. Herbs that transition to indoor conditions best include chives, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and mint.

Water Perennial Herbs

Many perennials expand their root growth during fall’s cooler weather, so watering throughout autumn is important to your herb plants’ health. Strong root systems help protect the plant through winter’s freeze-thaw cycles, which can heave weaker perennials from the soil.

Mulch Herbs

Give perennial herbs an end-of-season nutrition boost by adding a thick layer of compost around the bases of the plants. After frost, cut back leafy herbs such as catmint and bee balm. Leave herbs with seed heads intact for winter interest or to feed overwintering birds. For example, poppy, yarrow, and calendula seeds are sold in commercial birdseed mixes, so why not leave them in the garden for a natural snack?

Row Covers

Use season extending row covers to protect hardy herbs such as parsley from frosts. Cover plants on cold nights and continue to use leafy herbs throughout fall and into winter.

In the autumn herb garden, growth slows, seedpods thicken, and the time comes to prepare the garden for the following year and completing the growing season. Here’s what needs to be done.

Source: Putting Herb Gardens to Bed for Winter

Leafy DIY Birdhouse

MATERIALS:

  • Birdhouse
  • Upcycled accessories
  • Tree leaves (ligustrum, photinia, azaleas,crepe myrtle, laurel,  holly, viburnum or a combination), flattened under a heavy book or tiles
  • Mod Podge (Outdoor preferred)
  • Artist’s paintbrush
  • Spray sealer (optional)
  • Hot glue, screws or other fasteners

Get step by step instructions by following the link below.

Read more: http://www.birdsandblooms.com/backyard-projects/diy-birdhouse/leafy-diy-birdhouse/#ixzz3ok2mVDE7

There is no right or wrong when creating this DIY birdhouse. So grab some leaves, some garage leftovers and have some fun.

Source: Leafy DIY Birdhouse – Birds and Blooms

Garden Joke at Harvest Time Gives Neighbors a Laugh by Daris Howard

Reader Shirley Sebright of Springfield, Ohio, spotted this display of autumn bounty in Holmes County.

By Daris Howard
St. Anthony, Idaho

It’s that time of year when people need to lock their cars. It’s not because there are a lot of criminals running around stealing cars.

No indeed. Rather, it’s because of goodhearted neighbors who want to share their bountiful harvest. Especially with this year’s bumper crop, leaving a car unlocked in my neighborhood is an invitation for someone to stuff it full of zucchini. Though other vegetables are apt to be included, zucchini always seems to be the worst offender.

Some neighbors, at least, have the goodness to call and leave a message informing you of their indulgence on your behalf. But others like to sneak it on a person, fearing that if they confessed, someone might reciprocate.

My sister-in-law, Sharon, recently had a good year for tomatoes. She and her family had eaten and canned so many that they’d begun to feel their skin take on a slightly reddish hue. That’s when she decided it was time to share her blessings.

But tomatoes are not something that can be abandoned in a car on a warm day. They tend to disintegrate and melt into the seat fabric, and for months a person is left with the feeling of driving around inside a ketchup bottle.

So Sharon did the only decent thing she could do under the circumstances: She started calling everyone she knew. When that failed, she began canvassing the neighborhood like a politician, eventually finding a neighbor delighted at the prospect of fresh produce. “Feel free to take whatever you want,” Sharon told her.
Later that day, when Sharon arrived home from work, she found that her garden had indeed been harvested. She felt happy that she could help someone and that the food didn’t go to waste.

A few days later, Sharon answered the door. There was the neighbor, holding a piping hot loaf of some kind of sweet bread. The warm, spicy scent made Sharon’s mouth water. The neighbor smiled pleasantly. “I wanted to thank you for all of the tomatoes, and I have to admit that I took a few other things and hoped you wouldn’t mind.”

Sharon couldn’t think of anything else in her garden that had been worth harvesting and said as much. “Oh, but you did,” the neighbor said. “You had some of the prettiest zucchini I’ve ever seen.”

Sharon was confused. Zucchini in her garden? They hadn’t even planted any zucchini. Could there have been one rogue zucchini that sprouted up in some corner of the yard? Sometimes the garden held those little surprises, but Sharon couldn’t imagine where it would be.

