How many Prickly Pear plants should I grow?

innocent

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Looking for some advice on growing two adult Desert Torts fresh cactus. I have plenty of property (as the first picture shows i literally have wild cactus growing on it)but have decided to grow a row of the Prickly Pears strictly for tortoise food. I so far planted five plants (as pictured) but can get as many more as needed. I never worked with this plant and it is a very painful plant to mess with (to me this is Satan's cabbage not Marijanna) and only want enough to feed. It is outside their fenced area but is close enough to water occasionally and harvest easily. I am starting many edible plants and gasses for them this year in their yard but this is on the outside.
My questions are
1 how soon till I can start harvesting off plants of this size?
2 how much can I harvest off each plant when they are large enough?
3 should I start more plants and as they get bigger remove some to begin harvesting sooner?
4 how many plants is the best amount for 2 tortoises?

Thank you to those who take the time to answer.
 

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Tom

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Dude... Plant 1000 of them! I'll give you the starter pads!!! :D

Seriously though, I am just south of you at the northern end of SCV. I pass through Acton almost daily. I will take any surplus and I have a friend in Sand Canyon that could literally feed out a truck load every week. You will never have too much!

To answer your question: I would say plant at least 10 of them for two tortoises. 20 if you have the time and interest, and here is why:
1. The rabbits, gophers, ground squirrels, field mice, kangaroo rats and every other critter is going to take a heavy toll and destroy a lot of what you plant.
2. It stops producing in late fall/winter.
3. The tortoises prefer the tender young new pads, and often shun the older tougher more mature pads. You will need a lot of cactus stands with a lot of branching to produce enough of these tender new pads.
4. Every time I plant new pads, some of them take off and thrive, and others sit there and do nothing, or rot. Plant way more than you think you will need in anticipation of this fact.
5. It will take two or three years to get enough going from scratch.
6. If you have surplus, I promise it will NOT go to waste.

Some tips:
1. Plant several different varieties. I can help with this. I have about 6 varieties and will happily give you some.
2. Let fresh cut pads scar over for a good two weeks. Keep them outside, but in the shade. Then stick the scarred ends into dry dirt, and do not water for one month. After a solid month, water them once a week in spring and fall, and not at all in winter. Twice a week in summer. Make a basin at the bottom of each plant and trickle water into the basin until it fills up. Don't just fill the basin with a fast running hose. Let it slowly trickle until the ground there is saturated and the basin slowly fills up.
3. When the cochineal bugs find your cactus, and they will, simply squirt them off with a hose nozzle once a week.
 

Tom

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@Tom - why plant several varieties? I just have one and curious. Thank you.
Variety is the spice of life! :)

Seriously though, different varieties are good to offer the tortoises. Just as one type of weed, like mallow for example, is good, it is better to offer a variety of weeds in the diet. Same for the cactus.

Also, some varieties do better than others for some reason. Weather, climate, soil types, etc... Planting several varieties ensures your time is not wasted if some don't do as well as others.

Some varieties produce more spines and glochids than others. Some taste better and have different textures. Some are softer and more succulent than others. Some grow faster and produce more than others. I have my favorites, and so do my torts.
 

innocent

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Variety is the spice of life! :)

Seriously though, different varieties are good to offer the tortoises. Just as one type of weed, like mallow for example, is good, it is better to offer a variety of weeds in the diet. Same for the cactus.

Also, some varieties do better than others for some reason. Weather, climate, soil types, etc... Planting several varieties ensures your time is not wasted if some don't do as well as others.

Some varieties produce more spines and glochids than others. Some taste better and have different textures. Some are softer and more succulent than others. Some grow faster and produce more than others. I have my favorites, and so do my torts.
My neighbor let me take any amount I want because their whole backyard has it. They only have the one type though. I was thinking this isn't the best time to plant but they are free and I want them in the ground now ready for spring. I am not in a big hurry but I just want to harvest healthy food eventually and want to do it right. I have no problem planting 15 more. I would love different varieties if you are serious about your offer. I can pick em up any day. I can find more over time though if it's a hassle. Getting 20 in the ground is fine with me and I'm sure some will die and need to be replaced.
 

