A cold blooded reptile, the tortoise enjoys roaming around an outside garden in the warm sunshine. It requires a secure area or pen to protect against escape and predators. Ensure that the outside perimeter fencing of the garden pen stands twice as tall as the length of the tortoise's body. Some species of tortoises enjoy burrowing into the cool soil, so burying wire mesh beneath the soil along the fence line prevents escape. Landscape the pen with edible plants that provide shade and diversity.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Garden trowel
- All natural organic compost
- Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)
- Aloe vera
- Deep dish, 4 inch
- Basking rocks
Place the tortoise pen in an area of the garden that offers well-draining soil. Overly damp soil or clay-based soil that has poor drainage causes shell diseases to occur on the tortoise. Plants will also have a difficult time surviving in such a location.
Dig the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Mix an all-natural compost at a rate of 50 per cent compost with 50 per cent top soil. The mixture helps provide nutrients for the newly planted vegetation without harming the tortoise.
Plant sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) as a ground cover for the reptile to lounge in. The turtle enjoys nibbling on the plant and its evergreen leaves provide shelter. The ground cover grows best in partial to full shade. Keep the soil moist.
Place a few pansies around the tortoise enclosure. The dainty plants offer visual stimulation and the tortoise will enjoy nibbling on the foliage and flowers.
Plant agave or aloe vera in tortoise pens located in desert regions. The plants survive on very little water and are safe for the tortoise to consume. They also provide shade. Prickly pear cacti also grow well in desert regions and will not harm the tortoise.
Plant zinnia, geraniums and petunias in full sun or partial shade. The plants produce edible flowers and foliage.
Sink a shallow 4-inch deep dish into the soil beside the plants. Fill the dish with fresh drinking water daily for the tortoise.
Place basking rocks and logs within the garden to provide a place to lounge or seek shelter. Most tortoises enjoy lounging beside garden plants on a warm rock during the daylight hours.
Tips and warnings
- Grow a wide array of plants within the tortoise pen to offer diversity.
- Do not plant rhododendrons, azaleas, lupin, lily-of-the-valley or daffodils in a tortoise pen because they are toxic if consumed.
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- The Tortoise House: Edible Plants
- Tortoise Protection Group: Dangers in the Home and Garden
- Ohio State University: Galium Odoratum
- Tortoise Centre: Housing Garden Tortoises
- Tortoise Trust: Designing High Quality Outdoor Habitats For Tortoises; A.C. Highfield, et al.; 2008
- Hermann Tortoise: Caresheets