Bruce Explains Box Turtles: Turtle Safe Greenery

Keeping the shelled family members’ outdoor enclosures suitably outfitted with all the right accessories – swimming pool, hides, diverse walking surfaces, edible (or at least turtle-safe) greenery – can turn even the most brown-thumbed individual into an aspiring gardener.

Here, I speak from direct personal experience.

When Malti was little, she lived indoors with me in a small plastic tub. Like any little being who rapidly grows bigger, she had an amazing succession of tubs in all shapes and sizes before it came time to make the jump to mostly full-time outdoor living.

Actually, Bruce was the one who needed full-time outdoor living right from the start. I quickly discovered he just couldn’t acclimate to life indoors. He didn’t understand it and had never experienced it and he couldn’t settle down….which means his mama and the rest of the household couldn’t settle down either.

Since I needed to get Bruce set up in an outdoor habitat, I decided to duplicate everything and get Malti set up at the same time. She was only a year old at the time, but on warm days, she enjoyed being outside too.

That meant two picnic tables to elevate each enclosure and two giant 6-foot by 3.5-foot rabbit hutches with two plexiglass bottoms, complete with hand-drilled drainage holes, to set on top of the tables. And it meant two truckloads of organic fertilizer-free soil, two sets of privacy hides and swimming pools and reptile bark and edible turtle-safe greenery to plant.

Hours and days and weeks of research and trial and error and observation later, we were starting to arrive at the beginnings of a workable outdoor situation for each shell.

There was just one tiny issue: neither Bruce nor Malti seemed to be able to resist destroying every new green being I added to their respective enclosures.

This added up to more hours and days and weeks of research, including many awkward minutes at Home Depot and Lowe’s blocking the aisles as I googled “is (fill in the blanks scientific plant name) safe for turtles?”

Since every time I would go there would be different plants, I was always starting from scratch.

Thankfully, at this point I have narrowed down the selection somewhat. I know hibiscus will outlast even the most determined shell in all but the coldest winter weather. Rye grass is awesome for the spring and summer. Herbs and lettuces make great edibles in the warm season.

And in the winter, Bruce hibernates and Malti mostly sleeps indoors, so I can get by with a little benign habitat neglect until the thermometer creeps upwards again.

Bruce enjoys sitting on the latest turtle-safe green addition to his outdoor enclosure.

And remember…..

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