Photos of Our Outdoor Russian Tortoise Enclosure and Garden

Oxalis

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More blooms! Here's another shot of the mallow before Stevie finally started chowing down on it. Once he tried it, he realized it was delicious!!

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Oxalis

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I was awake early enough this morning to see the evening primrose still in bloom. As the sun made its way higher in the sky, the flowers began to close up. The plant is already past 4 feet tall -- and almost as tall as I am!!

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The red Hibiscus is in bloom too. :)

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Today I'm working on tearing out the Testudo Mix or radish-looking plants in favor of my natives and smaller plants. I realized that these plants were just too overpowering, and that they would over-compete the rest of my smaller plants completely out of existence. Some I have already lost, including a prairie rose (Rosa setigera). I would rather Steve have more variety and less cover if the water is shared more equally between plants. So Steve has been a little confused as to why his mommy is removing so much of his cover, but hopefully this keeps his garden more sustainable in the future. In the process, I have uncovered various weeds, and since I am unable to identify them, out they go! I have already filled one lawn bag. There are a lot of bare spots now but I did find another Geranium, some pansies, and hens and chicks to plant today. I have been coming inside to the AC for many breaks already; we have a high of 89°F with 52% humidity, which is not all that comfortable for lots of gardening in direct sunlight. I hope to post more photos later! :)
 

Oxalis

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Here's most the garden now. Less overgrown weeds and more colorful flowers! I'm thinking about just spreading clover seed over the rest of the open dirt spaces. I got two Coreopsis, hens and chicks, an Aster, two bluebells (Campanula), a lovely Geranium, and a unique Viola. (I'll have to take more photos tomorrow!)

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Here's a pretty Aster and a white variety of bluebells (Campanula). Steve already showed interest in the Aster! ;D

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My other Campanula and hens and chicks:

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I love this one Coreopsis; it reminds me of fireworks:

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Oxalis

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More pretty pictures! Here's my Geranium -- good thing I took a picture; it helped me to find a weed in it. I think the flowers are very nice! I got a lot blue and purple colored flowers for the garden.

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Here's my orange Coreopsis.

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I moved the Spirea to the corner where I was able to get the roots down deeper. As you can see, it's not in the best shape and it wasn't when I first saw it at the store either -- which is why I got it on sale. ;) But maybe moving the plant will help save it. Plus it should make great cover for Steve. He already likes it:

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Today I ended up buying a "toadstool" statue -- somewhere for me to sit in the garden with the baby. I got one bag of landscaping rocks put them in piles around the garden to give Steve something to climb over (good for those crazy Russians!). The white Aster on the left is new too, but I actually don't plan on adding anything else to the garden for a while!

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I redid the cave a little to raise it out of the ground a little bit and threw some rocks under it, which Steve really enjoyed. Notice the cucumber plant on the right has some flowers!! ;D

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And now the tortoise mommy will be on lookout for rogue weeds...!!
 

Oxalis

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First snowfall on the outdoor tortoise enclosure! The little birdies can still fit through the spaces in the chicken wire to look for seeds on the evening primrose. The poor little flamingo and lantern are covered. Should be more snow falling tonight too.

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The view from our upstairs bedroom. I like how the chicken wire roof looks like waffle fries with the snow on it! XD

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I held Stevie up to the window so he could see the blizzard. I think he's happy to be inside where it's warm and cozy.
 

Oxalis

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2016 seeds to plant in the tortoise garden (so far), purchased from lovely native suppliers, Prairie Moon Nursery!

Common blue violet (Viola sororia)
Prairie violet (Viola pedatifida)
Tall bellflower (Campanula americana) - maybe one that grows up (as a stalk) will be more difficult for the tortoise to destroy! :D
 

Oxalis

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One of this year's challenges is to help curb the tortoise pacing back and forth along the north wall! We can't seem to figure out the reasoning behind it but we don't want little Steve to be stressed outside either. We built a tunnel for him and it seemed to help distract him a little. We'll have to experiment more when it gets warmer and he can go back outside.

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spud's_mum

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How do you grow the plants that well?!!

Spud has no plants in his outdoor enclosure at the moment as I'm still deciding weather to plant straight into the enclosure or in seed trays?
My only worry about growing straight into the enclosure is that they won't have a chance to grow as Spud will destroy them. I can only get my seed mixes to seedlings :(
Also, how long does it take to get the seeds to a decent plant size?

