February 10, 2009

DIY: Make Your Own Terrariums

More great content (courtesy of DominoMag.com) that I'm salvaging. I haven't made one yet but a terrarium is on the list of great weekend projects for when I feel like getting down and dirty.

With virtually no maintenance, even the brownest thumb can create and care for these little glass gardens.

What You'll Need:
Clear glass container with wide mouth for easy access
orted small plants
Potting soil


Pencil Newspapers or drop cloth (optional)
Dried sheet moss (optional)

Step 1: Plant Shopping

Head over to your local plant nursery and see what types of small plants you are drawn to. Ferns, tropicals, cacti and succulents will all work well, as long as the plants you choose have similar watering and light requirements.

Step 2: Preparing your materials

Be creative with your glass container. Household items like a Mason jar, fishbowl, pickle jar or even a vase will work just fine. The wider the opening, the easier it will be to plant. After you've mastered the basics you can then graduate to planting in domes or small-necked bottles.

Once you have decided on your terrarium's container, lay down a drop cloth or newspapers on your workspace to catch stray dirt and gravel. Keeping your materials within arm's reach will help to contain your mess.

Step 3: Creating Drainage

Because terrariums are very humid environments, it's important to encourage soil drainage.

First, add a layer of gravel that solidly covers the bottom of your container. This will keep the roots from standing in water.

Next, add a 1/4" layer of charcoal on top of the gravel.

Finally, add a layer of potting soil. The soil should fill up slightly less than half of the container's height.

Step 4: Preparing your plants

To ready your plants for potting, gently remove their containers. While holding the soil steady, wiggle the plastic pot off.

Gingerly loosen the surrounding soil from your plants until their individual roots are free and visible.

Step 5: Planting your specimens

Use a pencil or your fingertips to create a small hole for the plant.

Lower the plant into the hole and pat the surrounding soil down to stabilize its new resident.

Repeat these steps with all of your plants, allowing for growing room.

Step 6: Finishing touches

With all of your plants in place, you can now spruce up your terrarium with sheet moss or decorative flourishes like figurines.

Sheet moss is a great way to add color and texture to your garden. After slightly wetting the moss, use a pencil or your fingertips to tuck a layer on top of your soil. It will help stabilize your new plantings

and create a more natural, realistic environment.

Step 7: Different types of terrariums

Once you've mastered the basics of terrarium planting, you can graduate to using a wider variety of containers, like domes, bell jars or narrow necked bottles. The potting method doesn't change. You may, however, need a few extra tools to get the job done.

For dome terrariums, you'll need a slightly smaller dish to hold your plants. It won't be seen, so plastic take-out containers will work just fine.

For narrow-necked bottles, you'll need a longer tool to guide your plants to the soil. Long handled tweezers, chopsticks or taped-together pencils should do the trick.

Step 8: Extra Credit

When creating a classic dome terrarium, cut a long strip of sheet moss to wrap around the sides and top of your dish. The moss will cover up the unsightly container and add a lush texture to your planting.

To upgrade a jar-style terrarium, try lining the sides with sheet moss prior to adding the gravel. This will camouflage the soil so the whole terrarium will seem to be growing.

Step 9: Terrarium care

A closed terrarium only needs to be lightly misted every 6 weeks, less frequently if it contains cacti. If your terrarium is lidded, leave the lid off for one day or so every month to promote air circulation, especially after watering.

You may need to prune dead leaves and periodically trim back overgrowth to keep your new terrarium happy for years to come.


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