Backyard Science – Terrarium Making Tips
As we move towards a more sustainable future, backyard science has become more than mini beasts and botany. We are seeing increasing sustainable and solar-powered science in our own backyards (yay!). Things like worm farms, solar panels and water-conserving gardening systems are great ways to teach your children about science while helping sustain our environment.
Today, in anticipation for our Backyard Science October school holiday feature, we are sharing our top tips on how to conserve outdoor garden water usage by building your own Terrarium! HOT TIP: This will also be a free activity your children can take part in if you visit Science Space Wollongong during October school holidays.
What’s an ecosystem?
Did you know, a succulent terrarium is its own ecosystem? An ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) in a particular area. The living and physical components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. They are largely self-contained and have the capacity to be self-sustaining over long periods of time.
There are three main components required for sustainability in an ecosystem:
- Energy availability – light from the sun provides the initial energy source for almost all communities
- Nutrient availability – saprotrophic decomposers ensure the constant recycling of inorganic nutrients within an environment
- Recycling of wastes – certain bacteria can detoxify harmful waste byproducts
Building a succulents based terrarium ecosystem is a great way to have a beautiful garden while using little water.
To Make a Succulent Terrarium You Will Need:
- A glass or biodegradable plastic terrarium bowl, jar or vase with large opening
- Potting mix
- Drainage pebbles/gravel
- Succulent, cacti or indoor plant
- String (optional)
- Decorative stones
Select a Terrarium container, glass or biodegradable plastic that is shallow with a large opening. The shallow depth ensures water can quickly evaporate, a wide opening at the front for easy placement of the plant and holes at the top for airflow.
Add a layer of small pebbles down the bottom. Succulents need good drainage. If the soil remains too wet the root system can rot, which could mean the end of your plant.
At this stage, we added some horticultural charcoal. We use that to add to the drainage layer but also to help remove toxins in the soil.
Take a handful of sphagnum moss and wet it in a bowl of water. Add it to the pot to prevent soil from filtering through and clogging up the drainage layer.
Add potting mix into your container to just below the top, or to where you want it filled to. Spray it with some water to make sure it’s damp. If you’re using a completely closed system for your terrarium, this is the last time you should need to water it!
Now the terrarium is ready for planting. If you are using a bigger terrarium you will be able to choose more than one plant. Maybe you are lucky enough to know someone with a succulent collection who is happy to share clippings!
The finishing touches. Once your succulents have been planted, it is nice to add some decorative stones or coloured pebbles for design. If you are using a glass terrarium, you may want to add a rustic piece of twine which will allow you to hang it!
Succulent Terrarium Home Maintenance
Here are some of our top tips to ensure your terrarium enjoys a long life are:
- Keep in bright, indirect light, as the glass can amplify the suns rays.
- Let the soil dry out between waterings to prevent mold and root rot.
- Spray water onto the inside of the glass to keep it looking nice and clean.