Wednesday, October 21, 2009


How to make a closed-environment terrarium:

Get your supplies ready and set up, and just do it. If you're into that sort of thing. I used the counter space in my bathroom, but anywhere that is easy to clean up works just fine.

What you'll need:

  • Terrarium. This can be any number of things. An aquarium with a lid, a pickle jar, an old apothecary jar, a mason jar that you want to retire from canning, whatever you like. It just needs to be able to be closed tight, if you want a closed-environment terrarium, and transparent, so you can see your creation. (Keep in mind that ornate glass jars and containers, while nice on their own, can detract from visibility.)
  • Live moss, and if you like-- a small selection of plants.
  • Small stones/large pebbles, for drainage at the bottom.
  • Activated Carbon, to stave off weird smells.
  • Sheet moss or moss-like greenery, to use as a filler and to hide unseemly dirt. (Can be purchased at any craft store.)
  • Skewer, pencil, or other long thin stick-like apparatus that can be used to get into the terrarium. This gives you better control of where things go and how the end product will appear.
  • Floral wire. This is optional, but can really help you keep your live moss in place.

To get started, you'll want to put about an inch or so of pebbles in the bottom of your terrarium. I used a wide-mouth container, so I just placed them in by the handful, but if your container pinches in at the top, just make a funnel out of some stiff paper to make your life easier. Then cover that with a small layer of activated carbon. Like I mentioned before, this keeps icky smells away. Then, what I did was stuff some "moss" into the terrarium to create a mound to work off of. I then covered that with a little clean fill dirt (potting soil).

It's all about layering.
I arranged the plants and moss somewhat in a bowl to see how they'd interact with one another, and then I recreated that (kind of) in the terrarium. I put the plants in and then live moss around them, patting them into place. There are three different kinds of moss in there, but I'm pretty sure they'll all be happy together. (I found two of them within 3 feet of one another.)

On the areas that slope, you may want to pin your moss into place.

To make the pins, I just cut a few inches of floral wire, and then bent the pieces in half. Easy-peasy. Then you just stick that through your moss so that it is secured. (Photo further down.)

When everything was in its place and I was happy with how it looked, I watered the terrarium just a little bit, and put the lid on. I'll watch it for a while to make sure it is stable, not too wet, and not too dry. And after that? I'll just sit back and enjoy it for a while (making sure that it gets plenty of indirect sunlight, as not to cook it).

Looking down onto the whole of it.

Terrarium, complete.

Terrarium, up close.

So right now this terrarium is a very green space, but I'm considering putting a little glass or ceramic figurine in there.

So you get done and you find you have a little extra moss hanging around, what do you do? Why, you make a second, smaller terrarium. For this one, I used a pickle jar. I happened to have a tiny little faux terracotta pot, so I put a couple of pebbles in the bottom of it, then some carbon, and piled the soil into a mound. I most definitely used pins that I made out of floral wire here.

Pins, lined up.

I loved how over-flowing the tiny little pot looked, and was content with just that simple design.

I decided against having the lid as the top of this particular piece. Assembling it the other way around gave me a better view of the moss, and better utilized the space.

Small terrarium, done

Winter is coming, and I wanted to save a little green for myself. Mission accomplished.

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