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growing weeds for tortoises

Growing weeds for tortoises

Occasionally tortoises that are not 100% healthy, or have been recently acquired, need to be overwintered, which can make feeding difficult as weeds have naturally died off. The above picture shows an old cold frame with a 3ft depth of soil which has been filled with transplanted dandelions. Within 3 weeks they all had new leaves and even flowers! The lid of the cold frame will stop the frost killing them off and will help to sustain a natural diet during the winter.

Alternatively, you can buy �weed� seed from reputable sources which will give you a mix of around 20 � 30 different, safe plants from which your tortoise can graze. There are lots of seed mixes available from garden centres, usually advertised as �wild flower mix� which attract birds and butterflies. These are, unfortunately, unsuitable for a tortoise garden as they always contain some plants which are lethal to tortoises (usually poppies and foxgloves), so sticking to seed mixes specially designed for tortoises is essential.

If you do decide to transfer weeds, there are a few helpful tips which will give your weed garden a head start. The roots of weeds come in all shapes and sizes and as with any plant, the more of the root you can get, the quicker they will re-root and start to grow. Dandelions (taraxacum officinale), for example, have a very long �tap� root which looks similar to a colourless carrot. When digging up dandelions it is essential to get as much of the tap root as possible: simply snapping the plant at soil level will not be enough. The picture below is a good example of a �dug-up� dandelion and shows how deep you have to dig. Once you have dug it up, remove all the dandelion leaves and flowers, as this will help the roots to become established and the plant will put its energy into the roots rather than trying to sustain the leaves/flowers already growing on the plant.

Alternatively you can grow weeds indoors, but you will need a large pot with plenty of depth if they are to grow and thrive. Pansies and viola flowers will also help vary a natural diet during the winter too.

Sowthistle Root

Choose a part of your garden you are happy to give up — possibly an area which isn�t good enough for bedding plants/shrubs — as weeds, by nature, will thrive in the poorest of conditions and usually without any tender loving care. The cheapest method of creating your own weed garden is to offer to dig all the weeds out of your family/friends gardens and transfer them to your own. This also gives you the opportunity to be selective about what you grow and where.

We would also recommend that you familiarise yourself with edible/poisonous weeds as not all tortoises will reject food that could harm them.

Creating your own weed garden is a great way of not only increasing your knowledge of plants, but of also providing peace of mind knowing that the weeds you are feeding your tortoises haven�t been sprayed with weed killer or urinated on by every dog in the neighbourhood!

Dandelion Root

Sowthistle (sonchus asper), however, has a fine network of narrow roots which have a very ‘soft’ hold of the soil, making them relatively easy to pull up by hand. Hold the sowthistle as close to the ground as possible, with both hands gently start pulling the plant and the whole root stytem usually comes out of the soil still intact. Below is a good example of a sowthistle that has been pulled out of the ground. This weed grows very tall and is great at the back of a weed garden, up against a fence or wall for support.

There are links to weed identification sites on the internet in the Links section of this website, which will help you to identify individual plants and create your own unique tortoise garden.

Some things to consider:

Thanks in advance!

I think that there was a misunderstanding with my choice of layout, on my previous post. I was not mentioning lyme and soil conditions/types in reference to hydroponics, but to growing weeds indoors in general.

New Member

3) Water once or twice a week and they will grow.

4) If the seedling tray u are using came with a dome, use it for the first week or two. Seedlings can dry out and die quickly.

also i have a pendant light hanging above my sink with a uv compact florescent bulb in it (the pendant light couldn’t take the wattage for a trex bulb lol!) and i’ve got some plants lined up under that behind my sink, they grow fabulously as well. another idea is if you have a spare bathroom, fill that lighting fixture up with florescent bulbs and grow some stuff on the counter top in there.

Paige Lewis

Not entirely true. Plants need NUTRIENTS (not neccisarily soil) , light and water. Ive been running hydroponics in my basement for quite a while and just started a new tray of dandelion and other weeds for my tort. Last batch of dandelion I grew got to 8" diameter in 33 days.

”weeds” as we like t think of them are generally very demanding in terms of light requirements. It should be possible to grow plants indoors, but the energy consumption and price for High Pressure Sodium and/or Metal Halide bulbs will get quite expensive. Simple flourescent lights will probably work for only a few, shade toleraant varietyies, though T5s might do it.

Growing weeds for tortoises

Outdoor cultivation is a fine strategy, although of course you won’t have as much control over the quality of the product you produce in the winter.

Wherever you choose to grow your weeds, the basic strategy is the same:

Freezing Weeds

Obviously the advantage to growing weeds under controlled conditions is that you don’t need to worry about pollutants in the atmosphere, animal urine , pesticides or any other pollutants you might find on weeds collected from the side of a road or your local park. If you can grow them in a controlled environment, it’s definitely a better strategy.

For short term preservation let’s not forget good old refrigeration as a means to keep foods fresh for longer.

Growing Weeds

Sadly the reality of this practice isn’t nearly as neat and effective as I would like. Most people who’ve attempted to freeze plants in this way note that everything seems to go well up to the point of defrosting, after which you’re left with a gloopy sludge rather than a perfectly preserved plant ready for consumption.