Garden Business with Mr. Toad

By Arron Ellis for SUST 210 online

Spring brings along a number of fresh smells. The smell of freshly cut grass and burgers on the grill gets everyone going. Spring signals the time to start reopening backyard pools and waking bicycles out of their winter garage hibernation. Some families even garden; I can say my family used to before moving to the suburbs as a child.

In those good old days, I did one of two things on the family farm. Either I got into trouble doing something rather dumb and adventurous or I helped my grandparents in the garden. Gardening was their passion. From strawberries to corn, we planted it all and we enjoyed every last second of it. However…

There was always the issue of keeping “the bugs” out of the garden. Whether they were unwanted worms or small insects, they infuriated my grandfather. I never really understood why at such a young age but I played along with it. My grandfather would take his incendiary rage toward those critters straight to the store. He would do something that he readily disliked.

He told me they were “bug killers” or, as I now know, pesticides. He would spray the corn stalks and vines littered with young green bean plants in hopes of getting rid of those pesky “bugs.” Usually this was not very successful at all. Instead we ended up with corn that “didn’t taste as good” according to my grandfather.

Now I would say I was very ignorant as child, as most of us are. We learn what is right and what is wrong. When it came to gardening I tried to soak up as much information as possible from my grandparents; particularly when it came to those “evil bugs.” I viewed any invasive creature as a “bug.” Garden snakes were “bugs.” Squirrels were “bugs.” Coyotes…“bugs.” Grasshoppers were “bugs” (Duh?). One “bug” scared the devil out of me…

Photo by Kylee Baumie of the Daily Herald

This guy, Mr. Toad, and I did not get along. He was a menace. I did not like him because I couldn’t “take care” of him. I couldn’t remove him from garden. Why? Well, I refused to touch him because he would give me warts. Or so I though, and this notion was confirmed by my entire family.

This whole recollection was brought about by an article in the Daily Herald by Joe Lamp’l, who basically confirmed my notion that I was an ignorant child. Turns out toads do not give humans warts. Actually the warts on toads provide an advantage to gardeners. Take, for example, the coyote that plans on tearing through the watermelon patch. As he is causing havoc, he notices Mr. Toad hopping along. All of a sudden he wants to eat him. Mr. Toad is not worried because Mr. Toad knows that when Mr. Coyote attempts to bite him a toxin will be released from the warts on Mr. Toad’s skin. Mr. Coyote will thus avoid returning to Mr. Toad’s backyard.

Toads also bring another tool in the “war on bugs.” They eat them. Toads thus are a natural pesticide, because they enjoy eating grasshoppers and worms. There are a couple of lessons here. First, start gardening since spring is, kind of, here. Even if you live in a suburbanized area like Schaumburg, I am willing to bet you can find a small plot of land to garden on. Two, welcome Mr. Toad and his family into your garden. And last of all, if you are a “pesky bug,” stay out of Mr. Toad’s yard!

Submitted 30 March 2012

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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