Good Things to Plant in California

Big Charlie

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We had a yard cleanup and the gardeners got a little too aggressive. Now we have lots of empty places to plant. I already have a hibiscus tree, rose bushes and plenty of grass. I'd like to add a grape plant and a mulberry tree. Before I get them, I'd like suggestions on the exact types that would be best. Also, whatever other plants would be good for my sulcata.

For the grape leaves, I'd also like to be able to use them in cooking, so something that has big tender leaves without too much thick spines would be nice. Apparently wild grape plants are better for growing leaves. They don't make much fruit but that is probably better if my tort has access, right? There is a wildlife preserve near me that has wild grape plants. Is there a way to grow them from cuttings?

I'm in the central valley in California.
 

wellington

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Yes, you can grow grapes from cuttings. I have a Concord grapes plant, no fruit yet. I also grow the dwarf fruitless mulberry tree which would be best if planting in the tortoises yard. Some other ideas is Rose of Sharon trees. They have a flower that looks like a hibiscus, flowers and leaf are edible. Lilac is also edible and banana leaf. Other ideas, cactus, lettuces/greens, to name a few.
 

RosemaryDW

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If you don't want to try the cuttings, you can order or drive in to buy a California grape (vitis-californica) from Las Pilitas nursery in Paso Robles. That is likely the grape you see in your area. We have one that is doing well after two years. No fruit yet; probably next year.

I haven't made dolmas but imagine I could; the leaves are pretty soft.

Las Pilitas only sells native plants, if you need advice about what would grow well in your area but I don't know what would grow big enough to feed a sulcata!
 

Tom

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I have 6 different varieties of grape vines. All are pretty similar except the concord grape vines. Those have leaves that are darker on top and sort of white and fuzzy underneath. My torts like these the least, but they will eat them when they are hungry. I get the best growth out of my Thompson Seedless vines. I've never tried wild grape vines, but I get plenty of growth out of my "regular" grape vines from Home Depot and Lowes.

I also have about 10 varieties of opuntia cactus. Some are more shade tolerant and some are more freeze tolerant, but all are fantastic tortoise food. And sooooo easy to grow and keep here in SoCal. I literally collect several 5 gallon buckets of pads a week for my ever growing herds. SOOOOOO easy. I love cactus feeding days. Water once or twice a week in the heat of summer, and not at all in the cooler months of winter.

I can't keep regular hibiscus alive here, but a new similar and related favorite is lavatera. It makes these pretty little blue and purple flowers and the tortoises love them. I also mix in the leaves with other greens. You can try rose of sharon too. It goes dormant in winter, but comes back in fall. If you can keep regular hibiscus alive then try the Australian Blue Hibiscus. Leaves and flowers are great food. Similarly, try some "Cape Honeysuckle" from South Africa. It freezes here in winter but comes back in spring. I see it all over Socal, and it does fine in winter in other milder areas that don't freeze as much as it does up here. It makes clusters of red flowers. My tortoises love the tender green leaves and flowers. You can offer geranium, but my torts tend to leave that until last. Hollyhocks are a new one I tried this year and they were a tremendous success. I'll be growing them every year now. Nasturtiums work here, but they need afternoon shade or they fry.

Get yourself some African hibiscus seeds and grow them in the ground next spring. This is one of the natural foods of wild sulcatas and I have seen few things that they like this much. They like it better than Mazuri, if you can believe that! It does fine in full summer heat and sun, and late in the season it produce these things called calyxes that contain seed for next year. Feed out some calyxes (They are like candy bars for your tortoise…) and save some seed pods for the next year. It dies at the first freeze every year, but I grow new bushes every spring.

Another favorite of mine is the gazania plant. It survives my scorching hot summers with no issues and the winter freezes don't seem to bother it either. The leaves and flowers make up a small portion of my tortoises diets.

Any fruitless mulberry variety will work. There is a red and a white. I use both and not much difference. The fruiting ones are Messsssssy with a capital M! Not only will the ground around them become mulberry jelly, all of your cars will be coated with purplish bird doo doo. Only get the "fruitless" variety.

