April 11, 2017
Hey pickles, spring is in the air! I’m so excited about getting my pasty legs out and bluebells – oh bluebell season! But most importantly it’s repotting/ rejigging/ indoor gardening time! I always joke that some people go to the pub on a Friday night, I go to the garden centre. Except now I’m realising it’s not actually a joke…. or at least a not very funny one! So seeing as I’ve been doing a little refresh I figured a Terrarium DIY was in order.
My love affair with Terrariums started back at the tender age of 5 when my mum had one of those amazing giant boiling flask types in our living room. Except back then we called it a bottle garden and had no idea how cool she was (is) total trend forecaster! & I wasn’t born in the 70’s so it totally wasn’t a thing then. Since then I’ve made a bunch with varying degrees of success. And you know what there is a ton of stuff on the inter webs about terrariums made with succulents, but not a great deal about working with closed jar terrariums. So I figured I could totally share what I’ve learnt so far.
The main difference is that succulents and air plants thrive in open terrariums and ferns, ivy and moisture loving plants favour a closed jar. Once a closed terrarium is established you shouldn’t even need to water it. They become their own little eco system – pretty cool!
(closed) Terrarium DIY shopping list
Charcoal / Activated Carbon
Selection of humid loving plants- I’m opting for Fittonia (the pink one) and 3 varieties of Ivy
Tools – Chopsticks / Tweezers / used cotton reels / bamboo / brush
First a quick word on tools- don’t go out and buy a bunch of tools for the job, use what you got! I use a little brush I got in the 100 yen store in Tokyo but radiator brushes work great too. Chopsticks are good for easing roots into the compost, tweezers – I have a long pair that works well for small vessels. Although the vessel I’m using today has a nice wide neck so you can get your hands in. This might be a good plan for your first go! I’ll put a bunch of stuff on a Pinterest board and link it at the bottom if you need some ideas of what to go for.
Okay lets get busy
Wash both your stones and your vessel, you don’t want any unwanted nasties getting in there before you’ve even started.
First step is to add your pebbles/ stones. I just grabbed a small bag of potting grit which is about the size of the stuff you see in fish tanks. Visually slighter larger stones can look really nice but it’s totally up to you. I added about an inch or so to mine which if you like maths I worked out that the filled area will be about 1 third of the vessel and the stones will account for about 1 third of that, which is 1/9th of the total capacity. Lost yet?! Obviously it doesn’t have to be an exact science but you want your plants to have enough space and oxygen to grow and survive! If you cram that sucker too fill it won’t end well.
Once you’ve added your stones, sprinkle you carbon / activated charcoal on top and evenly distribute amongst the stones. This will stop your terrarium getting stinky and prevent mildew. You can find it in the aquarium section at the garden centre or grab some online. For a small terrarium (mason jar sized) a teaspoon will do it but mine is quite big so I opted for about 3 teaspoons.
Filling it up
Next up you want to add your compost, I go for a fairly standard potting soil which seems to work. I’ve read you can also add pumice or a layer of moss before the soil. I don’t usually do this step though and so far so good! You can opt for a standard even layer of compost or make raised areas, a sloping terrarium or any other fancy shmancy business you fancy. This time around I’m keeping it simple and going for even ground.
Once you have added your compost you can use your hand (if your vessel allows) or a cocktail muddler or anything you have handy that fits in your vessel to part down the soil. Don’t go crazy but enough that the soil has structure and will hold your little plant babies in place.
When you buy your plants you’ll most likely get 3 or 4 plants in one pot – perhaps without realising. Ease them out of the pot and gently tease the roots to separate into individual plants.
Nows the fun bit where you get to tirelessly place and rearrange all of your plant babies! I pop them in without planting them to figure our the layout but you might be the more impulsive type. If so get right in there. Be careful to gently prod the roots into place with some bamboo, your fingers or some the chopstick. Then make sure the soil around the roots is patted and compact enough for them to stand tall.
Once you’ve placed all your plants you can add moss and pebbles to the surface. If you foraged your own moss make sure you wash it and let it soak a little. Don’t be too concerned about dry bits- they’ll rehydrate in their new home. I grabbed a big bag of moss in Rotterdam – strange souvenir perhaps? and every time I visit my family in Wales I liberate a bit and bring it back with me. You can of course totally just buy some online if you can’t find it at the garden centre (which I never could) Florists also sometimes have it for arrangements.
& you’re done!
Spritz that guy a bunch as he’s not going to get any water for a while and close/ pop the lid on. It’ll be a bit of a foggy condensation filled affair for a few days while it adjusts but soon enough it’ll find it’s little eco rhythm and look shiny and clear again.
& there you have it! You made your first Terraium DIY. It’s a slippery slope form here folks , my boyfriend calls our flat Jumanji!
If like me you get the bug and would like to make more you can (and totally should) sign up for one of London Terrariums workshops! or go see their beautiful handiwork at Heals RIGHT NOW!
Here’s the little dude in situe! Still a little foggy (avoid radiators – learnt that the hard way!) I put a bunch of useful links, suitable plants and vessel suggestions over here on Pinterest – hopefully marginally useful!
More soon! xx