Category Archives: frog pond

More on starting a backyard native frog pond…

Another view of the pond. I'd love to get rid of the big flax plant in the back (it's not native) but the frogs hide out in it and stay safe from the marauding coons.

My backyard pond has gotten overgrown but this is what the frogs like best. I’d love to get rid of the big flax plant in the back (it’s not native) but the frogs hide out in it and stay safe from the marauding coons.

Last week I got a lot of interest in my backyard frog pond posting so I thought I’d elaborate with more photos and information. Having a backyard frog pond is a really a fun way to bring nature into your life. There’s nothing like the sound of frogs in the spring and who would have thought it possible to have have frogs in San Francisco? If it can happen here, it can probably happen in your backyard. It’s really not that difficult to set up, the main thing to remember is you’re creating a habitat, not just a pond.

Here's a Pacific Chorus frog singing his heart out.
Here’s what a Pacific Chorus frog looks like singing his heart out.  As loud as they are I rarely see them, they are tiny and they like to hide.
Here's the 60 gallon aquarium that I put the tadpoles in to keep them safe. I have a wire cover that I secure with heavy rocks.

Here’s the 30 gallon aquarium that I put some of the tadpoles in every season to ensure the raccoons don’t eat them all. I have a wire cover that I secure with heavy rocks.

Ponds also attract dragonflies that will lay eggs in the pond (they will eat tadpoles and eggs) Adult Dragonflies are carnivorous and love to eat mosquitoes.

Ponds also attract dragonflies that are nice to have around. One of their favorite foods is mosquitoes.

A frog feels right at home on a native monkey flower plant  (mimulus)

A frog feels right at home on a native monkey flower plant (mimulus)

The key to a successful habitat is providing a healthy natural environment that has everything your frogs need to survive. You may wonder why grow native plants–won’t any pond plant do? The best reason to grow natives is because they have evolved  along with the local animals and are perfectly adapted to each other. They are made for your particular weather conditions, soil and seasons. Natives attract the right bugs, birds and animals that live in your area and they naturally provide them with food and shelter. They are low maintenance and require little fertilizer, pesticides, or even attention.  It’s true the water loving native pond plants  will need  you to water them unless you have a naturally wet backyard, but they will be easier to grow and less invasive than other plants you find a nurseries. I learned the hard way to stay away from water hyacinth and duckweed, two nasty invasive plants that will choke the life out of anything else that wants to live nearby.

Here are some easy to grow natives…

Cow Parsnip a native perennial that has giant 12" leaves and flower stalks that can get 8' tall. It's easy to grow  and can tolerate dry or wet conditions.

Cow Parsnip a perennial that has giant 12″ leaves and flower stalks that can get 8′ tall. It’s easy to grow and can tolerate dry or wet conditions.

Monkeyflower (mimulmus) is a native that likes to have wet roots. I grow it in pots around the pond and in the pond. There are many varieties of varying size leaves.

Monkeyflower (mimulmus guttatus) likes to have wet roots. I grow it in pots around the pond. It spreads easily and has yellow flowers.

Scirpus is another native that likes to have wet roots. You can put it right in the pond.

Scirpus is another native that likes to have wet roots. You can put it right in the pond or in pots around the pond.

Here's a reason to plant natives: You'll attract crazy bugs like this native Green Sweat Bee on a California poppy.

Here’s a reason to plant natives: You’ll attract crazy bugs like this native Green Sweat Bee on a California poppy.

California Bee plant (Scrophularia californica) grows in 2-31/2' high clumps that pollinators love. It's an easy plant to add around the borders, it attracts insects and does well with or without water.

California Bee plant (Scrophularia californica) grows in 2-3 1/2′ high clumps that pollinators love. Add it around the borders, it spreads easily  and attracts insects. It does well with or without water.

Sedges (Carex) such as this wetland example are perennials that grow in clumps.

Sedges (Carex) such as this wetland example are perennials that grow in clumps.

Currants (ribes) are spiky border plants that do well with or without water.

Currants (ribes) are spiky border plants that do well with or without water and flower in the spring.

What’s all that racket?

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Don’t be fooled by the close-up. This little guy is only about two inches and he (or she) is full-grown. I often find them in the hose barrel during the dry weather.

The biggest (or loudest) news in my backyard are the frogs. I’ve got my spring garden going but it’s breeding season for my backyard frogs, and they are impossible to ignore. But I’m not complaining, it’s a great sound. I was worried about them with all the dry weather, but finally, with the rains, they have come back with a vengeance.  My frogs are Pacific chorus frogs that were rescued from an industrial shop about a mile from my house. I’ve had them for about five years and I thought I’d share some ideas in case you’d like to try having a frog pond in your back yard.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Plan your pond. Put it in the sunniest part of the yard. Frogs like to sun themselves and need warmth in our chilly climate. Make it as big and deep as possible. 6′ wide and 3′ deep is good. My pond is a little smaller but if you have room– go for it. Raccoons  that you never knew existed will show up as soon as pond is in and they love eating frogs and tadpoles. They will wreck everything and really discourage you, but if your pond is big enough the frogs and tadpoles will be able to hide and survive.
  • Plant lots of vegetation around and in your pond. Don’t line the pond with rocks they way they show you in the Sunset pond planning books. Frogs need lots of plants and if you like things too manicured you should reconsider. I put lots of water plants in pots around and in the pond that I allow to get overgrown.
  • Use native plants as much as possible. Mimulus (monkey flower), Scirpus(bulrush), Heracleum(cow parsnip), juncus, water barley are all plants the frogs instinctively know. The native plants attract native bugs and everyone is happy.
  • Don’t let dogs near the pond. Many dogs will eat frogs and then throw-up. It’s really best if you don’t have dogs, especially if they like to get in the water. Cats are not a problem.
  • Don’t get fish! They will eat tadpoles. Use mosquito floats to make sure you don’t get mosquitos. They are safe to use and only affect mosquito larvae.
  • Start with tadpoles and be patient. You may have to try several years before you have success.
  • If you can, get a large aquarium and raise the tadpoles in it outside. You can cover the aquarium with hardware cloth and secure it with heavy rocks to keep them safe from raccoons. And you can make the aquarium look attractive. Add some water plants in and around it.
  • Don’t do it unless you plan to stick with it. You’re creating a habitat and your frogs can’t survive without it.

My frogs are famous this week on the fabulous neighborhood blog Bernalwood. Check them out!