Next get some non-dormant alfalfa from here: http://www.groworganic.com/non-dormant-alfalfa-rhizocoated-lb.html
Really good stuff and great to mix with all the grasses and leaves for a little protein boost. You can get clover here too. Finally, their "pasture mix" grows better than any other grass mix I've ever tried. I've done multiple side-by-side comparisons and this stuff far outperforms second place: http://www.groworganic.com/premium-horse-pasture-mix-irrigation.html

I also like to grow endive, escarole and arugula for a little variety.

You simply cannot beat Tyler and Sarah's "Testudo Seed Mix": http://www.tortoisesupply.com/TestudoMix
Plant it in spring and you will get a wide variety of all kinds of good stuff. After a year or so, it will mostly be a big plot of Italian dandelion that produces like crazy for you. This makes up a pretty large percentage of the mixes I feed my guys regularly.

I also have plots of broadleaf plantain and sometimes I can keep the mallow going with enough water.

Contact me if you have trouble finding or growing these things and I'l be happy to help.
 

dmmj

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I have 4 different types of grape plants my Thompson seems to produce the most leaves. Avoid mulberry trees with fruit go for the fruitless tree the tree with fruit attracts a lot of birds and a lot of poop. in California you can pretty much grow anything
 

Big Charlie

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Yes, you can grow grapes from cuttings. I have a Concord grapes plant, no fruit yet. I also grow the dwarf fruitless mulberry tree which would be best if planting in the tortoises yard. Some other ideas is Rose of Sharon trees. They have a flower that looks like a hibiscus, flowers and leaf are edible. Lilac is also edible and banana leaf. Other ideas, cactus, lettuces/greens, to name a few.
Thank you! I'm going to look for a Rose of Sharon and the fruitless mulberry tree, and maybe lilac. Can any of these be planted now, or do I have to wait for Spring?
 

wellington

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I have no idea for your area. I'm in Illinois, so I would wait till spring in my area. You could probably do a web search to find that answer or ask the place you buy them from
 

Big Charlie

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If you don't want to try the cuttings, you can order or drive in to buy a California grape (vitis-californica) from Las Pilitas nursery in Paso Robles. That is likely the grape you see in your area. We have one that is doing well after two years. No fruit yet; probably next year.

I haven't made dolmas but imagine I could; the leaves are pretty soft.

Las Pilitas only sells native plants, if you need advice about what would grow well in your area but I don't know what would grow big enough to feed a sulcata!
Thank you. That is a great suggestion. We used to live very close to Paso; now I'm in Tulare county. I looked up the pictures of vitus californica and it looks like the plants I saw at the nature preserve. I've never seen edible grapes on them; just green, hard things.

I don't need to worry about getting enough to feed Charlie. We have plenty of grass and other things for him. I just want to add some variety as long as I have the room.
 

Big Charlie

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I have 6 different varieties of grape vines. All are pretty similar except the concord grape vines. Those have leaves that are darker on top and sort of white and fuzzy underneath. My torts like these the least, but they will eat them when they are hungry. I get the best growth out of my Thompson Seedless vines. I've never tried wild grape vines, but I get plenty of growth out of my "regular" grape vines from Home Depot and Lowes.

I also have about 10 varieties of opuntia cactus. Some are more shade tolerant and some are more freeze tolerant, but all are fantastic tortoise food. And sooooo easy to grow and keep here in SoCal. I literally collect several 5 gallon buckets of pads a week for my ever growing herds. SOOOOOO easy. I love cactus feeding days. Water once or twice a week in the heat of summer, and not at all in the cooler months of winter.

I can't keep regular hibiscus alive here, but a new similar and related favorite is lavatera. It makes these pretty little blue and purple flowers and the tortoises love them. I also mix in the leaves with other greens. You can try rose of sharon too. It goes dormant in winter, but comes back in fall. If you can keep regular hibiscus alive then try the Australian Blue Hibiscus. Leaves and flowers are great food. Similarly, try some "Cape Honeysuckle" from South Africa. It freezes here in winter but comes back in spring. I see it all over Socal, and it does fine in winter in other milder areas that don't freeze as much as it does up here. It makes clusters of red flowers. My tortoises love the tender green leaves and flowers. You can offer geranium, but my torts tend to leave that until last. Hollyhocks are a new one I tried this year and they were a tremendous success. I'll be growing them every year now. Nasturtiums work here, but they need afternoon shade or they fry.

