Jeffrey J. Jackson
University of Georgia
Every wildlife garden has room for a backyard frog pond. Six kinds of frogs have found my little mini ponds that I made especially for them. I like seeing them and hearing their calls at night.
It's easy to make a little pond for frogs. Just dig a shallow hole and line it with plastic. Then fill with water. There are special pond liners that last for years, or you can use heavy black builders plastic. It's cheap. If it develops a leak, just install a new piece on top of the old. You can make the pond any size. My frogs inhabit little ponds with only one or two square yards of water. The pond can be any depth 10 to 20 inches deep works well.
The edges of the pond are very important. Edges should taper gradually from shallow to deep so that a little animal like a frog can easily climb out. You want your pond for volunteers not prisoners! I've seen plenty of expensive concrete ponds with overhanging edges. These are what I call "death trap" ponds. Little animals can fall in, but they can never leave. Small mammals falling into such ponds will drown.
You don't need to tend the vegetation bordering the pond. Let it grow wild and weedy. Let the vegetation hang over the water. This makes it easy for the frogs to hide and forage out into the surrounding vegetation. Place slabs of bark or boards nearby. Prop them up about two inches on one side to make a hiding place underneath. Put a little log in the pond so the frogs can climb out and bask.
Add aquatic weeds to suit your taste. I like arrow head, arrow arum, pickerel weed, cattails and sedges. You can plant them in pots or in mud on the bottom. Even more important than the weeds are several handfuls of dead leaves. Put the leaves in the water and let them sink. This simulates a natural bottom. While some people don't like the looks of a pond with a natural looking mucky leafy layer on the bottom, the frogs love it. When they jump in to escape an enemy, they squirm under the leaves and get out of sight. Frogs may avoid a clean pond with no cover.
In fall add more leaves. This keeps the depths warmer. A clean pond gets much colder on the bottom than one with layers of dead leaves. This allows the frogs to overwinter in relative comfort.
Do you ever clean a frog pond? Its not necessary. You can remove bottom muck at times if the pond gets too thick with detritus. Occasionally you can start over with a complete cleaning. If you have two ponds, you can clean one and leave the other full of mess. That way the frogs have someplace to go while the clean pond recovers. Keep the water level up. If you forget your pond, it may dry up. You can connect a pipe to a downspout so when it rains the runoff fills the pond automatically.
Frogs, toads, and especially their tadpoles are very vulnerable to some chemicals so be ultra careful with pesticides. Early this spring, my sister had a big washtub full of thriving tadpoles at the edge of her yard. One day the neighbors lawn care company sprayed their yard. They didn't know the washtub and the tadpoles were there. The next day they were all dead. What about mosquitoes? Will they come to your pond? Maybe. Mosquito larvae are often more abundant in new water. Often an older environment full of a variety of insect predators helps keep their numbers down. Try a little pond. If you think the mosquitoes are too abundant you can always take it out. Or you can add mosquito fish to eat them.