I might grab a load of plants from the garden centre and wait for the chemicals to grow out.

Sorry for all the questions!
 

Oxalis

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How do you grow the plants that well?!!

Spud has no plants in his outdoor enclosure at the moment as I'm still deciding weather to plant straight into the enclosure or in seed trays?
My only worry about growing straight into the enclosure is that they won't have a chance to grow as Spud will destroy them. I can only get my seed mixes to seedlings :(
Also, how long does it take to get the seeds to a decent plant size?

I might grab a load of plants from the garden centre and wait for the chemicals to grow out.

Sorry for all the questions!
No worries! I love plant questions! My fiance is planning on going for the title of "master gardener," so I ask him when I don't know something. ;) Where do you live? An important part of planting outdoors is knowing your region's "hardiness zone": http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ {if you live in the U.S.)

Have you tried evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)? It is native to Michigan so it's perfectly adept at thriving in our odd weather changes! Mine was about an inch or so tall in the spring when I planted it and about 5 feet tall by late summer of the same year. I'm a big advocate of native plants because they're better for the local animals and ecosystem. :) Let me know if you have some space outside to plant and I can help you locate some tortoise-safe natives for your area.
 

spud's_mum

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No worries! I love plant questions! My fiance is planning on going for the title of "master gardener," so I ask him when I don't know something. ;) Where do you live? An important part of planting outdoors is knowing your region's "hardiness zone": http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ {if you live in the U.S.)

Have you tried evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)? It is native to Michigan so it's perfectly adept at thriving in our odd weather changes! Mine was about an inch or so tall in the spring when I planted it and about 5 feet tall by late summer of the same year. I'm a big advocate of native plants because they're better for the local animals and ecosystem. :) Let me know if you have some space outside to plant and I can help you locate some tortoise-safe natives for your area.
I'm in the uk so weather is quite chilly. I have got a couple of seed mixes and I managed to grow nasturtium last year (that were taken over by aphids :( ) I have seed strays and planters and spuds outdoor enclosure available to plant in, although I fear that if I plant straight into the enclosure, the seedlings will be destroyed.
Thanks for the help!
 

JoesMum

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I'm in the uk so weather is quite chilly. I have got a couple of seed mixes and I managed to grow nasturtium last year (that were taken over by aphids :( ) I have seed strays and planters and spuds outdoor enclosure available to plant in, although I fear that if I plant straight into the enclosure, the seedlings will be destroyed.
Thanks for the help!
What you need is a 'cold frame'/mini greenhouse like this for growing your seeds on.
 

Oxalis

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What you need is a 'cold frame'/mini greenhouse like this for growing your seeds on.
I would love one too!!!!
I'm in the uk so weather is quite chilly. I have got a couple of seed mixes and I managed to grow nasturtium last year (that were taken over by aphids :( ) I have seed strays and planters and spuds outdoor enclosure available to plant in, although I fear that if I plant straight into the enclosure, the seedlings will be destroyed.
Thanks for the help!
There are a quite a few gardeners on here with aphid trouble! Arg, those buggers!! You can always make sure your plants are well established before transplanting them into the tortoise enclosure. My Russian has such a large selection (the total space outdoors is 96 square ft) that he hasn't eaten any plants down to the ground ... yet. ;) I think having a lot of choices can help with that.

Nina and Lin on The Tortoise Table will be super helpful for you as they're based in the UK as well. :D
 

spud's_mum

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What you need is a 'cold frame'/mini greenhouse like this for growing your seeds on.
I used to have a couple... I forgot to water the plants and they died o_O

I would love one too!!!!

There are a quite a few gardeners on here with aphid trouble! Arg, those buggers!! You can always make sure your plants are well established before transplanting them into the tortoise enclosure. My Russian has such a large selection (the total space outdoors is 96 square ft) that he hasn't eaten any plants down to the ground ... yet. ;) I think having a lot of choices can help with that.

Nina and Lin on The Tortoise Table will be super helpful for you as they're based in the UK as well. :D
Thank you!
I wish I could have a selection big and healthy plants like yours for spud :( I will keep trying! I think I may have to resort to garden centres and wait for the chemicals to grow out.
 

spud's_mum

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Even the ones from garden centres need watering set a reminder on your computer or phone so it nags you to do it every day!
I normally don't have to water the seeds because of the rain but when they were under cover I completely forgot. If I get another then I will have to set reminders.
 