ZEROPILOT

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I bought two pads at a Hispanic grocery store. I planted them in pots. Years later I had two plants that probably weighed 600 pounds each.and had taken over a corner of my yard after shattering the giant pots they had grown in.

I had another experience years earlier with an unwanted cactus that I ran over with my lawnmower. Every peice of that cactus that was larger than an inch grew into a new cactus plant.

I don't know what your experience might be. But mine is that they are MUCH easier to grow than to kill.
I trim my remaining plant at least once a month and it still provides more pads and fruit than I can ever use.
 
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innocent

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I bought two pads at a Hispanic grocery store.
Years later I had two plants that probably weighed 600 pounds each.and had taken over a corner of my yard after shattering the giant pots they had grown in.

I had another experience years earlier with an unwanted cactus that I ran over with my lawnmower. Every peice of that cactus that was larger than an inch grew into a new cactus plant.

I don't know what your experience might be. But mine is that they are MUCH easier to grow than to kill.
I trim my remaining plant at least once a month and it still provides more pads and fruit than I can
Wow two plants is enough for you? I guess individual plants can get huge. If I trim many plants often maybe they will
Stay smaller?

How funny mowing a cactus down to have it spawn into a thousand haha
 

ZEROPILOT

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Wow two plants is enough for you? I guess individual plants can get huge. If I trim many plants often maybe they will
Stay smaller?

How funny mowing a cactus down to have it spawn into a thousand haha
The two plants probably had 200 pads each on them. I only fed off the tiny and soft pads but they grew back so quickly!
 

SinLA

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This is timely, I am also about to plant some. But I am specifically looking for spineless prickly pear and had trouble finding it. I was thinking of 1 or 2 as this is just for a small front yard... do they grow quickly?

How do you deal with spines for tortoises, I'd be afraid of "missing" one on cleaning (also why deal with spines if you don't have to?). I did eventually find a place, which is INSANE they have like a million succulents and cacti, its crazy how big it is: https://www.california-cactus-succulents.com/ (recommended to me by Green Thumb in Santa Clarita)

but open to suggestions if you know somewhere else to look...
 

ZEROPILOT

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This is timely, I am also about to plant some. But I am specifically looking for spineless prickly pear and had trouble finding it. I was thinking of 1 or 2 as this is just for a small front yard... do they grow quickly?

How do you deal with spines for tortoises, I'd be afraid of "missing" one on cleaning (also why deal with spines if you don't have to?). I did eventually find a place, which is INSANE they have like a million succulents and cacti, its crazy how big it is: https://www.california-cactus-succulents.com/ (recommended to me by Green Thumb in Santa Clarita)

but open to suggestions if you know somewhere else to look...
The spines or glochids don't need to be removed. Yet I still do with leather gloves.
And as far as truly spineless cactus go....I've only seen them with fewer spines. Not truly spineless. Even though they're called "spineless".
Look anywhere that there is a Spanish/Mexican grocery store. They sell individual pads for human consumption (Nopales) and some of them are "spineless".
Just buy a few a jam them 2 or 3 inches into some soil. Done.
 

Tom

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This is timely, I am also about to plant some. But I am specifically looking for spineless prickly pear and had trouble finding it. I was thinking of 1 or 2 as this is just for a small front yard... do they grow quickly?

How do you deal with spines for tortoises, I'd be afraid of "missing" one on cleaning (also why deal with spines if you don't have to?). I did eventually find a place, which is INSANE they have like a million succulents and cacti, its crazy how big it is: https://www.california-cactus-succulents.com/ (recommended to me by Green Thumb in Santa Clarita)

but open to suggestions if you know somewhere else to look...
I used to try and carefully remove all spines. I knew that desert tortoises and Galapagos tortoise eat the regular fully spined versions in the wild, but what about tortoises that come from areas like Africa or Madagascar where there are no native cacti? At the TTPG one year, I saw video of wild radiated tortoises eating the fully spined version in Madagascar. After that, I stopped worrying about the tiny spines and glochids on my "spineless" varieties. I literally cut off pads and drop them into every enclosure. All of my torts of all species have been eating these for years with no issues to report.

