Wow - awesome that you have the toads! I'm with you - no tilling the little guys.
I don't really have a suitable answer for you other than to try and impose my permaculture beliefs upon you and say just quit tilling altogether. Truly there are several options to prep your bed and NOT till. Tilling exposes the micro-organism to the air and they end up spending themselves on stuff other than promoting growth of some awesome Maters. Have you considered possibly buying some good clean straw? Take it flake by flake - DON'T shake it out - and lay it over the entire bed. The toads will be able to liberate themselves and the weeds won't take over while you're waiting to plant. I'm in Zone 7 and this works really well for us. We don't do much tilling at all after having instituted some layering functions. We also do green mulching w/clovers and buckwheat. Our honeybees appreciate the flowers and we cut it down before it goes to seed. The think layer also makes it easy to rake back, plant whatever, and then pull up around the whatever to keep weeds from growing.
I'm so glad that you are protecting your toads. I have a pond which must be like the Daytona Spring Break for toads... around Easter there is a frenzy here in the pond... but what amazes me is the way these toads will travel to get here- if I'm out hiking then- and come across a toad- it is like a compass pointing toward my pond. ..go out at night with a flashlight and it's like a zombie movie of slow and steady hopping... Needless to say it's kind of hairy out in the driveway that week- you have to watch where you walk and check under tires before driving. But what I'm getting around to is that because of this I wanted to learn a bit more about toads- and I found out that the American Toads I was seeing- take 2-4 YEARS to reach breeding maturity- and that just wowed me- that these little animals- who emerge from the pond the size of a shelled peanut- grow and survive at least two winters before returning to breed. It just gave me a whole new level of respect for them.
On another note- same goes for the painted turtles- who I learned (females mostly) are often hit by cars when trying to find a place to lay their eggs- and that to be large enough to have the eggs in her body- she has reached about 10-13 years - can you imagine how tragic- to live that long to be finally be able to reproduce- and then to be wiped out by someone speeding along- or worse yet- smashing turtles for sport- grrrr... how can you hit a TURTLE?
Anyway- hope the no till garden tips work out if that's an option for you.
I just read that the American Toad can live to 30!
Wow, that's impressive.
Gross, but fascinating: have you ever seen toad poop? even the tiny ones make HUMONGOUS pellets, pretty much all dead bug carcass. You would never guess toad if you just saw them. We were so confused when we would find them in the corner of the feed room in my childhood barn.
Clarksdale, MS--the golden buckle on the cotton belt
The reason for tilling was that I have some lovely composted manure to add to the bed. It's a fairly new bed and I'm trying to build up to a growing depth of 14 inches--8 inches at ground level and a six inch raised part. I wanted to mix it all in together from top to bottom. Last year I spaded some in and was crippled for a week by the effort.
Does anyone know what the temperature must be constantly for toads to come out of hibernation?
"I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay." Thread killer Extraordinaire
Why don't you contact a local amphibian geek and find out what the life cycle timing is like in your area- maybe your toads will be busy at "spring break" next week. I don't know the timing down in MS- I'm up in Southern IN and Easter is the breeding time- and Mother's Day is the traditional date people around here hold out to plant their tomatos etc.