Garden Photo of the Day

Making a Garden for Pet Turtles

Giving rescued turtles everything they need to thrive

Melissa McClelland sent in some beautiful photos of her garden recently, which we shared on the GPOD, and then she mentioned in passing that she had a special section of her garden specifically for the rescue pet turtles she fosters. I was so interested that I had to ask for photos, which she kindly sent in. We’ve featured gardens designed around entertaining, kids playing, food production, butterflies, bees, and so much more, but I’m pretty certain this is the first garden we’ve featured designed for turtles!

Here’s what Melissa had to say about her turtle garden:

My husband and I planned and built the turtle garden in May 2017 when we decided to become a foster home through the Turtle Rescue League in Massachusetts. We chose turtle- and tortoise-friendly plants such as strawberry, campanula, hosta, oregano, lavender, geranium, and sweet woodruff. Turtle gardens require a shallow water source so the turtles can soak, a nest box for the cooler nights, and tons of available sun and shade. Our first foster was a Hermann’s tortoise, and if you look closely, you can find the current foster in one of the photos, a box turtle.

The turtle garden, with an enclosure to keep the turtles safe, and a diversity of plants surrounding it.

These turtles have a pretty nice view, with a big mass of flower geraniums as well as strawberries to provide a sweet treat.

Inside the turtle enclosure grow sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, Zones 4–8) and a hosta.

View of the plantings outside the turtle enclosure.

Inside the turtle enclosure, the current rescue box turtle looks out from under a hosta leaf. With access to a safe den, sunny and shady places to hang out, and water to soak in, this turtle has a pretty good life!


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/23/2019

    What an interesting thing you do! Everything is lovely!

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/23/2019

    How nice, Melissa, that your nurturing instincts not only benefit all your beautiful plants but extend to an animal that most of us take for granted can fend for itself. The enclosure that you and your husband built looks very nice and well done.

  3. Chris_N 07/23/2019

    Very nice garden and turtle enclosure. Female eastern box turtle? Her eyes look brown instead of red but it could just be the light.

  4. btucker9675 07/23/2019

    Love this!!!

  5. User avater
    simplesue 07/24/2019

    The turtle habitats are really nice, those little turtles are well cared for and lucky little guys! What a nice people you and your husband are to care for them. Thank you for being kind to animals.

  6. smithjoara 07/01/2022

    This is a pretty cool garden.
    It’s called a “Turtle Garden” (I’m not sure if that’s the official name or not, but I think it’s cool) and it uses composting and mulching to keep the turtles healthy and happy.
    The entire operation is relatively low cost (it costs almost nothing to get started, but you can easily extend the system as you need, though the author says it works best for about 10 turtles). The components are:
    • A compost bin with a lid, which collects (and mixes) all waste from the turtle enclosure, including food waste from all three species of turtle: python, bushbaby and tortoiseshell.
    • A cover over the bin which prevents food waste from getting into their enclosure.
    • A water source for the turtles — either a small spray bottle filled with water or a drip irrigation system depending on how many you have.
    It would be great if more people could take advantage of this kind of technology so that we can all live more sustainably. I bet many people would love to help out in this way, but just don’t feel up to doing it. So maybe if I were you, I would find some people who might want to give it a try!

  7. smithjoara 08/17/2022

    The turtle living spaces are truly great, those little turtles are all around focused on and fortunate little men! What a pleasant group you and your better half are to really focus on them. Much obliged to you for being thoughtful to creatures. Parti Yorkie Haircut

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