First Responder!

My first line of defense!

This year, there was less trouble with squash bugs and borers than in past years in the potager. I’m crediting this fellow (although not being an amphibian specialist, he could very well be a “she!”) I think it’s a Fowler’s Toad, although again I’m not a proper authority for identification, but they are supposedly common in our area, and the photo was the closest of any I found. My toad is about 3″ long when sitting and 2″ wide. They feed on insects and slugs. This year it lived under the “Ronde de Nice” squash plant, a lovely heirloom from France that produces a ball-shaped summer squash with a light green skin that has slightly darker green markings. I encouraged the toad to stay in that area by providing an overturned terra cotta pot that had a piece missing from it’s edge, making it the perfect toad abode.

A closer view…

I had been watching and enjoying seeing the toad whenever I watered the squash plants. However, one day he was missing so I went searching. Observing some odd movement at the nearby strawberry bed, I went to investigate. Imagine my surprise when I saw my toad frantically trying to hop with one leg. His other leg was completely swallowed by a 12″ long snake! I quickly pressed on the snake’s tail with my foot, adding enough pressure gradually that the snake eventually released the leg. The snake was quickly relocated to the woods, and I hurried back to check on the toad. There was a puncture mark on his leg, and he seemed exhausted, and probably traumatized. I gently picked him up and returned him to the squash bed. Happily, he completely recovered. I saw him almost daily until the cold weather came. I assume he has found a safe place to spend the winter, and certainly hope he returns come spring.

Protective wrapping

The other tactic employed this year was wrapping the squash stems from the ground up to the first branches with steel wool. I did need to occasionally add more as the plant grew, but there was definitely less borer damage than in prior years. This year I wrapped half the plants and left the other half unwrapped as a test. The wrapped plants definitely fared better. Next year, I will wrap all the squash base stems except the butternuts, which never seem to be bothered with borers. The most susceptible seems to be the “Orange Magic” squash, but it seems if I plant them later they do better. I still did a lot of bug removal, and checked and removed eggs when I could but if one grows a lot of squash, that can be a challenge. Hopefully, in the future there will be more and more toads to be the First Responders in the bug battle.

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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19 Responses to First Responder!

  1. I’m so glad you saved your toad from that snake!!! I know snakes are good for many things, but toads are far more threatened these days.

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  2. bcparkison says:

    Yea for saving the toad. Now steel wool is a new to me idea. Thanks.

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  3. Lauren says:

    Good job on the toad rescuing! What timing!

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  4. Oh, my! I loved the story of your toad rescue! I always love finding toads happily living in my garden. I will have to try extending hospitality to my resident toads with the overturned clay pot “toad abode” next year.

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  5. Gwen Lantz says:

    Thanks for this post. I loved the toad story and I had a lot of trouble with squash borers last year. I’ll try the steel wool this year!

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  6. Stefanie says:

    Yay for saving the toad! Thanks for the tip with the steel wool. I have a friend who has not end of trouble with borers in her garden.

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  7. Peg says:

    I don’t think we have toads here, I haven’t seen any since we moved here in 2007, but I have seen a couple of “peeper” frogs over the years. I miss the toads, I loved seeing them in our yard in NC. They are definitely helpers in the garden. Glad you rescued yours from that snake.

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    • carolee says:

      I don’t see toads in my other gardens that are unfenced. I think we have too many natural predators, but the potager has a chicken wire barrier which helps. I’ve been thinking though that it may also keep any possible partner for my toad out as well, which is not a good thing. He could end up like the Loneliest Elephant!

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  8. Amy Rich says:

    Great visitor, and interesting tip about the steel wool. After several attempts, I decided to stop trying to grow any squash other than butternut because the borrers were too bad. I don’t have much space in my garden, so I don’t have much room for squash anyway.

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    • carolee says:

      I grow most of my squash on trellises, but the summer squash don’t do that very well, do they. All the winter squash and pumpkins are forced to climb or I’d have no paths!

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  9. I too loved the story of the toad rescue! Having him help in the garden seems a great idea – less work for you and no need to feed him or anything. I hope he survives the winter and founds a dynasty to ensure you have help for ever.

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