So, it’s been a while. Things have been slow these past few months. Mainly because, shortly after my last installment here in this blog, I sustained an injury whilst working a part time job that resulted in a long term problem with my right arm that has left me unable to make jewellery and other things and, for a long time, I was even unable to draw. As you can imagine, this has been extremely difficult for me. I may well post about this issue separately in future.
Anyway, enough of that. To kickstart my blogging again, here is a little tutorial I have just put together as a bit of fun, showing you how to make a mason jar terrarium using stuff you should be able to find around the house or, at least, get hold of very easily from the shops!
MASON JAR TERRARIUM: A Tutorial by Tea!
What you will need:-
- A mason jar or similar glass container. Doesn’t have to be lidded.
- Gravel (fish tank gravel is ideal, small stones, decorative glass beads etc… anything that gives good drainage)
- Carbon granules, if you have them. You can find activated carbon/charcoal at any aquatics shop. It’s generally used in filters for fish tanks.
- Compost or soil. Potting compost is good as it’s full of nutrients which is fine for mosses and such. More specialised plants have different requirements though.
- Other plants
Tools you will need:-
- A kettle
- A spoon
How to make your terrarium:-
1. Boil your kettle and carefully rinse your glass container with boiling water to sterilise it before adding anything living. Be careful not to burn yourself and go slowly so as not to crack the glass. You may wish to rinse it under the hot water in your kitchen sink first so the temperature change isn’t too sudden which will cause the glass to break.
2. Next you will want to start adding the layers of substrate to your terrarium. Do so in the following order.
- Gravel/pebbles/beads/whatever- This is important for drainage. This keeps the excess water from sitting in the soil. Waterlogged soil will create optimum conditions for growth of mould and bacteria which spell the end for your pretty terrarium 😦
- Carbon/charcoal (if you have it). This acts as a sort of filter and helps keep the environment cleaner. It is not absolutely essential but it certainly can’t hurt!
- Compost/soil. This is your growth medium. This is where the living things growing in your terrarium will get their nutrients from!
Ideally you want to fill perhaps a quarter to a third of the container (if you are using a container with any sort of neck, do not count the neck as part of the container, you need to allow sufficient space for growth and air circulation!) with substrate. Equal parts gravel to soil works well and a thin layer of carbon/charcoal ought to do it… say about half the amount of gravel that you are using. I hope that makes sense. Your ratio will be 2:1:2 (gravel:charcoal:soil)
Make sure your substrate is at least a little damp. If it’s rather dry, use a spray bottle to spritz it until you start to see water in the very bottom of the jar where it has saturated the soil and is now draining through the gravel.
Going back to the purpose of adding charcoal… one of the things it is supposed to be good for is keeping the bacteria in this micro-system under control. Another thing that is good for bacteria control is sphagnum moss. You can also find this at garden centres and often pet supply places that supply equipment and sundries for exotic animals. Sphagnum serves the dual purpose of retaining moisture and also acting as a natural antibacterial. It’s also not unattractive so you can use it as a feature in your jar if you wish! It can be bought in many forms. I have small, dehydrated tablets of the stuff for my carnivorous plants that you just add water to and they expand. These can be ordered online and are cheap 🙂
3. The fun part! Now you can start adding your greenery! I use moss that I have collected from around my garden. I pick clumps off of walls and from the tiles of my garage roof where I am able to reach. Collect responsibly though, please. Moss serves its own purpose within the ecosystem it is a part of. Do not collect any more than you need and try not to remove all of the moss present from any given area. It takes a while to regenerate!
Mosses will be fine just pushed down on to the surface of your substrate. If you are planting anything with a definite root system, use your spoon you make a hole to plant it in. Plants that you can use besides mosses that are easy to look after include hardy alpine succulents and some small types of fern, though these may require re-potting later as they will outgrow a small terrarium eventually. To start with, I would advise sticking with mosses and, if you’re feeling confident, maybe an alpine succulent or two.
If you have a definite front & back to your container, sort your mosses and plants by height and add them with the tallest at the back, gradually decreasing in height towards the front. That way you will be able to see everything!
4. All that’s left to add now is decor, if you want to! If you have any small decorative items you wish to add, you can now place them amongst your moss and/or plants and you’re pretty much done! When adding decorative items, it is worth using a bit of foresight and choosing things that will not be affected by a damp environment over time. Anything organic and porous that is likely to rot is best avoided. Stone and glass are good starting points. Ceramic and resin also. It’s up to you really! Use your judgement 😀
5. To maintain your terrarium you need to ensure the following:-
- Place it in a bright position but not in direct sunlight. Your plants need light to photosynthesise and grow!
- Water by using a spray bottle perhaps once a week or so. You must ensure that the substrate remains damp and isn’t allowed to dry out. Do not over water, as explained earlier on in this tutorial.
- Keep an eye open for any mould or fungus that may start to grow. If you see anything of the sort, remove it and anything immediately touching it straight away and allow the terrarium to get a lot of air and to dry out slightly (but not completely) for a while before resuming normal care.
- Watch that it doesn’t get too warm inside the terrarium. If the glass fogs up with condensation at all, allow it to get plenty of air and to cool down a bit by moving it to a cooler location. If it is happening a lot, it may be worth moving it to a cooler location permanently and allowing some of the moisture within to dry out a little.
- It is possible to use containers with lids but if you do so, be sure to remove it frequently to allow fresh air in so your plants can respire properly!
There are many possibilities and variations on this method that may be worth exploring if this is something you are interested in. Different environments and types of plants that are better suited for different conditions (levels of light, temperature etc) are all worth considering. Carnivorous plants, air plants, succulents, cacti and even orchids are all potential candidates for terrarium planting but all have different requirements in terms of substrate, container type and size and conditions that need to be maintained.
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and find it useful if you are planning to try your hand at making your own terrarium. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments section here so please feel free to ask!