How long does applying fertilizer on grass make it hazardous for a Gopherus tortoise to graze?

Honuboy

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I recently got my backyard sprayed with hydroseed and it has been blooming and my tortoise has been loving the new growth.

Unfortunately a big part of getting the lawn to come in nice and full is to fertilize it. I wish I didn't have to do it cause I like having my tortoise have free reign on the yard.

How long should I keep him penned away on the side before I let him graze again?

Thanks for any input and advice.

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JoesMum

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I would have said a full season - 12 months to clear it.

My lawn is the weedy shambles it is because Joe has to come first. He lives on it when he's not hibernating. You can't be lawn proud, apart from water, if you want to feed a tortoise from it.
 

dmmj

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I think it depends on what type of fertilizer you use but I would say six months minimum. I can't give more of a definite answer because I don't use fertilizer.
 

Honuboy

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I've decided just to keep him on the side yard. It's pretty much as big as most people's backyards anyways.

I threw in a nice little sod patch with its own little dripper sprinklers and a water saucer that has a dripper refill on it.

He should be happy here don't want to risk any poisoning. Thanks for the advice everyone.

Last thing is a more permanent fence system right now I just got cinder blocks and plywood I ripped blocking him off.

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Tom

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I recently got my backyard sprayed with hydroseed and it has been blooming and my tortoise has been loving the new growth.

Unfortunately a big part of getting the lawn to come in nice and full is to fertilize it. I wish I didn't have to do it cause I like having my tortoise have free reign on the yard.

How long should I keep him penned away on the side before I let him graze again?

This depends entirely on what fertilizer is used, AND AND AND if whatever they use is really just fertilizer with nothing else added, like a "weed n feed".

Be careful. Sometimes the person you ask doesn't really know and just tells you what they think you wanna hear, and sometimes they lie. Ask to see the container and take a picture of it. If it is really just plain fertilizer then a week of heavy watering should make it safe. Fertilizer is really only a problem if they are eating or in direct contact with undiluted actual fertilizer. Once its diluted and in the ground and they can't eat granules or lay in a puddle of it, it should not be toxic.

I asked the groundskeeping manager at my mother-in-law's condo complex if they used any fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers around the place. He assured me with a smile that no, they did not because of people's pets and children. No chemicals of any kind. They just hand pulled or weed whacked any weeds. It wasn't more than a couple of day later that I saw one of his workers walking around with one of those spray backpacks spraying every dandelion in every crack that he could find. Luckily I had not fed any of the weeds from there to my tortoises yet. I still don't know if the guy was really just ignorant about what his people were doing, or if he just lied and told me what I wanted to hear.
 
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Tom

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I bought the fertilizer myself.

It is 16-6-6.

Read the ingredients, or post them here. If its just plain fertilizer, you should be fine. I'm sure you are watering heavily so I'd wait a week or two.
 

Honuboy

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What constitutes plain fertilizer? It's all a chemical mixture of sorts isn't it?

Let me know what you think about the ingredients?

Thanks

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cdmay

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First, nice backyard. Almost has a Japanese garden look...is that zoysia grass?
The fertilizer you're using is really high in nitrogen so make sure you water the area well after the application. There does not appear to be any systemic ingredients in your fertilizer so that's good. The encapsulated nitrogen simply means that the granules break down slowly, depending on rain and or, irrigation. So there is a danger of them being ingested before they are dissolved.
I'd play it safe and keep your tortoise off the lawn until it's completely gone.
 

N2TORTS

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Try Fish emulsion......very HIGH in nitrogen , a rapid break down (it's liquid/soluble to start with ) and completely organic. It will not harm your torts as well if ingested . But remember with all gardens and plants applying too much nitrogen to the soil -- which fish emulsion typically is in abundance -- can result in nitrogen "burn" which hampers the growth of plants. Try 1/2 ounce of fish emulsion to 1 gallon of water and then watered the plants with that to start with.
 

Honuboy

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First, nice backyard. Almost has a Japanese garden look...is that zoysia grass?
The fertilizer you're using is really high in nitrogen so make sure you water the area well after the application. There does not appear to be any systemic ingredients in your fertilizer so that's good. The encapsulated nitrogen simply means that the granules break down slowly, depending on rain and or, irrigation. So there is a danger of them being ingested before they are dissolved.
I'd play it safe and keep your tortoise off the lawn until it's completely gone.

Thanks for the reply.

Any time estimate on that?

I am watering pretty heavily right now. Grass is tall fescue. Thanks for the compliment.
 

