I've been wanting to make a terrarium for a long time. I love how, when they are prepared correctly, they are their own self contained little world, completely self-sufficient. Some time ago, John got me the book Gardens in Glass Containers, which proved to be an enthusiastic introduction to terraria. Today, I finally got around to putting some together. Their pretty easy to assemble - I'll share some basic instructions with you.
To begin, you'll need to gather some supplies. Here's what I used:
-interesting glass containers with lids
- my favorite houseplants
- some plants from outside, including moss I gathered from our yard (you may have to buy this if you don't have any)
- pebbles John collected from Lake Superior (regular gravel will do)
- all purpose soil
- homemade tools (including chopsticks, a coat hanger, surgical scissors, a funnel, and L's nose-sucker).
I would also recommend getting a book on terrariums, because plants have different needs and various problems can arise, so a good book can help you maintain your terraria for a long time.
Next, I thoroughly cleaned and dried my containers, and I assembled two smaller containers with wide mouths to get the hang of it first. Then I went for the trickier, and cooler looking, bottle.
Let's get started! First, you roll the moss into a tube and insert it into your clean bottle.
Using whatever tool will work, you shape the moss into a cup, green side out, that will hold the soil. Then using a funnel, tube, or just really good aim, make a small layer of gravel inside the moss cup. You also need to add a little charcoal here to keep it smelling sweet (the activated charcoal, like in your aquarium filter). Next, layer the soil on top of the gravel, filling up the moss cup.
Using your tools, prepare a small hole for your plant. Then carefully push the plant, roots first into the bottle. I planted a cutting from my fittonia, a plant I have adored for about a year. It has beautiful pink leaves with green veins.
Poke the roots into the hole, and press the dirt around the plant, securing it in place. This takes a little finagling and patience. I dropped a few of John's pretty rocks in and rolled and pressed them down to pat the soil in place. I also had to invent a little chop stick mop to clean the inside of the glass. It turned out okay, but I never got the inside of the bottle very clean. (Pipe cleaners would be great for this.)
When you're all done, you water it carefully, not too much. This is what I used the nose sucker for (yes, that's the technical name) because I could aim the water at the roots and avoid the leaves.
So here's the finished fittonia in a bottle. I hope it grows and fills the space nicely.
This one is in a short glass jar with glass lid and rubber seal. It was easy to assemble because of the wide mouth. It has two small cuttings from my grandmother's jade plant and a pretty green rock of John's. I also put a little moss on top - I just love moss.
I made this tiny baby food jar terrarium first. I love those tiny flowers outside that carpet our valley - you know the kind that is so tiny you usually don't notice them. This contains a bit of clover and one of those little yellow flowers. I made the soil slope a little, and made a small line of rocks on one side to emphasize the slope. I like the different levels of soil, but it was much to hard to repeat in the bottle garden.
So here are all three, looking fine in my kitchen window. Ta da!
Terrariums don't require a lot of maintenance, but you should watch them to make sure the water level inside is correct. If, over time, the leaves begin to rot and mold grows, you have too much water and should remove the lid for a little while to let some evaporate. If the leaves dry up, they need more water. Good luck!
After a few days with my terrariums, I realized I started with too much water! Hopefully these pictures will help you see some of the signs of how much is too much. Some condensation is necessary, it shows that the "rain cycle" is working. But if you have so much condensation that you can not see inside, it's too much. Like this:
The simple solution is just too take the top off and let some of the moisture evaporate. This takes longer with bottles than with wide mouth jars. All three of mine had too much, so I opened them all up. I've been opening and closing my jars for the last few days, and they seem to finally be leveling out. The bottle is still too cloudy, and so I haven't put the lid back on at all.
It's not a big deal now to take the lid off, and keep an eye on it. But if you don't take care of this now, you'll get mold and rotting plants.
A second sign that there is too much water is if the moss on the bottom is drenched. You can sort of see that here in this picture:
It's been fun watching these and trying to balance out the water level. I made three new ones today using (left to right) a begonia, palms, and more jade with a begonia. Hoping to prevent my water problem, I made sure that my moss and soil were mostly dry when I put them in (I think they were both pretty wet last time). This kept the sides of the jar from getting so dirty, too. Also, this time I felt like I had a better feel of how much water to add, (only a few tablespoons). So we'll see how these do. Now I've just got to find some more window space...