The dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is a little perennial with a pretty yellow flower. It is one of the most nutritious plants you can grow for your tortoise. Because this dandelion is not a desert plant, it will need your support to become established. It maintains a low profile¸ except when blooming. Don’t worry, tortoises of all sizes, yes, even hatchlings will find the dandelions even when they are growing among the blades of grass. If you have small juveniles, remember to keep your grass as short as you can without causing is to scorch. Small Juveniles can become exhausted walking through “tall” lawn grass and may die of overheating.
Harvest the fluffy seed heads when they are ready to fall apart in your hand. Keep them dry until you are ready to sow them. If you are creating a patch of dandelions, in a baby tortoise area, or as decorative clumps in your flower bed, keeping the soil moist may be a challenge during hot weather. Soil preparation will be vital for holding moisture and allowing the roots to grow deeply. Dig down at least the length of your shovel blade, loosen the soil, remove the rocks, and incorporate organic matter such as composted mulch. When creating a patch of dandelions, plant your pinch of seeds at least 8″ apart. Thin as necessary and when established, feed with liquid fertilizer.
If you plan to have the plants scattered in the lawn, you should have success even during hot weather if your lawn is irrigated at least every other day. When the soil of the lawn or grass patch is moist, spread the blades of grass, scrape out and collect the soil from a patch about the size of a 50-cent piece and about 1″ to 11/2” deep. An old tablespoon is good for this. Water the hole. Place a little indoor potting mix in the hole then a pinch of seeds, fluff and all, add a bit more potting mix and then the excavated soil. Press lightly in place and sprinkle with water. For the first week, sprinkle with water once a day. One way or another the soil must be kept damp around the seeds.