When it's too cold or too wet to go out into the garden, it's time to plant a terrarium.
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When it's too cold or too wet to go out in the garden to pant, it's time to plant a terrarium. Master gardener Paul James and gardening columnist Kimmie Haworth take a look at these tiny gardens.
"Terrariums are miniature gardens with expansive appeal," says Haworth. What could be better than gardens under glass? And according to Haworth, the best part is that all this elegance won't break the bank. Terrarium supplies include recycled glass containers, quality potting mix, charcoal, peat moss, tools for planting such as plastic utensils and chopsticks, newspaper to funnel the soil into the container and plants.
When choosing containers on the other hand, choose whatever your heart desires as long as it's clear glass to let the sunlight shine through. Remove any labels on the glass. To eliminate any sticky residue, use a spray lubricating oil. Spray the residue and wipe clean with a paper towel. Once the outside of the container is clean, it's doubly important that the inside of the terrarium is clean too. Wash the container with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
When planting succulents, it's all about drainage. You never want their roots to be sitting in water. Since there is no drainage hole, Haworth layers the bottom of the container with charcoal.
Then she places a small piece of plastic window screen cut to fit the container. Haworth says the screen is wonderful for keeping the soil out of the charcoal and the gravel. Next, she adds potting soil specifically made for cacti. "I don't want the plants to outgrow their container so I'll restrict the soil volume, which will in turn restrict the plants' growth."
Haworth also makes her own planting tools such as a mini rake and shovel by securing the top of a plastic fork to the end of a chopstick with wire.
In the succulent container, Haworth digs a tiny hole, puts the plant in, and most importantly, makes sure the roots are completely covered with soil. Keep planting until you love the results.
Add gravel to the container to dress the soil surface up a bit or to add a southwestern feel. Don't worry if a few pieces of gravel end up on the succulents.
Add a few decorative rocks to any large gaps. Water the plants with a mister. The mister cleans the dirt off the glass while watering the plants at the same time, but be careful not to mist too much since succulents like dry conditions.
Tropicals, on the other hand, need a lid because they like humidity. Add a layer of charcoal, gravel and screen cut to shape just like before, Add enough soil to fill the container halfway. Because Haworth's container is small, she breaks up the plants (in this case, Asparagus plumosa) a bit. Haworth recommends experimenting with size texture and color. "If something is too big, cut it or pull it out."
When it's just right, give the plants a quick mist, and put the lid on. If it gets so foggy and misty that you can't see the plants, crack the lid for a day or two to let some of the moisture escape, but remember to put the lid back on again.
Glass containers with very narrow openings need a little different approach. Tilt, shake and prod to get the soil into a narrow container opening using a newspaper funnel. Haworth recommends starting with the low-growing plants. She gently pulls apart the individual plants and trims the roots with a pair of sharp scissors.
Then, carefully using the sponge-tipped chopstick, Haworth pushes the plant through the narrow bottleneck.
Visit a grand garden conservatory that shows how a wide variety of plants can thrive in a temperature-controlled environment.