If you read the blog regularly, you’ll know that we’re big fans of getting outdoors and enjoying nature, and also that we’re partnering with RSPB this year to support their ‘Give nature a home in your garden’ campaign.
60% of the UK’s wildlife species have seen a decline over the last fifty years, and the RSPB campaign aims to encourage us all to take small, achievable steps to help nature in our own green spaces.
We’ve had lots of fun this year with some of the RSPB’s nature gardening activities, including sowing wildflower seeds to attract pollinating insects, adding plants that make our garden a haven for butterflies, and growing plants that attract moths to our garden.
This month, we’ve been getting our hands dirty creating a habitat for frogs and toads.
As well as playing an important role in nature’s food chain, frogs and toads are brilliant garden residents; they eat slugs, snails and insects, helping you keep pests under control naturally. Frogs and toads are also fascinating creatures; my kids are always so excited when they discover one in the garden.
Frogs and toads hibernate in winter, and will take shelter in a cool, dark, damp place out of the reach of predators. We can encourage them to over-winter in our gardens by providing the right conditions; this is quite simple to do, and great for the kids to get involved with.
So how do you make a highly desirable frog and toad winter mansion? We followed the RSPB Make a Frog and Toad Abode activity sheet, which takes you through the process step-by-step.
The first thing you need to do is choose a suitable spot for your froggy home. A cool, shady or semi-shady area is perfect; if there’s a pond nearby that’s great, but not essential.
We decided to build our frog and toad abode at our allotment, where there’s the perfect spot. There’s a patch of land near the shed that’s quiet and shady, and it’s also close to a little pond on our neighbour’s plot.
Next, we dug a round hole in the ground, about 30-45cm deep with a flat bottom.
Once our hole was ready, it was time to go on a hunt to find lots of bricks, stones, sticks and general rubble to fill the hole with. The kids loved racing around finding treasure; it tidied up our plot a bit too!
The next job was to position everything inside the hole, and there’s a bit of an art to this step. You need to create an underground maze, with lots of ways in and out, and the bricks and rocks must be positioned so that they don’t collapse and crush the inhabitants. We found that starting with the bigger pieces and wedging corners against the sides worked well.
Once we’d created our maze, we put the soil back over the top to create a mound. Before we did this, we put some flat pieces of slate and brick over the top of the pile, to give it a bit of a roof support. It’s important to leave some entrances open, so you still need gaps around the edges; an easy way to do this is to just pile the soil over the back half.
The final touch was to give the den some camouflage with twigs and sticks. We sowed wildflower seeds in this area earlier in the year, and we’ll sow them again next spring to provide some additional shelter.
Here’s our finished frog and toad abode – what do you think?
This was such a great family gardening activity, and really different to anything the kids have done before. It combines a nature hunt with some good old digging and getting grubby, while also being really beneficial for your local wildlife. I hope we get lots of residents, we might even see some of them emerging in spring!
There are lots more ideas for family-friendly nature activities on the RSPB website – and you can get a free personalised plan for your own garden. Just put in your postcode and the size of your garden to generate tips on how to help wildlife where you live.
Will you be making a winter residence for frogs and toads? Whatever you’re doing to give nature a home in your garden, do share your tips in the comments so that we can inspire each other 🙂