Ad Hoc Terrariums



After Sceleratus Classical Academy‘s lovely post on Architecture curriculum from her post on Architecture School, C found himself fascinated with animal homes. First we discussed making insect homes (we’ve done this before with an old milk carton), and then we stumbled upon Terrariums. This lovely post was the original inspiration, and I’d read about them in the wonderfully geeky “World of Geek Craft” book on Star Wars Terrariums.

C decided we needed to build one of these. But there seemed to be a lot of stuff we needed from nursery supply stores – not really an option for instant gardening. So we improvised.

First we used the wonderful kit some of our friends had given to us as gifts for the children. Watching the soil tablet expand into soil was pretty amazing – and C really enjoyed planting the little seeds.

All-in-one seed kit

But he still wanted a Terrarium. So we improvised.

Glass jars were easy – I’m a hoarder, and an old olive-jar I’d kept at the back of the cupboard was just the right size.

We need gravel? A scoop from our driveway did the trick. Needs to be clean? Soap, water and a strainer did a wonderful job – and overflowing the container helped get rid of the bits of wood and other detritus that was in our sample. Including a ‘very beautiful’ piece of glass.

Our empty Terrarium

Activated charcoal was a little bit more difficult. And necessary, alas. C suggested we use our special drawing charcoal (shudder). But then I realised we had some left-over tummy-trouble medicine that would do the trick.

No sphagnum moss? Well, it needed a filter layer. I suggested an old hanky, but C came up with the better idea of coffee filter paper – it worked brilliantly.


Then it was a trip for all of us out to the garden to rescue a few scoops of potting mix from the bag propping up our fence, and to find a few plants. The kids loved taking turns scooping potting mix into our jar. I tried to find a fern, but I think it’s actually a small tree – we may just be bonsai’ing(!), and C dug up some moss. Then we planted and went back inside before J ran away with our bucket and spoon.



Trimmed, showing the layers of gravel,
charcoal, coffee filter and soil

After a bit of deliberation, C selected a few small stones from J’s stone collection (quite extensive) to add to the little terrarium to brighten it up and make it ‘beautiful’.

Completed Terrarium

And then we trimmed our poor plant back so it fit, and left it on the window sill to ‘dry out’ a little. In a few days we’ll pop the lid on it and see how it goes. Sometimes what we can find around the house surprises even me!

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