Kapidolo Farms

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Yeah, I sold many kinds of fertilizer through a few venues in my spotty employment. Composted manures are the best over all. Chicken being the better of those commonly available (very low salt content). That they have been composted is the key, never use raw manure. If the slight odor of a composted manure is not acceptable then you can apply peat, like what comes in square plastic wrapped bales at garden centers.

These kinds of 'fertilizer' work by improving the health of the soil, not directly to feed the plants. Healthy soil will make plants for the most part better able to do all the nutrient up-take required with out the NPK (plant crack) of most 'formulated ' fertilizers. As these things (composted manure or peat) further break down they release nutrients and improve the biota of small organisms in the soil itself that create the N. The P and the K are not so often limiting nutrients unless in the presence of an elevated N spike.

Potted plants are more difficult to manage for soil health as the soil is so limited. For in ground plants the soil health leads to plant health.

As far as beaded time release fertilizers go, I agree that those little beads just might look like something good to eat to a tortoise not knowing any better. Liquid fertilizers that are not systemic like the fish emulsion are good, they carry a broad range of nutrients that are usually not missing in the first place, but may be missing in your particular soil. They feed the soil, and in this case also directly the plant.
 

Honuboy

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Yeah, I sold many kinds of fertilizer through a few venues in my spotty employment. Composted manures are the best over all. Chicken being the better of those commonly available (very low salt content). That they have been composted is the key, never use raw manure. If the slight odor of a composted manure is not acceptable then you can apply peat, like what comes in square plastic wrapped bales at garden centers.

These kinds of 'fertilizer' work by improving the health of the soil, not directly to feed the plants. Healthy soil will make plants for the most part better able to do all the nutrient up-take required with out the NPK (plant crack) of most 'formulated ' fertilizers. As these things (composted manure or peat) further break down they release nutrients and improve the biota of small organisms in the soil itself that create the N. The P and the K are not so often limiting nutrients unless in the presence of an elevated N spike.

Potted plants are more difficult to manage for soil health as the soil is so limited. For in ground plants the soil health leads to plant health.

As far as beaded time release fertilizers go, I agree that those little beads just might look like something good to eat to a tortoise not knowing any better. Liquid fertilizers that are not systemic like the fish emulsion are good, they carry a broad range of nutrients that are usually not missing in the first place, but may be missing in your particular soil. They feed the soil, and in this case also directly the plant.


Thanks for the post.

You seem to know a lot about fertilizer.

I'm looking for time estimates though. I want to know how long before I give Coco back free reign on the yard.

I am going to apply the fertilizer I posted a pic of today or tomorrow. It's what the hydroseed guy recommended and he seems to know how to make these lawns work.
 

Rue

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I'd say two weeks of heavy watering will do it (probably more than enough...but always nice to have a safety buffer just in case). Just make sure there are none of the little 'beads' still visible.
 

Kapidolo Farms

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I agree with Rue, two weeks of heavy watering. But you can't just apply that metric (two weeks) and believe it, you will have to actually look to see that the beads are gone. That sorta makes them less valuable as a fertilizer because that also means you washed them into low effectiveness.

I understand how the hydroseed guy says one thing, I say another, and there are other opinions out there. For one I'm not selling a product or service, my skin in the game is the hopefully helpful POV I share. My early academic background is production agriculture, and early job was selling poultry manures, both raw and composted. I subsequently worked at a Home Depot in the garden department. I have seen some people want to fool with their lawn/turf alot, like fine tuning some old British sport car with multiple carburetors. Those customers at Home Depot would counter me and end up selling more Scotts than I could have alone. My sister followed by peat advice (apply twice a year) and has subsequently complained about having to mow her grass so much.

For the point, the lawn you have, I suggest added composted manure once in the spring or fall, and peat on rotation during that spring and fall. This is done every year. At about three years the lawn will do okay with either the fall or spring application of either composted manure or peat. There will be a bounty of worms and other decomposers turning your soil and fertilizing. Then is just all about water. However one application of the high NPK fertilizer (Miracle Grow, Scotts, etc) and you will re-boot the system and loose many of the organisms in the soil including worms. Worms do much heavy lifting and aerate the soil for you, and help keep that mowed grass layer from making a paper mache' like water repellent layer that poorly mulched grass can do. When you see worm castings in your lawn, you know you are there. The hydroseed people, Lawn Doctor, etc. try to tell people worm castings are a signal of unhealthy soil. Exactly the opposite is true.

When these things are applied, the composted manure or peat, mow the lawn first to the top of the sheath, then rake the stuff back and forth until it is more or less all settled between the grass blades/sheaths. and water in, one time and you are set for half a year. That first blush of new blades will help you understand the value.
 

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