Friday, September 30, 2011

Salamanders in The Garden

We often find newts in our garden. Red-spotted newts hiding in the mulch or laboriously crawling towards the shade cast by towering cosmos. But last week, while harvesting potatoes, we unearthed two salamanders. They were long – mostly tail – with stubby legs and glistened deep red, almost black.

At first glance salamanders look a lot like lizards, but they are amphibians. Like frogs. Salamanders have moist, often slimy skin with no scales. They use that moist skin to breathe. And while lizards have scratchy toenails (claws), salamanders do not.

Salamanders need moisture, and after all the rain we got last month – a record 12 inches on our hill – the garden beds were just the right soggy-ness for them. The crawled under the mulch and dug into the wet soil of the potato hills – the perfect salamander home until hungry gardeners came along…

This fall as you pull out the weeds and get your garden ready for winter, pay attention to the small critters living there. And, if you can, leave a few big rocks and some cover for shelter.

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