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Turtle Gardening - Bones and Fishes

Turtle Gardening

turtle strawberry

In addition to dogs and cats, I have reptiles, including turtles and tortoises. These little creatures have unique and specific diets that are unlike any of my other pets. You can buy food for them from the pet store, the grocery store, and from reptile supply sites, but if you know what to look for, you can also feed them many items from your yard or grow things specifically for your turtle or tortoise in your garden. Where we live now, the garden is lush and full of a variety of plants that the former owner planted. I took my male Eastern Box Turtle, Alastar, out to explore the garden and identify things I can feed him.

It’s still too early for them to be ripe, but strawberries are a huge favorite of box turtles. They’re particularly attracted to red food, so many berries capture their attention. Strawberries happen to grow at their level, so Alastar got to check out the little white berries that are growing. In a few weeks, they’ll start turning red and be ready for him to enjoy. I’ll probably sneak a few as well.

Near the strawberries, a very large dandelion is growing like crazy. A lot people kill dandelions, but they make good turtle food. They are a favorite green for most box turtles so it’s a pretty good one for picky animals. I’ll harvest this one a little bit at a time to keep it going for them. A few leaves at a time will give them more variety in their diet. Dandelions are also edible to humans, but I’ve been told that they should be eaten before they start to flower. The flavor, apparently, gets really bitter after they flower, so humans might not like them much then, but the turtles will still chow down.


Alastar found some sedum. This stuff is everywhere, but it happens to also be great for turtles, and the love it too. The other cool thing is, sedums and other succulents come in a vast variety. We have a lot of the small green ones growing all over the garden.

turtle gardening

We also have several large patches of this variety. Either way, I like the look of them, and the turtles enjoy the taste. When I feed them from the garden, the sedums are always the first to disappear. Stonecrops tend to have larger leaves and almost look like fat flowers.


We planted a bunch of pansies in one of the gardens. They’re also edible to both humans and box turtles. Alastar seems to prefer the purple flowers, but the entire plant is edible to them. Humans tend to just eat the flowers, which can be mixed into salads for some color.


I guess plants that are edible to turtles and humans is a theme today. Nasturtiums also fit that description. They have a peppery taste and come in a variety of shades of red, orange and yellow. Some even have variegated leaves.


This is Watson’s Willow Herb, which grows prolifically all over the yard. It’s technically edible in moderation, but tends to be unpalatable to turtles. Alastar liked it for a little while, but now he avoids it.


There’s a lot more to ID and explore in the gardens still. I have a lot left to investigate with the turtles. We’ll also be doing more turtle gardening, planting things specifically for their diverse diets. I already have a variety of other sedums to plant, as well as seeds for a variety of things.


Our sister site, HerpetoBotanical, has more information about foraging for turtle food in your yard and garden.

So how about your yard? Are you growing any plants that are edible to your pets?

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  1. Pingback: Edible Plants for Tortoises in Your Yard - Herpetobotanical

  2. Kristen

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I had a friend who had leopard tortoises and I have always wanted one. Maybe someday….

    1. ryan (Post author)

      You’re welcome! A Leopard Tortoise will probably require a little different diet than my Box Turtles, but these foods can all be used as part of a balanced diet. If you decide to get a turtle or a tortoise, let me know and I’d be happy to point you to some great resources to get you started.


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