Get yourself some African hibiscus seeds and grow them in the ground next spring. This is one of the natural foods of wild sulcatas and I have seen few things that they like this much. They like it better than Mazuri, if you can believe that! It does fine in full summer heat and sun, and late in the season it produce these things called calyxes that contain seed for next year. Feed out some calyxes (They are like candy bars for your tortoise…) and save some seed pods for the next year. It dies at the first freeze every year, but I grow new bushes every spring.

Another favorite of mine is the gazania plant. It survives my scorching hot summers with no issues and the winter freezes don't seem to bother it either. The leaves and flowers make up a small portion of my tortoises diets.

Any fruitless mulberry variety will work. There is a red and a white. I use both and not much difference. The fruiting ones are Messsssssy with a capital M! Not only will the ground around them become mulberry jelly, all of your cars will be coated with purplish bird doo doo. Only get the "fruitless" variety.

Next get some non-dormant alfalfa from here: http://www.groworganic.com/non-dormant-alfalfa-rhizocoated-lb.html
Really good stuff and great to mix with all the grasses and leaves for a little protein boost. You can get clover here too. Finally, their "pasture mix" grows better than any other grass mix I've ever tried. I've done multiple side-by-side comparisons and this stuff far outperforms second place: http://www.groworganic.com/premium-horse-pasture-mix-irrigation.html

I also like to grow endive, escarole and arugula for a little variety.

You simply cannot beat Tyler and Sarah's "Testudo Seed Mix": http://www.tortoisesupply.com/TestudoMix
Plant it in spring and you will get a wide variety of all kinds of good stuff. After a year or so, it will mostly be a big plot of Italian dandelion that produces like crazy for you. This makes up a pretty large percentage of the mixes I feed my guys regularly.

I also have plots of broadleaf plantain and sometimes I can keep the mallow going with enough water.

Contact me if you have trouble finding or growing these things and I'l be happy to help.
Thank you for all the great suggestions. Which of these things, if any, can I plant now? Not that I need the food now, I'd just like to get started.

For African hibiscus seeds, is this the right thing? http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2112/

We used to have a few geranium plants. They died in a frost. I never saw Charlie go near them.
 

Tom

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Thank you for all the great suggestions. Which of these things, if any, can I plant now? Not that I need the food now, I'd just like to get started.

For African hibiscus seeds, is this the right thing? http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2112/

We used to have a few geranium plants. They died in a frost. I never saw Charlie go near them.

Hibiscus sabdariffa is the African hibiscus.

Unless you are going to plant indoors, I wouldn't start any of that now. Wait until the end of Feb or March. Its hard to get seeds going with the shorter days and cold nights of fall and winter.
 

Big Charlie

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Yes, you can grow grapes from cuttings. I have a Concord grapes plant, no fruit yet. I also grow the dwarf fruitless mulberry tree which would be best if planting in the tortoises yard. Some other ideas is Rose of Sharon trees. They have a flower that looks like a hibiscus, flowers and leaf are edible. Lilac is also edible and banana leaf. Other ideas, cactus, lettuces/greens, to name a few.
My local nursery has never heard of dwarf fruitless mulberry trees. They have dwarf and fruitless but not both on the same tree.
 

Lemonade

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Similarly, try some "Cape Honeysuckle" from South Africa. It freezes here in winter but comes back in spring. I see it all over Socal, and it does fine in winter in other milder areas that don't freeze as much as it does up here. It makes clusters of red flowers. My tortoises love the tender green leaves and flowers.


Tom, do your CDT like the honeysuckle?
 

Tom

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Similarly, try some "Cape Honeysuckle" from South Africa. It freezes here in winter but comes back in spring. I see it all over Socal, and it does fine in winter in other milder areas that don't freeze as much as it does up here. It makes clusters of red flowers. My tortoises love the tender green leaves and flowers.


Tom, do your CDT like the honeysuckle?

I don't have any CDT at the moment, but all of my tortoises like the Cape Honeysuckle. Well… they all eat it, so they must like it, right?
 

Big Charlie

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Similarly, try some "Cape Honeysuckle" from South Africa. It freezes here in winter but comes back in spring. I see it all over Socal, and it does fine in winter in other milder areas that don't freeze as much as it does up here. It makes clusters of red flowers. My tortoises love the tender green leaves and flowers.


Tom, do your CDT like the honeysuckle?
Thank you! I've got it on my shopping list.
 
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