Spring is coming, time to get planting. But let’s think of our amphibian friends when we do.

Phlyctimantis leonardi

With spring in the air, there is much we can do to make sure our yards are safe for amphibians. (Photo by Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)

Last month, my husband and I were laying some huge pieces of flagstone in our backyard.  We had moved them into the yard over the winter, but had not placed them yet.  It was a nice day, so we decided to lay out our walkway.

Lo and behold, my husband exclaimed that there was a baby snake under one of the stones.  I took a closer look, and to my surprise, there were actually, not one, but three salamanders! What a discovery! These little guys were clearly hibernating under our flagstone. As I picked them up, they stretched in the sunshine and started to crawl around in my hands. So cute. I placed them in a safe place in the garden and put another piece of flagstone over them for safe keeping.

I am always amazed at the critters I find, even in the soil, when I am gardening. One day I found a toad, buried deep in the soil. I caused him serious injury, and have never forgotten him. To this day, I don’t dig in my garden until the soil has warmed enough for these guys to come out of hibernation.

I have also met a few snakes and a turtle that have taken up residence in my yard. I have a toad that visits my backyard annually. With the weather warming, I am keeping my eyes peeled for him.

Making sure these creatures are safe is important to me. So I try to not use any pesticides in my yard. I was having problems with slugs on my hosta one year, until I surrounded the plants with sand. Apparently slugs don’t like to crawl through sand. No problems after that!

Overuse of pesticides kill frogs, fish and insects that live in your watershed. And farther down the river it can poison those tasty shrimp, clams and crabs. Knowing exactly what insect problem you have will help you select several effective treatments. Several alternatives include manual removal, physical barriers, attracting beneficial insects, and diversified planting. For more alternative pest control methods, please click here.

We can all do our part to help frogs, toads and other amphibians in our backyard and by supporting the Panamanian Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Cindy Hoffman, Defenders of Wildlife