I'm planning to plant some leafy greens for a tortoise I'm going to get soon. I want the basic directions for planting and caring for the greens provided I have attained the seeds. The greens I'm planning to plant include endive, mustard greens, bok choy, and kale. I am a complete beginner to planting so if planting some of these is rather challenging then please notify me. I'd also like to know if some would only grow at a specific time of the year. Our weather here is Mediterranean.

I'm planning on separating the greens from each other. My basic idea for the enclosure would be a large container into which I put smaller containers I fill with sand and plant in, all of the same height. I'd like to know what kind of soil is preferably used (it seems to be that calcium rich soil discourages the excess presence of oxalic acid, oxalic acid can bind up calcium, adversely affecting the tortoise's shell strength.) I also want to know how much soil I should have, and if possible, a rule of thumb to how many seeds per quantity of soil (size of container). I'm also wondering how often I should water it (Perhaps in relevance to temperature conditions), provided the plants will get sun exposure. I also want to know the time they're expected to take to grow.

1 Answer 1


All of them you listed, except bok choi, are going to be fairly basic. First of all, you will need to know that they have to grow to maturity outside the tortoise's enclosure. If you leave the plant in the enclosure, it will likely not get enough light, but more importantly, the tortoise won't graze nicely, but keep eating the plant off at the ground level. You will need to grow them outside, or in a special environment indoors, until they're mature.

Greens usually like cool temperatures, such as between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as a lot of light. Full sun (at least 6 straight hours, the more the better) is best. They also require a pH balanced soil rich in organic matter, and fertilized with plenty of nitrogen (can be organic, or chemical, but organic is more healthy). The other nutrients are also important. Calcium can be supplied in many forms, but I often use forms of lime, which contain lots of calcium, but raise the pH. There is also a soluble form, which is used to treat blossom end rot in tomatoes, and other plants that are showing signs of calcium deficiency.

You need to plant the seeds shallowly, like 1/4" or less, for good germination. After that, keep the pots moist continuously, but not soaking wet. Once the plants have 5 leaves, I'd allow the top layer (1/4", in a small pot) of soil to dry completely between waterings, to promote strong, deep root growth.

As for how many seeds per pot, a mature plant will need at least a gallon of soil at maturity, so unless you intend to grow as baby greens, one plant per container should be good. I'd plant three seeds in the middle, and thin to one plant when they are 1-2" tall, and you can see which one is strongest. You can also plant on a 3x3" grid, and grow them as baby greens, which will never reach maturity, but will grow fast, and fill the pots well.

You should expect to wait 5 days to a week for germination, and another 3-4 weeks before they produce harvestable baby greens. They can take up to 60 days to grow fully mature. I think you'll get more per plant if you harvest yourself, and give the tortoise cut leaves. If you do, you can harvest 1/2 of each plant each time, taking away only the oldest outer leaves, and waiting for the plant to fully regrow, before harvesting again.

  • 1
    I won't be getting the tortoise until December. The enclosure I''m making is going to be on one of our balconies, with the windows wide open to allow direct sunlight for prolonged periods. The main problem is the temperatures, here it doesn't drop bellow 70F for now, and if it does then usually less sunshine is present. I'm thinking maybe I can leave them out on the balcony when there is sun and get them in during the rest of the day, is that acceptable? Also, is there any way I can restore the pH after adding lime?
    – user37026
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 18:48
  • You will need quite a substantial area for seedlings, perhaps 1'wX4'lX1'deep. Use JUST potting soil, if you are a newbie, use Osmocote for vegies. If just the leafy greens you should use a bit higher nitrogen in proportion to phosphorus and potassium. An organic fertilizer might also add calcium and other micronutrients. Crushed eggshell is an easy way to add calcium. Seedlings need moisture every day but until they are large enough to suck up water use a mister to wet soil. Don't soak the entire pot of soil until the plants are at least 2". Then train the roots by allowing soil to dry.
    – stormy
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 19:43
  • @stormy thanks for the info, what about the temperature issue? Do they need 55-65 For to thrive or can I compromise with the temperature and perhaps try to make up for it somehow? (maybe adding more water?)
    – user37026
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 19:55
  • Are they in direct sun on your balcony? Do you have great drainage? What are night temperatures? Don't use water to 'cool' plants! Grin! And don't separate the plants...they LOVE to be all cuddled up. My salad rows are planted using a hot pepper shaker like for pizza. Put all my salad seeds in the shaker and sprinkle lightly on top of the soil...what are the dimensions of the balcony for the greens?
    – stormy
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 20:08
  • @stormy Sunlight will be directly reaching the plants, no windows or anything to block it. The reason I thought I'd add more water is due to increased evaporation(higher temperature). The balcony is about 3m*2m. Would mixing the plants in a large pot make it somehow hard to manage? How large should the pot be for all of them? Sorry I'm asking too much :$
    – user37026
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 20:21

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