Steve’s first terrarium

Last week, I taught Steve how to build a simple plant terrarium. He was very excited about the idea. Although he certainly does love animals a whole lot, he also likes plants. We are hoping to put together a hydroponics project sometime later this school year in addition to several other plant related projects.

I have actually wanted to do the terrarium project with Stephen for quite a while. I saved a few empty pickle jars and empty salsa jars some time ago. After peeling off the labels and scrubbing them out, I left the jars and their lids in the basement until we found the right time to do the project and had all of the various supplies on hand. On Tuesday, we finally had our act together and were ready to make our terrarium.

Besides a clean jar, we also needed potting soil, activated charcoal, small rocks, moss, a spoon, and whatever decorative elements we wanted to include. Steve chose a tiny glass parrot figurine he had lying around and a colored glass bauble of the sort we usually keep in the fish tank. Ken picked up the charcoal and pebbles from the pet store for us. The charcoal and rocks can be found in the aquarium aisle. We went with some natural looking rocks, but colored aquarium gravel would work as well if you want to add some color to your finished terrarium.

I still had a partial bag of potting soil lying around from the spring, so we had that covered. The jar we chose was smallish, so we didn’t need a whole lot of potting soil. Steve gathered the moss from our own front yard. Our front yard is always pretty shady, so moss grows there very easily. He also dug up a sprig of clover from the yard to see how it would fare in the terrarium with the moss.

After gathering all of the supplies and plants and bringing them together at the table, Steve was ready to assemble his very first terrarium.

Supplies: soil, charcoal, rocks, clean jar with lid, moss, and decorations

Supplies: soil, charcoal, rocks, clean jar with lid, moss, and decorations

Step one is to put down a layer of rocks in the bottom of the clean jar. The rock layer should be approximately an inch or so tall. If you have a particularly tall jar, you may want to add more rocks.

After the rock layer, comes the charcoal layer. The charcoal functions as a purifier for the closed terrarium system. Use enough charcoal to completely cover over the top of the rock layer.

The last layer is then the potting soil. How much potting soil to use depends somewhat on what plants will be in your terrarium. Moss doesn’t really have deep roots, so I recommended that Steve only use about an inch of soil.

Once the soil is all down, add the moss. All you need to do is place the moss on top of the soil and firmly press it down. Using the handle of the spoon, Steve also dug a little hole in part of the soil so he could plant his sprig of clover. Be sure that any plants you add are not touching the glass sides of the terrarium. Any condensation that forms on the glass could easily rot your poor plants if they are too close.

Press the moss down firmly.

Press the moss down firmly.

Once everything is planted, add any decorations you want. Steve’s poor parrot kept flopping over, so he had to nudge the dirt around it to prop it up.

Just about finished.

Just about finished.

After everything is in place, lightly mist the moss and screw the lid back onto the jar. Move the terrarium to a spot that isn’t too sunny as moss prefers some shade.

It's raining...

It's raining...

Steve and I are looking forward to making more terrariums. I have been on the look out for any cool looking glass containers I can find that would be appropriate.

Today at Walmart, I found a very neat glass container in the shape of a pumpkin. We’re looking forward to making a fall-themed terrarium complete with tiny pumpkin figures and perhaps a tiny scarecrow! The glass pumpkin is much larger than our pickle jar, so I think we’ll have room for a bit of fern or some other greenery as well as the moss.

Future terrarium project

Future terrarium project

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