terarriumA closed terrarium facilitates gardening on a very small scale. You can easily create a beautiful green vignette to enhance any room in your home or workplace.

Begin with choosing a suitable container. It must be clear glass or plastic with a tight-fitting lid or cover. Colored glass will not let enough light in for the plants to flourish. You may use a container with a narrow opening, but it will be more difficult for you to plant and tend. While there are specifically designed terrarium containers, other options include large glass cookie or candy jars, old fish bowls, fish tanks, half-gallon canning jars, old apothecary jars and lidded brandy sniffers. Choose a container that will blend with the decor of your home or office.

You must be extra cautious for not to introduce pests and pathogens into your terrarium, as this humid enclosed environment is a perfect breeding ground. Wash your hands or wear clean gloves while building and maintaining your terrarium. Start with a very clean container. Wash it with soap and hot water. Rinse well in cool water and air dry. If you feel the need to use a commercial glass cleaner, keep the lid removed and wait a few days before your initial planting. This will allow time for all fumes to escape.

You will need a soilless potting mix with relatively low fertility. Garden soil is much too heavy and will compact. Before placing the potting soil in the container, mix in some charcoal. Just a handful or two is all you need, depending on the size of your container. Charcoal will add organic matter and absorb any chemicals or odors. The tiny pores in the charcoal hold water and nutrients and later make them available to the plants. Place enough potting soil in your terrarium to equal the depth of the largest root ball of your chosen plants. This soil should be just damp, not soaking wet.

As far as selection of plants is concerned, start with the “right plant-right place” theory.  Moist woodland or tropical plants would be the best choice. Succulents and cacti do not make good terrarium plants; save those for your open terrarium or dish garden. Choose small slow growers or naturally dwarf plants that will fit into your container with room to spare. Remove any dead or yellowed leaves before planting. Moss, lichen and ferns are natural choices for a terrarium, because of their fondness for moisture and their ability to thrive in dim settings. Choose plants with similar light and moisture requirements for the same container. Plant the smallest plants first.

Do not place your terrarium in direct sunlight. It will cook. The preferable location is in a bright room or near a bright window.

Lot many types of terrarium tools are available. A long-handled kitchen spoon is a good substitute for a shovel to create a pocket in the soil at planting time or to remove a plant later. A cork attached to a skewer or chopstick with a rubber band creates a great tool for tamping down the soil after planting.

Avoid choosing too many variegated plants or too many plants with colored foliage. This is a small space — more is not better. This is also a good rule for adding non-plant materials such as a stone or twig or a curved line of pebbles to designate a path.

Once you are finished with the installation , clean off any dirty leaves and the inside glass of the container. Terrarium will need to be watered, but do it gently.  The misting may be enough. It is easy to add a little more water later but difficult to remove any excess. Establish a rain cycle within the terrarium. The first several days will require your attention. If there is water on the foliage, let it dry before placing the lid on the terrarium. Once lidded, there should be condensation on the inside that rolls down and waters the soil. The goal is that the condensation should look like a light fog. Anything heavier and you’ll need to remove the lid for a day or two.

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