Gardening for Frogs

By Nigel Tucker

Whether you design your garden for frogs or birds, the basic requirements of all wildlife are:

Food and water - of the right type and quality

Cover - for nesting, resting and escape and

Minimisation of stress factors - for frogs in the domestic situation these are likely to be domestic cats and dogs, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides and problems areas such as the washing machine bowl.

Creating habitat

On a big scale (the macro view), habitat has three dimensions, it has height - comprised of all the layers (ground, mid-storey and canopy etc) which make up this vertical perspective, it has width, not only in size but also horizontal extension created by plants of different form and the use of vines to create a dense, tangled effect. Finally, the third dimension of time, and the way habitat changes over time as plants grow, die or are replaced. In summary, habitat has fatness.

On the micro - scale is niche, all the living and non living things that constitute (and dictate) the kind of immediate living space occupied by any organism.

So what is the kind of habitat our local frogs prefer and what are their niche requirements? The obvious includes, abundant moisture, cool damp and predator proof cover and an abundant supply of diet resources, especially insects. Rocks, logs and possibly leaf litter are important for the ground dwellers. However these places won't be colonised by anything more than cockroaches unless all the other habitat and niche components are present, and for that we need plants.

Choosing plants is important to ensure you achieve the very fashionable 3 dimensional look. The main point to remember is to plant many species of many life forms, the old diversity begets diversity axiom. A list of plants for a frog friendly north Queensland suburban garden may then include.

Vines

- too often ignored and neglected, look after them, remember to prune well.

Palms

- too often people go over the top with palms but they do have their place

The palms are important for the attractiveness of their flowers to native flies and other pollination insects. Different insects consume the flowers at ground level.

Shrubs and Trees

Zingibers, Aroids, Lilles

Many will cry "purist" at a list like this, arguing that many of the exotic (non-native) garden plants can fulfill the same requirements. This may be partly true but exotic plants are also many of our existing and potential weeds, threaten natural ecosystems and species as well as agricultural and food production systems, and the continued use of these plants reinforces peoples narrow perceptions that only exotic plants make nice garden subjects.

Don't go and chop out all your exotics immediately (but don't let me stop you) however a planned program of gradual removal and replacement will be appreciated by all wildlife, not just our wonderful frogs.

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