But her neighbor insisted that there really were bright-green zucchini in Sharon’s garden. They weren’t huge, but they were succulent and ripe, with a nice yellow tinge.

Sharon’s curiosity got the better of her and she had to go see where the zucchini had grown. The two of them walked together into the backyard and over to a vine that was growing near the tomatoes. When the neighbor pointed at the long green vegetables, Sharon smiled.
“Well, actually, those are cucumbers that we never harvested, because they got too big, soft and bitter for eating or canning.”

The neighbor looked at Sharon, shock written all over her face. She gulped a few times, and then, smiling, held out the bread, part of a batch she had shared all over the neighborhood. “I brought you a nice loaf of cucumber bread. I hope you like it.”

This garden joke played out with a case of mistaken vegetable identity.

Source: Short Stories | Country Life | Garden Joke at Harvest Time — Country Magazine

Make a Hand-Held Hummingbird Feeder – Birds and Blooms

 

Once you learn how to hand feed hummingbirds, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is! Start by creating this simple DIY hummingbird feeder to hang in your window. Then, when the hummingbirds are used to feeding from it, turn it into a hand-held hummingbird feeder and bring the action right up close!

 

MATERIALS:

  • 12 inches of 18-gauge copper wire
  • 1/2-inch suction cup with a hole in the base
  • Plastic test tube with cap
  • Decorative beads (optional)
  • Artificial flower without stem
  • Small wire cutters
  • Pliers (for twisting and spiraling wire)

Make a Hand-Held Hummingbird Feeder B

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS:

STEP 1

Cut an 8-inch piece from the copper wire. Let the wire naturally take a half-moon shape. Lace 2 inches of the wire through the hole in the suction cup and then fold and twist the wire until secure.

STEP 2

Bend the longer end of the wire gently with your hands into an arc, leaving 3/4 inch at the very end for the hook that will attach to the feeder. Take your pliers and make a large loop at the very end of the arc, forming a shepherd’s hook, with the open end on the top or facing up. This will make it easier to attach the feeding tube quickly and will prevent the feeder from falling off.

STEP 3

Take the remaining 4 inches of copper wire and wrap it around the test tube, with one end much longer than the other. Use pliers to twist and secure the wire to the test tube. This should leave a 3/4-inch tail remaining to attach a decorative glass bead. Slide the ring you have made more than halfway up the tube, so that when full, the feeder will stay up.

STEP 4

Slide another bead onto the open end of the wire wrapped around the tube and use pliers to spiral the wire and close it up completely. Now the copper wire is wrapped firmly around the feeding tube and you have a loop to attach to your hook with the suction cup.

STEP 5

Make a small hole in the tube’s cap, place it on the tube and poke the end of the artificial flower through the center so that the hummingbirds can get at the nectar as naturally as possible. If the flower doesn’t have a hole in it, make one with a pin.

STEP 6

Attach the closed loop on the tube to the upward-facing shepherd’s hook with the suction cup. Make sure your window is clean so the suction cup will be secure.

STEP 7

Once they’ve found your feeder, you’ll want to know how to feed hummingbirds by hand. After the birds are comfortable using the feeder with you nearby, take the next step. Once the birds fly away, hold the feeder in your hand facing away from you. Stay as still as possible. Once the birds get used to you, they’ll approach you without fear!

Many people dream of learning how to hand feed hummingbirds. This DIY hand-held hummingbird feeder is the perfect way to start!

Source: Make a Hand-Held Hummingbird Feeder – Birds and Blooms

Top 10 Seed-Bearing Plants Flower Gardening – Birds and Blooms

Keep these seed-bearing plants in your garden all winter long, and the birds will thank you for the extra food source.

Didn’t get around to cleaning out those flower beds this fall? Now you can justify it—not only is it good for your plants, but it’s also a great food source for the birds! I’ll admit I personally use these excuses a little too often to put off autumn chores. Keep in mind that you will need to remove any diseased plants, but leaving the seed-bearing plants up actually increases the chance of the plants’ winter survival. And with snowy days and freezing nights, your feathered friends are looking for food just about anywhere they can get it, so they’ll appreciate the extra food the plants provide.

Source: Top 10 Seed-Bearing Plants | Flower Gardening – Birds and Blooms