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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Terrariums are simply replicas of a natural environment. 

Last fall we made a number of terrariums for Christmas gifts.  They were unique, handmade, natural and yes, cheap!  They were also a perfect gift for everyone in our family.   Grandma in the nursing home with very little space now has a bit of nature in her room.  Our Sunday School now has a natural centerpiece in their learning space. Eco-conscious Auntie has a one-of-a-kind gift that suits her tastes. And so on. 

I thought I would share this with you as folks begin to look for end-of-year teacher gifts.  Every classroom needs a touch of the earth. 

Terrariums are very low maintenence.

We began our terrariums about 6-8 weeks in advance of giving to let them get established so that when given they would require very little maintenance. This was helpful as it also allowed us to weed them as unexpected grasses (and a few insects!) grew out of our mosses!


Materials:
  • Glass containers WITH lids: canning jars, wine decanters, candy jars... or a container (like a goldfish bowl) for which you can create a makeshift cover. You may want to choose larger mouthed containers for easier arrangement of landscape!
  • Soil (we used purchased top soil to avoid 'extras' inour environment)
  • Activated charcoal (reduces any smells/ rot etc.) ~find it in the aquarium section
  • Moss or grass, or whatever type of environment you want to create.  We used moss~ super easy.  We went into the woods and collected 4-5 types, careful to take just a little from each site so as not to disturb the growth.  We just lifted it with a spoon, shook it off (any soil) and bagged it to take home.
  • Small gravel or pebbles for drainage
  • Decorative bits: shells, pebbles, stones (the engraved message stones are a nice touch), small figures (Rowan used a pack of small plastic ~eep!~ dinos).
1) Wash and dry your jars to ensure they are safe for living material.
While they are drying, lay out your materials.
We laid our mosses out on a plastic area, divided by type (which was fun to explore!).
 Line the jars up.  If you are doing a few, it is easiest to do the starter steps all at once

2) Add your pebbles to the bottom (for drainage)~ at least enough to cover the base of the container, more as you like.

3) Add a layer of soil (great job for the kiddos! You may want to workoutdoors!).

4) Add a layer of activated charcoal, again, enough to cover the base area, we laid ours about 1/2" thick.
Cover this with soil.
You may want to add layers of decorative gravel or sand at this point.  Just be sure to leave approximately 1/2 of the height of the jar open for your growing things (some of our were stacked too high in the base which made them hard to see and enjoy).

5) If you would like any mounds or other 'landscape' features, build the bases now (with soil).  Add in any large features (like a large rock).  And then carpet the area with your moss, choosing for colour and texture and variety as you desire. This may be tricky if your jar has a small opening!
Carefully place the moss on the soil and gently tamp down.

6) Add decorative touches as you like!  Rowan added a large stone 'dino egg' and dinos for herself and her uncle.  My terrarium has a sheepdog and a sheep in a green meadow.  The grandmas got stones with messages.  Whatever you add must be suitable for a moist environment~ glass, plastic... not wood, unfortunately, which will swell and rot. Ceramics/ clay are nice, too!

Care of Your Terrarium:
When you are finished creating your environment water it carefully so as not to disturb the newly placed items.
For this first watering, in order to get the environment going, add enough water to create about an inch of visible water in the base.
Put on the lid and place your terrarium in a bright place but NOT in direct sunlight (think of the natural environement for most mosses~ sunlight filtered by the canopy of trees overhead).
In the early days, your glass may become misted with condensation. You can remove the lid to allow this to clear up if you think of it, but it is not critical.  Once the terrarium establishes its own balance this will stop.
In the early days you may also need to remove weeds, insect or other bits that turn up to surprise you, or replace moss that didn't establish itself (or remove it to allow the others to take its place).
Add water to your terrarium only when there is no longer any visible moisture in the base, and then add sparingly.  We had to water at the 6 week mark and in the time since (5 months) we have watered only once more.

Your terrarium will become its own self-sustaining environment, creating its own climate and caring for its own needs as long as it has enough moisture and proper light. 

We keep a couple in our art room and on/ around our nature table and this summer, have plans to create a larger environment (fabulous summer learning project!) and my daughter is determined to have a lizard. We'll see about that!

7 comments:

Mari-Ann said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I can't wait to get started on it with my son.

Lori said...

Yay! Enjoy! We still love ours and having made them really gives the kids so much pride!

Anonymous said...

6 months later and mine is growing like crazy and looks great! Thanks Rowan!!

Ashley said...

how cool..love

Joi Malkin said...

This is adorable. What a great idea! I would love it if you could stop by Heck Fridays today(Thursday) and post it on our first link party!

http://www.heckfridays.blogspot.com

Hope to see you soon!!!

SmileMonsters said...

I'd love for you to share this at Fun For Kids Friday. This is my kind of project.

http://smilemonsters.blogspot.com/2011/05/fun-for-kids-friday_19.html

Jo @ SmileMonsters

LocalFunForKids said...

That's really cool. I should make one for my husband's desk so he can enjoy a bit of nature while at his desk all day.

Thanks for linking up with Fun for Kids Friday. Our new link up has just been posted! : )

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