Making a DIY terrarium

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It's National Gardening Week so we thought we would share a really simple way to build your own little garden.

There are many well known health benefits to plants.  There are even studies showing how having plants in your house can boost your mental health.  EcoWatch talks about 7 Science backed health benefits of having plants at home but what do you do if you have limited space?

A Terrarium is a great way to build a small garden inside. It is really cheap (can be done free) and requires very little maintenance.

What is a terrarium?
A terrarium is generally a sealable glass container containing soil and plants. A bit of Googling will show you they come in all shapes and sizes but they generally fall into two categories:

Closed: This means the terrarium has a sealable lid. Here’s where it gets cool, if you get it right you can create your own ecosystem that essentially waters itself. Some have been know to live for 50+ years without watering or maintenance.

Open: as you would think, there is no lid so you will need to water the plants.

What do you need?
The great thing is you can make a terrarium for free if you scavenge and upcycle, just be sure to only take from areas you have permission to do so. Here’s what you need:

A glass container
I bought this cheap jar for a few pounds from a well known Swedish chain but you can use anything. Why not try a miniature one in a jam jar, or upcycle other containers around the home.

Pebbles / stones
I found some in my garden, but they can be bought cheaply. Just give them a good rinse first.

Landscaping fabric
This is that black fabric that is used as a weed barrier in gardens. If you don’t have any you could use a piece of plastic like a sandwich bag and perforate lots of holes in it to let the water through. This layer just stops all of your soil sinking into the drainage layer.

Activated charcoal
Not the same as BBQ charcoal. You don’t have to use this but if you make a closed terrarium it helps filter the water and stops smells. A small bag costs a few pounds.

Soil /compost
Use some out of your garden or ideally use some new compost.

I have used some stones and twigs I found. You can get as creative as you like, people use acorns, shells and even miniature figures.

I have made a moss terrarium. I found the moss growing in my lawn and on a wall. You would find it in any woodland. If you are using plants just check they are suitable for the type of terrarium you are making. Cactus and succulents will work well in an open set up, ferns and mosses work in closed ones as they like humidity.

Depending on the size of your jar it can get a bit fiddly so you can use tweezers, chopsticks or a brush for placement. I used a cork on a skewer to help pat the soil down.

How to make it:

1. Add your washed pebbles to the bottom of your jar, about an inch. This prevents the plants sitting in water and rotting.
2. Add a small layer of activated charcoal. I used about a tablespoon.
3. Place your landscaping fabric or plastic. Make sure you have made lots of small holes in plastic to let water through but not the soil.  You can just draw around your jar and cut to size to get the perfect fit.
4. Add your soil, depending on your plants you will need a couple of inches, my layer is smaller as moss doesn't really need it.
5. Time to decorate. Add your stones, twigs and plants. Put the tallest items and plants towards the back to draw your eye in.
6. When you are happy with your arrangement spray some water into the jar. If you need to, spray it down the glass to clean off any debris

Care for your terrarium
Do some research on your plants. If you make a closed terrarium and find it mists up all day, open the lid for a couple of hours to let some water vapour out.


There are plenty of sites for inspiration and further details, here are a few below:
Make a terrarium for free
How to make a terrarium
Ultimate guide to terrariums

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