If you’re experiencing some winter blues from lack of garden contact, consider this: why not garden in a bottle? Strange though it may sound, closed terrariums can be a fun winter challenge—plus, who doesn’t like a tiny garden? You can pretend like you’re a landscape artist and make a beautiful scene without much of the tough manual labor required by traditional gardening.
Creating a closed terrarium begins with a choice of container. Obviously, the container must be clear and un-tinted—so that you can see it and it will get enough light. It can be glass or plastic, but needs to have a tight-fitting lid. The size of the opening is up to you, but keep in mind that choosing a container with a wider opening will make your garden easier to create and keep up. Consider cookie or candy jars, fish bowls or tanks, mason jars or apothecary jars. Be sure it will compliment the décor in the room it is intended for!
Since closed terrariums are basically miniature greenhouses, it’s extremely important to keep your container clear of pests and pathogens—they love warm, wet places like terrariums. Always use clean hands and make sure your container is fully sanitized before beginning, washing with hot water and soap, rinsing with cold water, and air-drying.
First, choose your plants. The container will be warm and moist, so woodland or tropical plants work best. Choose a dwarf or slow-growing plant since you have limited space—and leave some extra room for growth! Moss, lichen, and ferns are ideal choices.
Begin with a soilless potting mix with low fertility. It will be lighter than soil—which is exactly what you want. Mix it with some charcoal, which will serve to absorb chemicals and odors, and will hold water and nutrients for the plants. Add the damp mix to the container until it is the depth of your largest root ball of your chosen plants. Plant the smallest ones first.
After you’ve planted your closed terrarium garden, place it in a bright room near a window—but not in direct sunlight. If it is placed in direct sunlight, it will become too warm and cook your plants. Use terrarium tools (or make your own) to plant and tend the garden, and when you’re done clean the glass off with a small brush or mister.
Potting mix should be damp and foliage dry before placing the lid on. After that, the water will condense on the glass and self-water the soil. Gardening is no longer just for the warm months.