Best tip for keeping snails away
Being an organic gardener, I often get asked how I control slugs and snails in my gardens. It is a fair question considering I am completely pesticide free in my gardening practice, and one which I have a most annoying answer for: I don't. I simply do not have a snail problem! I do have a small population of snails and slugs in my gardens, but they are not really a problem. I believe the reason I am this lucky is that I do however have a very healthy frog and toad population. They are a gardeners best friends, and the key to me being able to keep the eco balance in the garden.
Frogs and toads are carnivores with a wide range of prey, and small as they are they have a surprisingly large and diverse appetite. Their favourite meals include slugs, snails, small lizards and mice, worms, and insects such as flies and moths, and as they exhibit breeding fidelity they tend to stay close to their home once they have found a good site, meaning that once you have an established population they will be happy to stay and keep feeding on all those pesky buggs. Frogs and toads have a funny way of eating. Depending on the species of frog they catch their pray either with their tongue or by putting the prey in their mouth with their paws, and then swallow their prey whole.
You might expect this breading fidelity to bring all sorts of problems with it, such as inbreeding, but they largely avoid it as they recognise close kin through the sound given by males as a call to the females. So once you are lucky enough to have an established colony in your garden, they will stay and expand the group in a healthy manner. All you need to do is provide them with as natural a pond as possible, and quite soon they will appear as if by magic. If it is a completely new pond you have in your garden, you might collect frog spawn and introduce it. But never transfer or move amphibians to new locations where there is an existing population! Sadly there are a number of diseases plaguing the amphibian world and the risk is great that it will follow any transferred spawn to new locations.
In fact, the number of malformations among frogs is on the rise. A lot of it stems from an emerging fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, that has spread around the world. Conservation biologists are working to understand the causes of these problems and to resolve them, but in the meantime please be mindful of the dangers such disease pose to the amphibian populations. In the UK especially, amphibian disease has taken its toll but luckily as yet it is quite rare in Finland.
At Stensund there has always been an abundance of amphibians, and in late summer we get what my children call "an invasion of autumn frogs" which is lots of tiny baby frogs and toads all over the garden. There is no purpose built pond at Stensund, but plenty of good habitat such as deep ditches that retain water all throughout summer. Although there was plenty of good habitat at Humlegård I added a pond by the forrest path that goes between the houses just for fun, and to my delight it is most popular with both amphibians and other animals. It gives me such joy to find these sweet little creatures all over in my gardens, and I hope I will inspire you to kook twice at them the next time your paths cross in your own garden. Frogs and toads really are the gardeners best friends!