Safe soil for plant consumption?

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Yahtzdog
Posts: 16
Joined: 23 Apr 2020, 20:43

Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Yahtzdog » 05 May 2020, 16:19

I am about to get two hatchling western hermanns tortoises (to arrive in June). I live in the USA and am new to tortoise keeping. I have been researching their needs for the last few months and now I am researching diet. Recently I purchased some Italian Dandelion (Chicory) seeds and planted them in small pots in organic potting soil. I also planted some in regular potting soil, not organic. My first question: do you have to plant seeds in organic soil ? or is any soil appropriate and safe?

Next, I would like to purchase a hibiscus and mulberry tree from my local garden shop. Is this safe to feed to my new torts? OR is the soil in which the plants were grown harmful? Just also bought prickly pear cactus (Optunia) from Garden center. Safe??? Dose any one have copy of safe weeds/flowers poster for hermanns?

Last - I have read that the torts do best on weeds and flowers mixed with Mazuri Tortoise Diet LS a few times a week. The breeder suggests mixing the Mazuri with the weeds and flowers. Providing Cuttlebone in the enclosure always. As for additional calcium and vit. D3, he suggests Rep-Cal phosphors free - 2 -3 times per month. Is this sound advice?

You give wonderful advice and I thank you !

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Nina
Posts: 1525
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Nina » 05 May 2020, 20:22

Hi Yahtzdog and welcome to The Tortoise Table! And congratulations on getting your little hatchling Hermanns - you will love them.

Regarding your questions: No, you don't have to sow seeds into organic potting soil, but what you need to do is to avoid fertilizers if possible. Even organic potting soil might have some extra (organic) fertilizers added to it. These won't kill your tortoise, and as the plants grow they will use up the fertilizers so there will be less in the soil. It's mainly nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium that are added, and eating too much of these (and the plants that grow in that soil will take up those elements into their structure) is not great for them. And it's important to have the right phosphorous/calcium balance. Tortoises need a lot of calcium (to support all that bone and shell), but calcum is poorly absorbed by the body whereas phosphorus is readily absorbed - so if a diet is heavy in phosphorus in relation to calcium, the excess phosphorus will prevent the uptake of calcium. This is why we recommend feeding weeds to tortoises -- they tend to thrive in 'poor' soil and so don't have an excess of nitrogen or phosphorous in their structure.

I wouldn't worry too much about what you have already planted, but I would avoid anything that is called 'potting compost'in future because that does usually have fertilizers added. In the UK, where we are based, you can get bags of ordinary topsoil to use (you just buy it from garden centers), and that has very little added fertilizer. Can you get that in the USA? You could probably also just use soil from your yard, if you have one -- that should be fine.

Hibiscus and Mulberry will be lovely and they should be fine to feed to your tortoise. However, the real danger with plants that you buy is that they might well have been sprayed with insecticides, to keep pests off them. Tortoises are very sensitive to insecticides, so unless you know for sure that they have not been sprayed, then you need to plant them and let them grow a bit and only feed the new leaves and flowers (which shouldn't take too long). The soil they have been grown in shouldn't do any harm.

Re the RepCal -- that should be fine, although I would say that it should be given at least every other day (which is what we do wth the equivalent here (Nutrobal). However, i'm not familiar with RepCal so I would just check the instructions. It usually calls for a small pinch (and if you wet the leaves first it sticks better to them), The instructions will give you the dosage and frequency, depending on the size and age of the tortoise.

Mazuri is a bit of a controversial subject. In the UK we don't like it much (a little high in protein and contains some ingredients that tortoises wouldn't naturally, like soybean meal and molasses), but it is very popular in the USA and there are some respected tortoise keepers who do feed it.

Regarding lists of safe plants, you can produce these using the filter on our website. I know this email has become very long, but I hope you won't mind if it gets a bit longer so that I can give you easy instructions on how to produce a list of safe plants. Here's what you do:
Our Plant Database on the website contains nearly 1,000 plants, only some of which are edible. If you would like to make a list of the ones that are safe for tortoises, or plants that should not be fed, you can do so by following these steps.
1. Go into the Website https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/ where you will see 7 plant categories (Wildflowers, Garden & House, etc.) 2. Go into any of the Categories (for example, Wild Flowers).
3. Towards the top of the page you will see a dark green bar that says ‘Filter Results by Safety’, followed by a row of coloured boxes with ticks in them (Green, Amber-Green, Amber-Red, and Red). These are our ‘traffic light’ codings: Green for safe to feed; Amber-green for feed in moderation; Amber-red for feed sparingly; and Red for do not feed.
4. Remove the ticks from the Amber-Red and Red boxes (just click on a tick remove it), leaving only the Green and Amber-Green boxes ticked (or for the safest plants, leave only the Green box ticked).
5. Thereafter, as long as you are in the current session on our website, all of the Categories will only display plants that are safe for your tortoise to eat. If you exit the website and then return, you will have to do this again. And of course you can also filter on the Red coding to produce a list of plants that you should not feed, etc.
6. If you want to print off the new list that you have made, there is a print icon underneath the full menu that will enable you to do this. But please note that the list you are printing off is the shortened version of the plant entries, and you should always consult the full version of an entry to see all the details, more photos, and the icons that tell you which parts of the plant are edible.

I'm so sorry that this has been such a long email (you are probably half asleep by now), but i hope it helps and please don't hesitate to contact us again if you have any problems or questions.

