Are you looking for a Free fun nature activity for the kids that can be done with a few items from around the house? Or are you looking for an artistic centerpiece for your table? Or are you dying to plant your garden but the last frost hasn’t come yet? Try a terrarium!
I live in the Pacific Northwest which is a green and verdant place. It is the sort that vegetation will reclaim quickly if man neglects their taming of it. It is called the Evergreen State for our beautiful conifers, but the greens of the rich things that grow here would rival emerald Ireland when the clouds part and the blue skies shine. There is nothing like a NW sky when it clears on those first spring days for the rain can seem ceaseless in the wintertime. It rains here enough that nearby we have our very own Hoh Rainforest. The rainforest is a soft dripping place with mosses a plenty, and alluring scents of dank rich earth. The rainforest has led me to a strange moss obsession. I gather these things up in terrariums and foster them and create tiny rain forests in my living room.
When I can’t be out of doors… I keep it nearby in a terrarium. This is a fun and free form of indoor art and it has the added bonus of helping to keep your indoor air filtered naturally, and when you tire of it you can return it to the forest from whence it came. I make my terrariums with things dug up around the property like mosses, lichen encrusted limbs, licorice ferns, and perennial sedums and ground covers from my garden. I try to only dig up mosses where they are plentiful and won’t be missed or if they are growing in what should be a moss free zone (like the roof). I like to use outdoor plants that I can keep indoors for a season but will be just as happy out in a shaded patio.
All you really need for this project is Sand (I use old sand from the sandbox), potting soil, a glass vase, bowl, or jar and a variety of mossy covered things found in the woods. You may use small figurines or toys, pretty rocks or shells to add to the effect of a little world.
First, put a little sand at the bottom for drainage, but also for visual interest. Sometimes I will just put the sand on one side of a vase and soil on the other to create a little beach. If you have activated charcoal it is also beneficial in a terrarium to retain moisture while keeping the roots from rotting, but a terrarium can be happy without it. After soil is added, place a plant of interest like a little fern or sedum or a small mossy branch. Then cover the remaining soil with mosses. It is fun to find more than one kind of moss. Add your figurines or rocks if desired. Then give it a thorough watering. Mist your terrarium with water as needed to keep the moss happy.
If you have grown tired of your terrarium or it is looking unhappy, just take it out in the woods and set the native plants free. Warning, if you do add little branches or rotten wood to your terrarium it may sprout mushrooms, which may be poisonous. Unless you are an expert in mushrooms it is not advisable to handle them. If you are doing this project with small children who could be tempted by mushrooms you may want to steer clear of old branches in your project, and to be safe check your terrarium routinely and discard it’s inhabitants if mushrooms should appear.