You are also welcome to some of mine for free.
 

TortoiseLili

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I used to try and carefully remove all spines. I knew that desert tortoises and Galapagos tortoise eat the regular fully spined versions in the wild, but what about tortoises that come from areas like Africa or Madagascar where there are no native cacti? At the TTPG one year, I saw video of wild radiated tortoises eating the fully spined version in Madagascar. After that, I stopped worrying about the tiny spines and glochids on my "spineless" varieties. I literally cut off pads and drop them into every enclosure. All of my torts of all species have been eating these for years with no issues to report.

You are also welcome to some of mine for free.
It is good to know that I don't need to remove all the spines as I am highly allergic to them. Thank you.
 

SinLA

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Thanks for the offer, tho I prefer “spineless” aesthetically for my front yard as well.

I cannot comprehend eating the spines as ok, even if evolution tells us otherwise. I’ll err on the side of caution, especially for a Russian…
 

Yvonne G

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@Turtulas-Len showed us one of his inventions a while back on how he feeds the pads to his tortoises. Hopefully he'll see this alert and give us the link to his post.

I have three or four full grown opuntia plants and fifteen or twenty tortoises. I don't feed cactus every day, but those plants are plenty for my tortoises.
 

Tom

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Thanks for the offer, tho I prefer “spineless” aesthetically for my front yard as well.

I cannot comprehend eating the spines as ok, even if evolution tells us otherwise. I’ll err on the side of caution, especially for a Russian…
All I have are spineless varieties.
 

innocent

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I was looking at some old cactus threads and see I can torch off the spines. This is way easier then I was thinking. I also know that Desert Torts eat spines in the wild so am not worried about a few getting in there.

I will PM my phone # to you Tom. I would love to try and grow a couple varieties of Opunta. I appreciate this and will happily pick them up at your convenience.
 
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bioteach

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Looking for some advice on growing two adult Desert Torts fresh cactus. I have plenty of property (as the first picture shows i literally have wild cactus growing on it)but have decided to grow a row of the Prickly Pears strictly for tortoise food. I so far planted five plants (as pictured) but can get as many more as needed. I never worked with this plant and it is a very painful plant to mess with (to me this is Satan's cabbage not Marijanna) and only want enough to feed. It is outside their fenced area but is close enough to water occasionally and harvest easily. I am starting many edible plants and gasses for them this year in their yard but this is on the outside.
My questions are
1 how soon till I can start harvesting off plants of this size?
2 how much can I harvest off each plant when they are large enough?
3 should I start more plants and as they get bigger remove some to begin harvesting sooner?
4 how many plants is the best amount for 2 tortoises?

Thank you to those who take the time to answer.
I live in Phoenix and my native Desert Tortoise has access to all of the Prickly Pear pads that she could possibly eat. That being said, she refuses to eat them. I "dethorn" them as much as possible, I cut them up as well as offer whole pads; and the same goes with the fruits that are currently ripe and sweet. Her response: Total rejection!

So, before you plant you might do a test run to see how enthusiastic your tort is about eating. If she is like mine, don't bother. If she likes them, start small and see how it goes.
 

SinLA

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I live in Phoenix and my native Desert Tortoise has access to all of the Prickly Pear pads that she could possibly eat. That being said, she refuses to eat them. I "dethorn" them as much as possible, I cut them up as well as offer whole pads; and the same goes with the fruits that are currently ripe and sweet. Her response: Total rejection!

So, before you plant you might do a test run to see how enthusiastic your tort is about eating. If she is like mine, don't bother. If she likes them, start small and see how it goes.
I get mine at the farmers market and he likes them a lot. On the other hand won’t touch dandelion greens!!!!
 

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