Garden Q&A: Helping a toad in winter and where to keep compost
By Ellen Nibali
Nov 14, 2019 | 7:00 AM
This toad has been eating bugs and slugs in my yard all summer. Last week I found it in my green house, which is 55 degrees F. Should I put it outdoors in a hole? Also, what kind of toad is he/she?
See the stripe down the back and the black circles around the “warts”? This is a Fowler’s toad. Maryland’s other common toad, the American toad, is somewhat bigger. Toads can have personality and are great to have in residence.
Your greenhouse is not cold enough for your toad to successfully hibernate. It will gradually starve. Place it outdoors on a day when the temperature gets up to 60. The toad will know what to do. Toads dig with their back feet and back up as they dig, throwing soil to plug the entrance as they go below the frost line. Then they enter a torpid state. They also can use an animal burrow or ant hills, where soil is loose. Leaf litter and moist easy-to-dig soil is ideal for them.
I was about to store my finished compost inside and then realized there is a place I can store it outside. Much simpler. Over the winter I plan to keep adding kitchen waste to the pile. Is it better to store finished compost dry inside, or to leave it outside? Which way stores its nutrients and biological activity better?
It’s fine to store it outside and continue to add kitchen scraps. You may see signs of wildlife digging into the pile to feed on scraps, especially during cold, snowy weather. To minimize nutrient loss, you can cover the pile with a tarp so precipitation doesn’t leach out nutrients. (Note: Baltimore County residents are prohibited from adding kitchen scraps to compost piles.)
University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.