Oxalis

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I normally don't have to water the seeds because of the rain but when they were under cover I completely forgot. If I get another then I will have to set reminders.
That's a good idea to set an alarm. I'm actually somewhat bad at remembering to water my indoor plants. My fiance mostly takes care of those for me :D but my outdoor plants seem to grow just fine with little maintenance from me. Remember that planting natives in your area will demand less maintenance from you. They have evolved to survive in your area and require less water and no chemicals or pesticides. :) They'll save you money! I found some good articles about natives you may enjoy:


I did a basic Google search for native UK plants. The "British Flora" website below is an excellent list! Make some time to click around and do some reading. It can take a bit of research, but it's definitely worth it in the end! I see elm trees on the list, which are deemed safe by The Tortoise Table. As far as smaller plants go, rose leaves and flowers make great tortoise treats too. Campanula are safe and tasty. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a weed here that usually grows on road sides. I transplanted one into my tort garden and never have to worry about maintaining it! :) Geranium is also quite hardy and requires little maintenance. Hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis; Leontodon hispidus) and goat's beard (Tragopogon spp.) also appear on the list, and a lot of tort keepers feed this to their little ones. Malva is also one of my favorites as the flowers are beautiful too. Plantain (Plantago major) is another weed that's easy to maintain. Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.) has no evidence of toxicity. (I'm still on the search for a Myosotis laxa, which is a Michigan native.) I also see violets and pansies (Viola spp.) on the list; tortoises love them. These are all plants I would recommend to beginner tort gardener, the weeds especially. You have some great native plants on that list! Be careful not to pick any in the wild that may be endangered though!

 
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JoesMum

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That's a good idea to set an alarm. I'm actually somewhat bad at remembering to water my indoor plants. My fiance mostly takes care of those for me :D but my outdoor plants seem to grow just fine with little maintenance from me. Remember that planting natives in your area will demand less maintenance from you. They have evolved to survive in your area and require less water and no chemicals or pesticides. :) They'll save you money! I found some good articles about natives you may enjoy:


I did a basic Google search for native UK plants. The "British Flora" website below is an excellent list! Make some time to click around and do some reading. It can take a bit of research, but it's definitely worth it in the end! I see elm trees on the list, which are deemed safe by The Tortoise Table. As far as smaller plants go, rose leaves and flowers make great tortoise treats too. Campanula are safe and tasty. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a weed here that usually grows on road sides. I transplanted one into my tort garden and never have to worry about maintaining it! :) Geranium is also quite hardy and requires little maintenance. Hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis; Leontodon hispidus) and goat's beard (Tragopogon spp.) also appear on the list, and a lot of tort keepers feed this to their little ones. Malva is also one of my favorites as the flowers are beautiful too. Plantain (Plantago major) is another weed that's easy to maintain. Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.) has no evidence of toxicity. I also see violets and pansies (Viola spp.) on the list; tortoises love them. These are all plants I would recommend to beginner tort gardener, weeds especially. You have some great native plants on that list!

You'll be lucky to find an Elm Tree. I'm afraid they're scarce due to Ditch Elm Disease striking about 40 years ago.

The commonest stuff growing wild that's easy to find is dandelion, plantain and clover. Joe is also partial to buttercups (I don't pick them, they grow in the lawn despite my best efforts to slow their spread), bindweed and clematis leaves.

I did buy white clover seed and scatter that in a couple of patches of the lawn. It took a couple of years to establish, but is growing well now.
 

Oxalis

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You'll be lucky to find an Elm Tree. I'm afraid they're scarce due to Ditch Elm Disease striking about 40 years ago.

The commonest stuff growing wild that's easy to find is dandelion, plantain and clover. Joe is also partial to buttercups (I don't pick them, they grow in the lawn despite my best efforts to slow their spread), bindweed and clematis leaves.

I did buy white clover seed and scatter that in a couple of patches of the lawn. It took a couple of years to establish, but is growing well now.
I feel your pain on the elm trees. Here in Michigan, the emerald ash borer (insect) killed a lot of ash trees. Luckily my parents' ash tree is still kickin'! My Russian does love the dandelion too!!

The Tortoise Table has clematis and buttercup under their "do not feed" list, so I'd be careful with those! :eek:
 
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