Natural Balance for the Garden: Create a Toad House

Reader Contribution by Barbara Hengstenberg
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Photo by Barbara Hengstenberg

While working on my latest garden idea, my dad’s work ethic and singsong grace filled the air. Although Dad died over three years ago, the sounds of roofers nearby, whistling their workaday tunes, brought his memory to life. Dad was a whistling carpenter for most of his 90 years…though he insisted on using the title “builder.” He was creative and could find a use for most any everyday object.

Today, I was priming a collection of terracotta pots, readying them for an alternative use: toad houses! As I’ve been planting and weeding in my flower garden this spring, I’ve had the privilege to see a few toads hopping through. These nocturnal creatures eat up to 10,000 pests in a summer — from spiders to slugs, grubs, snails, moths, and other pesky insects. My garden currently has two beautiful rose bushes, which inevitably become plagued by aphids in summer. I’m hoping that, by placing two of my toad houses beneath these bushes, I will soon welcome more toads as natural pest deterrents. No need for pesticides, which can harm toads (as well as damage many necessary garden critters). Dad would be pleased by the utilitarian use of these small houses.

Photo by Barbara Hengstenberg

An Inviting Home for Amphibians

An upside-down clay pot serves as an inviting home for these amphibians, as toads like to live in cool, damp places such as under tree roots, boards and rocks. A toad house can be made using a plastic container or a clay pot. Clay will serve as a cooler, more natural environment for these garden helpers. And because these miniature homes will adorn my garden, I’ve turned them into garden decor. After coating the outside of the terracotta pots with white primer, I used acrylic paints to decorate them. Spray polyurethane will serve as a protective coating.

Photo by Barbara Hengstenberg

Placement of Your Toad House

Toad houses should be placed beneath foliage, upside-down on either a circle of small stones with openings for the toads to enter in the front and back, or the rim of the house can be propped up on one steady stone. Be sure to place shallow water dishes nearby, as toads enjoy moisture and absorb water through their bodies by sitting in the water. Keep these water sources rinsed clean and refilled at least weekly, and you should soon be welcoming some happy and helpful amphibians to your garden. If you’re looking for arts and crafts for kids to work on this summer, this is a fun project for any age — from young children to seniors.

Any day spent reminded of listening to Dad working is a day well spent. Creating these small toad houses that will contribute to a healthy environment in my garden would have given my dad something to whistle about.

Photo by Barbara Hengstenberg


  • Arsenault, Rachel. How to Attract Frogs and Toads to Your Garden. Grow a Good Life. May 16, 2016. Web.
  • Moorman, Christopher, et al. Reptiles and Amphibians in Your Backyard. NC State Extension Publications. Aug. 23, 2017. Web.
  • Rhoads, Heather. Toads In The Garden – How to Attract Toads. Gardening Know How. April 5, 2018. Web.

Photo by Pixabay/2000holmes

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