Kacy Paide shows us how to build a terrarium and how to lay down the foundation.
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Hi, my name is Casey Patty of Small World Terrariums and you are watching how to make a terrarium.
This next process I’m going to teach is about how to mix and layer the soil. This is probably the most important piece of the entire process because if your soil is to wet or too dry. Terrariums are going to struggle and you have to get it right at this point in the process, so there are a few elements. I just use gravel on the bottom, its aquarium gravel and this helps with drainage so you’ll see once it’s in here. I usually just let it come up about an inch or two high on something that this steep. If it’s a shallower container you only need a really shallow level but this is that if you over water your terrarium which is easy to do and happens often. The terrarium soil is not sitting and soaking water, it drains through to the bottom.
Now the next piece is horticultural fabric and again sometimes I’ll use an old screen but this is preferable. Now of course I have precut this but it’s important to have the fabric cover the gravel and then some. If the fabric is touching the glass it prevents the soil from falling down into the gravel and for aesthetic reasons I like to keep the layers very separate and this just keeps the soil above the gravel line. So this piece of fabric is actually cut from quite a large square and your favorite nursery or garden shop might very well might sell this. In square and again it’s horticultural fabric and ask if you can get a small cut, a sample size otherwise you’ll be sold a bulk which runs hundreds of yards even.
So mixing the soil is one of the most important elements of the entire process and the reason why I killed so many plants in the beginning is because I didn’t get this right. And it’s hard to learn and even all my research couldn’t find anybody who thought exactly how to mix soil that will help keep your terrarium alive. So this is the point where we get the moisture content right, we have to mix the soil in with some charcoal, and again this is gardening charcoal, which you can get in any gardening shop. And this isn’t an exact science but basically I will just take a small cup about this size, throw it on top, and see if that’s enough. You just have to kind of mix it with your hands, eyeball it and what you’re looking for is the charcoal. If you can’t see the charcoal after you’ve mixed it in, you probably don’t have enough. If you see way too much charcoal then you just want to add more soil of top of it.
So once you have your charcoal soil ratio correct then you just want to add some water enough so its pretty, pretty moist because at the end of this entire process were actually not going to do much watering of the terrarium. So again the reason why its important to start with moist soil is so that in the end were not watering dry soil and then what happens when you water dry soil is the water just sinks straight to the bottom instead of dispersing into the entire terrarium. So were going to add a little bit more, trying to make sure its pretty wet but not so wet that there is a lot of water falling to the bottom. You can tell, you’ve got the moisture right by about this much sticks to your hands.
So before we add the soil on top of the fabric, were going to take another small cup of gardening charcoal and actually sprinkle a little bit on top. Not too much, it doesn’t have to be solid, just about this much. That only took about half of the small cup and again what the charcoal does is it purifies the soil. Since there is no drainage, it acts as a filter. If you think of your water filtering system in your fridge, it’s the exact same thing. So it keeps the soil fresh without charcoal the soil will become a little bit dirty, maybe too dirty, too much bacteria for the plants to survive.
So next stop is to take a little bit of soil, just kind of break it up as your dropping it in and again the reason why I do this a little slow so that the soil doesn’t fall around the edges onto the gravel. And at this point I’m just putting in a relatively thin layer of soil because once we have the plants, they will have their own soil and then finish it we will just put soil around the plants so you don’t need too much on this stuff. A little more, now that the layering process is done, the soil is mixed, and in here, next step will be adding the plants.