Making a Terrarium

Once you've got your container and your plants, you're ready to create a terrarium. Here's what you'll need:

  • A wire hanger
  • Pieces of rubber and sponge
  • Horticultural charcoal (available from your local nursery)
  • Potting soil
  • Gravel
  • A funnel
  • A shovel (can be an iced-tea spoon)
  • A placer (can be a wire puller from the hardwarestore)
  • A tamper (can be a dowel with a cork on the end)
  • Long-handled tweezers (find these at a aquarium supply store; some skilled people use chopsticks in a similar way)
  • A small, soft-bristled brush
  • Cotton swabs
  • A sprayer bottle
  • A kitchen baster
  • Long scissors

You'll also need a mixture of soil. Here's a recipe:

  • 1 part sand
  • 1 part topsoil
  • 1 part leaf mold or peat moss

The soil you choose will depend somewhat on the plants you decide on...desert, tropical, or forest plants will all require different soils. Books on terrariums usually provide soil recipes or your local nursery might help with the right ingredient proportions. Some experimentation might be required.

Now you're ready to create a living landscape. First plant the larger plants, then the smaller ones. Next come the trailing plants and ground covers. Fill in with gravel or redwood chips and add any finishing touches.

Don't be afraid of making a mistake. It can easily be corrected. If a plant is in the wrong place, just move it. If it looks like it's going to outgrow the container, you can trim it back.

Watering will vary based on how much moisture you added when you first put the plants in, the types of plants in your terrarium, the temperature of the room, the size of the opening, and the humidity of the room (if your terrarium is even partially open).

You'll learn when to water your terrarium by observation. If there's no more condensation appearing, you need to water. If the terrarium feels particularly light when you pick it up, it probably needs water. If you can easily open the top of the terrarium, the best way to tell if it needs water is to feel the soil. After a while, you'll probably be able to tell just by looking at your terrarium when it's dry or you'll find that a watering schedule begins to emerge.

You'll need to air the terrarium every so often, even with plants that like a lot of humidity. If you find a lot of condensation, water standing at the bottom, or signs of fungus, mold, or mildew, open up the container and let in some drying air. Again, over time you'll probably see a fairly regular interval emerging: You may need to let in some air once a week or less.

Experiment with the amount of light you give your terrarium. You'll also have to trim and fertilize your plants from time to time. Generally, plants that need strong light do best in a window that faces west or south, while low-light plants favor a north or east-facing window. Use a houseplant fertilizer diluted twice as much as is recommended for regular houseplants. Use a baster or funnel to get the fertilizer into the soil-avoid getting it on the leaves of the plants.

Once you've grown a few of your own plants, take some of the leaves or flowers and press them into ornaments with this pressed flower project.

More on: Crafts for Kids

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crafts with Kids © 1998 by Georgene Lockwood. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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