sterilising soil

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Janeybombaney
Posts: 1
Joined: 17 Feb 2022, 09:55

sterilising soil

Post by Janeybombaney » 17 Feb 2022, 10:17

Hi there. I became the proud carer (not owner - he is very aloof) of Shellover, a 12year old (ish) Horsfield early last summer. After a busy summer rooting around my garden (I basically created Jurassic Park) he is currently hibernating for the first time, in a fridge. I check him every day and have weighed him and know he is fine. In the early autumn I moved him into a tortoise table but he displayed all the signs of wanting to hibernate, despite his lamp and heater. I am now preparing to bring him out of hibernation and moving him back into his table. In the autumn I naively put him in inappropriate substrate (though sold as appropriate) but am going to get it right now. My question is about about top soil. I am currently baking it at 180 degrees and wondering how long it should have it in the oven! That said, it is now totally dry so I assume it is ready to go. I will, as per the advice on other threads, be mixing it with some play sand. Any advice would be gratefully received.
Jane

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lin
Posts: 921
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:27

Re: sterilising soil

Post by lin » 17 Feb 2022, 16:39

Can I ask what topsoil you have Jane, and why you are baking it? I have heard it’s a bit smelly inside the house and I don’t know anyone that bakes it. However, the soil shouldn’t be totally dry but with the play sand mixed with it should make it so slightly moist that a little in your palm and squeezed as tight as you can should just a lot hold together. If it’s to dry for that then add a little warm water to make it the correct consistency.
Your tortoise will love having some playsand and topsoil to dig around in and hide away from you are searching for him. 😂
Lin

CritterMama
Posts: 43
Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Re: sterilising soil

Post by CritterMama » 02 Mar 2022, 13:30

Janeybombaney wrote: My question is about about top soil. I am currently baking it at 180 degrees and wondering how long it should have it in the oven! That said, it is now totally dry so I assume it is ready to go. I will, as per the advice on other threads, be mixing it with some play sand. Any advice would be gratefully received.
Jane

Well, I'll admit it - I bake my topsoil! Two things to disclose: I live in the US, and I have a Western Hermann's. I use a mixture of topsoil, coconut coir, and sand in the ratio of 1:1:1/3 (or 3:3:1), respectively (your mileage may vary). I bought a bag of topsoil but I was concerned about what might be in it (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) and the garden store said they didn't know either (not a warm, fuzzy feeling). So there's this mound of dirt in my back yard left over from some foundation repairs we had done. I know it doesn't have any chemicals in it, so that's what I use.

Before baking the topsoil, I dried it on a tarp in the sun and then I sifted it a few times to get out tiny pebbles, roots, etc. Didn't want anything in it that Scoot might eat. I dried the play sand in the sun as well (my neighbors avoid me now :o !) Then I baked both the topsoil and the sand in my oven.

I mixed enough substrate for the whole enclosure, and have a similar amounts of topsoil and sand ready in separate covered bins outside so that I can mix "just in time" substrate, if needed. I've had occasion to bring in small amounts for emergency repairs; I also use this mix for any plants I put in the enclosure. I bring in what I need from my outdoor storage and let it sit a couple of days to bring it up to room temperature. The coir I buy in bricks and mix it up as needed.

These are the instructions I wrote up for myself. Hope they help. Good luck!
• Prepared a plastic tub to put sterilized soil in
• Turned off AC
• Opened upstairs window and kitchen window
• Set up fan to blow out the kitchen window
• Placed 2 racks in the middle of the oven
• Hung oven thermometer from the bottom of the top rack
• Adjusted temperature as close as possible to 180° (it's an old oven!)
• Used round pizza pan and bottom of my largest broiler pan
• Scooped (with ~5in. terra cotta pot) about 1 inch of soil onto each pan
○ 3 scoops for pizza pan
○ 4 scoops for the broiler pan
• Smoothed out soil evenly with large garden spoon
• Baked soil for 30 minutes
○ one pan on each shelf
○ offset - one pan on right, one on left
• After 30 minutes, removed pans from oven and set on top to cool (only needs a couple of minutes)
○ Stirred up the soil a little with the big spoon
• Carefully (!) dumped soil from each pan into the plastic bin
• Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 😂

I found this article to be helpful: "How to sterilize soil: The ultimate guide for every treatment" https://herbsathome.co/how-to-sterilize-soil/
Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever, and now a baby Hermann's Tortoise!

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