Updates Related to COVID-19 »

Frog Friday: Create a Rain Garden to Enhance Frog Habitat

A couple of weeks ago, we introduced frog ponds as a way to provide habitat for frogs at home and in your community. Another option for creating and enhancing frog habitat is to start a rain garden or bioswale. A rain garden is a garden planted in a shallow depression with native plants that captures and absorbs water when it rains, allowing it to infiltrate into the soil. Bioswales are a similar landscaping feature, but are typically intended to hold larger amounts of water, from a parking lot or roadway, while rain gardens are typically smaller and intended to intercept water from lawns and driveways into storm drains and streams.  Both types of gardens benefit frogs by providing habitat and reducing pollution in local streams and other bodies of water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This large rain garden at the Virginia Beach SPCA was created by Virginia Beach Master Gardeners with the help of SPCA volunteers, students from environmental classes, and scouts. It has provided a solution to flooding issues at the site and it attracts frogs, butterflies, dragonflies, turtles and other wildlife. Photo Credit: John Wessel

Streams provide habitat for several species of Virginia frogs. When excess rain runs over our lawns (called “stormwater runoff”) and eventually into our local streams and other bodies of water, it carries with it any of the fertilizers, pesticides, or other substances that may be part of our lawn maintenance with it. Because frogs have permeable skin which helps them drink and breathe, these toxic substances can be easily absorbed into their bodies. Frog eggs and tadpoles are also vulnerable to water pollution. Their eggs are jelly-like with no outer protective shell and, since they absorb moisture from the water during development, they can also readily absorb any toxic substances that may be in the water.

Not only will starting a rain garden or bioswale help to keep our local water bodies healthy and clean for frogs and other amphibians, your garden’s native plants and captured water will also provide habitat for frogs, birds, dragonflies, butterflies, and other wildlife. The other benefits of a rain garden or bioswale are many, including the potential to add beauty to your landscaping, reduce home flooding, and a free and natural form of pest control from the additional frogs it will attract. Frogs consume countless numbers of insects each year.

Bioswale_resized

This bioswale created at the VDGIF Region 1 office in Charles City reduces stormwater runoff and it provides habitat to seven species of frog, plus dragonflies and butterflies. Turtles and salamanders have also been observed at the site.

For detailed guidance on how to start your own rain garden or bioswale, please visit these helpful resources from Virginia Department of Forestry and the County of Fairfax.

Rain Gardens Technical Guide: A Landscape Tool to Improve Water Quality

Rain Garden Design and Construction: A Northern Virginia Homeowner’s Guide

To find native plant nurseries and plant sales near you, please check with the Virginia Native Plant Society.

Keep checking back with us each Frog Friday as we’ll continue to provide more tips on things you can do at home to improve habitat for frogs and other wildlife throughout the year.

  • May 8, 2015