A World in a Jar


On Saturday, I made my first terrariums.  Minion and I went for a walk in the woods and collected a bunch of moss, mushrooms, and other good stuff.

Moss is great because its root system is very close to the surface of the soil.  This means that you can just peel it off of the ground and transplant it to a terrarium where it will continue to live.  Moss can often be found growing in the shade of big trees and close to water sources.  It is almost irresistible to me.  I knew I had gathered enough moss when my small bucket was about half way full.  But I couldn’t stop gathering it.  Every clump of moss seemed more glorious than the last.  I must have gathered five different varieties!

I had never made a terrarium before, so it was a purely experimental venture.  The lady over at weegreenspot puts activated charcoal in hers (to prevent odors), so I did the same.  My dad had some activated charcoal because of his fish tanks, and let me use some of his.  I rinsed it off, and placed a thin layer on the bottom of the jar.

My dad suggested putting peat moss and citrus soil in the terrarium.  Peat moss will absorb and hold water, and I put a layer of it in over the charcoal.  The soil will provide nutrients for the moss, and I put that in over the peat moss.  Then I placed the moss over the soil.  I wanted to create a bit of a hilly area, so I experimented with different layouts.

When I was happy with the layout, I decided where I was going to place the sheep, shepherd, and sheepdog.  I ended up taking out some of the moss so I could sew the figures onto it.  This way, they’ll stay in place.

You can see the thread holding the figures down in this picture:

Here is the first finished terrarium:

I made the second terrarium for my father-in-law who is recovering from back surgery.  I made it much the same way, only I placed a variety of plants and other organic items inside of this one. I have a cactus, a strange succulent called Living Stone, a mushroom, tree bark, a rock, and moss.

As I mentioned previously, these terrariums were purely experimental.  I kept one and gave the other away, but I will keep a close eye on both over the coming weeks.  They are in a sealed jar, so they only need a misting of water every two weeks or so.  They also need to stay out of direct sunlight, or the jar will act like a magnifying glass and the sun will dry everything out.  Other than that, I don’t really know what is going to work for them*.  I know that there is a small worm living in my sheep terrarium.  Is this a good or a bad thing?  Can I transplant a mushroom or will it die?  Can cacti thrive next to moss?  Nagging questions all, but I will have to wait patiently for the answers.

And now for the part where I tell you where I got everything and how much it cost:

Activated Charcoal: FREE (my dad’s)

Peat Moss: FREE (my dad’s)

Citrus Soil: FREE (my dad’s)

Moss: FREE (courtesy of the woods)

Mushroom, bark, and rock: FREE (courtesy of the woods)

Cactus and Succulent: $5 for both from Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill

Jars: About $2 each from Ross

Tiny sheep, shepherd and sheepdog:  FREE from my mom.  They were my great grandma’s and my mom found them lying around!

It doesn’t take a Rocket Surgeon (as my old professor used to say) to figure out that the cost of this project was time, and not a lot of money.  I can’t wait to make more!

*Update:  The sheep terrarium is still alive and well over seven months later even though I stopped watering it.  The other terrarium, however, got super moldy within a couple of weeks.  Next time I’ll make it without a lid.  It may mean watering it more frequently though.

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About Melody

My name is Melody Martin. Check out my art blog, and learn all about the steps and techniques that go into oil paintings.
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6 Responses to A World in a Jar

  1. arrynvogan says:

    These look great! Looks like it was a fun project to do too.

  2. arrynvogan says:

    These look great! Looks like it was a fun project to do too.

  3. Holly Niphakis says:

    Aaawwww, Meli….I know you are my child if you love moss. enchanting is the word that applies, I think. I love the terrains… and I’m looking forward to more with tiny deer and other woodland creatures…. a chipmunk? … a rabbit?…a fox? …. not a wart hog or wild pig though, though a hunter might like that particular aquarium… 🙂

  4. amy says:

    I got to see both 1st hand, the chicken schwanoma one and the little Irish sheep herder one and I love both of them!! I could have walked away with either one in my suitcase 🙂

  5. Melody says:

    I think it’s so funny that you think it looks like a schwanoma, because I thought that when I was assembling it. Too bad there wasn’t one that looked like a herniated disc.

  6. Erika says:

    Love them, Mel! They are so cute!

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