Nina

Yahtzdog
Posts: 16
Joined: 23 Apr 2020, 20:43

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Yahtzdog » 06 May 2020, 02:45

Nina -

Thank you! That was a very thorough and well executed email response. I certainly appreciate all of your help. Trust me, I need it. That's why I keep writing with questions. I want to do this right and will try my best to give my tortoises the life they deserve. I think it might be best to start a tortoise garden of sorts with all their weeds/flowers and just harvest from a pesticide/insecticide-free zone! This way I can be sure they are safe plants. Is that what you do? Where do you get your seeds?

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Nina
Posts: 1525
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Nina » 06 May 2020, 10:58

Hi Yahtzdog, and apologies for welcoming you to The Tortoise Table in the last post -- I've just realised that you have posted before and been welcomed then (ahh, but you can't get too many welcomes!). So again it is really great that you are doing so much research in advance of getting your tortoises -- that will ensure that they have a really happy home.

I can't remember if you told me what part of the USA you live in. The reason I ask is that tortoises really thrive if they can be outdoors as much as possible in good weather (and the sun is the best source of UVB there is), so depending on where you live your season for having your tortoise outside will be longer or shorter.

A tortoise garden is an excellent idea! I don't have a huge yard, but I do have deep flower beds and I allow the right weeds to grow there (or maybe that is just an excuse for lazy gardening), and I pick them regularly for my tortoises. You can also grow tortoise friendly flowers, so that your 'tortoise garden' looks pretty as well as being edible. Campanula, Evening Primrose (not ordinary primroses) Hibiscus, Calendula, Pansies, Violets, and loads of other garden plants are edible. Have a look through the House and Garden section of the Plant Database on our website, as well as the Wildflower and other sections. You can filter those sections to only show edible plants, and I can tell you how to do that easily if you're interested, but there is a section on this page about how to use the 'traffic light' filters: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/pla ... rKJrcB7m9s .

So you could find out from the Database which plants you want to grow and then buy seeds for them, or there is a company in the USA who specialise in tortoise things and they have three pages of seeds that you can grow for tortoises: http://www.carolinapetsupply.com/catalo ... 20a&page=1 You could choose specific plants that you like, but you could also get one of the packets of mixed seeds (even though yours are Hermanns, the Russian mix would be fine). The only mixed seeds I probably wouldn't get is the ones for 'grazers', as these are mainly grasses and so would be for Sulcata and Leopard tortoises who eat mainly grass, whereas Hermanns need a wider mix. You could contact them and ask what would be appropriate for your Hermanns babies.

One thing you can do to provide growing food while your tortoise is indoors is to grow a series of small trays of seeds, sowing them in succession, every couple of weeks. That way when the seeds have sprouted and plants are a couple of inches tall, you can put the tray into the tortoise table indoors and they can eat away to their hearts' content, and by the time they have finished the first tray, the plants in the second tray will be ready and that can go in, and so on.

Nina

Yahtzdog
Posts: 16
Joined: 23 Apr 2020, 20:43

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Yahtzdog » 06 May 2020, 19:18

Thank you Nina ! Once again, you provide excellent resources. I will inquire about planting seeds with the companies you mentioned. I just want to do the best I can for my new arrivals. I in in the North East, USA. I plan on getting the torts outside as much as possible. usually nice here May - Sept or Oct sometimes. I know the sunlight is the best thing for their well being.

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Nina
Posts: 1525
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Nina » 06 May 2020, 22:22

That's great, and we'd love to see photos of your little beauties when they arrive. And I hope you have good luck with the seeds too!

Nina

Yahtzdog
Posts: 16
Joined: 23 Apr 2020, 20:43

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Yahtzdog » 07 May 2020, 15:51

Not sure if you are able, but I love in the NorthEast USA. I was out for a walk earlier and found these weeds close to the house. Are any edible for the Hermann's tortoise? Than you
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Nina
Posts: 1525
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Nina » 07 May 2020, 21:48

HI! You've posted these photos in two threads and I've just answered the in the other thread (which is titled 'Edible Weeds'). Hope that is OK.

Nina

Roy4325
Posts: 1
Joined: 10 Sep 2020, 09:16

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Roy4325 » 11 Sep 2020, 10:38

Hi,
Nina would you please help me, I have some leftovers of my fertilizer (you can read about here - https://www.backyardstyle.com/best-fert ... /#product2) and I'm not quite sure if it is safe to use for tortoise soil.
You wrote such a comprehensive reply, I thought you might help me as well.

Thanks in advance

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Nina
Posts: 1525
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Safe soil for plant consumption?

Post by Nina » 11 Sep 2020, 11:10

Hi Roy,

You don't mention which of the products listed on that page is the one you have, but I don't think it matters as they are all fertilisers for hydrangeas and will probably have an ericaceous component to enhance the colour of the hydrangeas. Are you wanting to add this to the soil in your tortoise enclosure because you have a hydrangea growing in there? If so then you probably should remove that hydrangea because they are somewhat toxic, and you don't want your tortoise eating the leaves or flowers (here is our entry for hydrangea on our website: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/pla ... 1tLKYvTW9s

The problem wiith any fertilizer is that tortoises do best with plants that have been grown on unfertilized soil (like weeds). The nitrogen and other chemicals in fertilizers are not good for tortoises, and it is why we advise you to repot any plant bought from a garden centre into unfertilised topsoil or compost so that as the plant grows it becomes safer for the tortoise to eat.

So I would advise against using this on soil in your tortoise enclosure. Hope that helps and please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any more questions.

Nina

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