Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Build Your Own Moss Terrarium

I've been eyeing the pretty moss terrariums on Etsy and the Web, but they're a bit pricey for me and I'm antsy about shipping glass jars. The end result was a very fun do-it-yourself project, as you're about to see. If you want to make one too, you'll need the following supplies:
  1. glass jar with lid
  2. small stones or gravel
  3. charcoal
  4. indoor potting soil
  5. moss, lichen, and other tiny found objects
I wanted a sturdy jar, so I avoided all the delicate ones at Michaels. Instead, I found a hermetico jar at Benix and Co. on sale for $2.69. My favourite jar there was actually a tall biscotti jar, but I thought it would be too big for my desk.
I saw a lot of pretty, rounded stones in the yard, so I collected them to add to my jar.
They were a bit dirty, so I washed them in a wash tub outside. No point bringing the dirt inside the house.
Then I put the rocks in my jar and added aquarium gravel on top. I think I could have skipped the aquarium gravel, but I wanted a barrier to keep the soil higher up.
The gravel is for drainage. All the water will drain to the bottom and you can quickly tell if you accidentally overwatered your terrarium.
Next, add a layer of charcoal. I read that this keeps the water in your terrarium from becoming stale. I found my bag of potting charcoal at Home Depot for about $2.97.
After the charcoal, add indoor potting soil. Don't use garden soil as it has bugs in it. If you don't want your soil to trickle down to your rocks, add a layer of sphagnum moss as a barrier before you add the soil. It will help to hold moisture too. I couldn't find sphagnum moss anywhere, so I skipped it and opted for a potting soil that had sphagnum moss added in already.
My favourite part of this whole process was moss hunting. You'll want to find slow growing mosses so don't choose the large varieties that take over your lawn. Pick the tiniest varieties that grow in mini patches on rocks or trees. I found some pretty, bright green, star-like ones on the cracks of my rock path, some very tiny, dense-growing mosses under a big tree where no grass was growing, and a sort of shaggy moss on the tree bark. I also collected some tiny pine cones, and a bit of greyish white lichen from a tree.
I took my handful of green treasures back and scraped most of the natural soil off, leaving the roots intact. I didn't want to leave any soil on the mosses that might have insects or insect eggs inside of it. I suspect I could have rinsed the dirt off more cleanly in water, but scraping the soil off seemed to do the trick. Then I arranged them inside my jar. I left room around the mosses so that they have space to grow into. Then I trickled water all over my new moss garden, wiped the glass walls clean, closed the lid, and voila! It was ready to enjoy!
Almost immediately, condensation formed on the glass walls in the sealed jar. This will be your indicator of when to water your terrarium. When there is no condensation on the glass anymore, it is time to add water. Also keep an eye on your drainage rocks to make sure you are not drowning your plants.

Your moss terrarium will grow best in non-direct sunlight, like near a window on your desk. Just think of the kind of places mosses normally grow well in.

I am excited to see how my moss terrarium will look when the moss grows in a bit more. It's fun to have many different varieties in one jar! I found the smaller jar with the black lid on my garden shelf and decided to make another moss terrarium. That one has only one variety of the tiny, densely growing moss. I think it will eventually form the bumpy green terrain which I see most commonly in moss terrariums for sale. It is my little experiment on what happens if I only use one moss variety.

I find it very soothing to look at these moss terrariums because the moss looks so bright and lively against the light, and everything is so tiny! I also like the different coloured layers, and I think it would be fun to experiment more with that.

I hope you have fun making your very own moss terrarium.

Have a lovely day!

UPDATE: You cannot seal the lid to the jar for long periods of time. The contents will start to rot. I resorted to leaving the lid on, but not closed shut. That is working out well for me. The moss started to grow into areas not previous covered by moss, and it creeps up the sides of the jar a little too :)

Arts and Crafts Tutorials



This is brilliant thanks! I will have hours of fun pottering around with this :0)

The World's Dresser said...

I'm soooo doing this! Thanks for the tutorial!

Pam said...

What a great project. I'm marking it for when the moss comes out in my yard. We had a freak snow storm yesterday, so the sun's just starting to melt the snow this morning.

Anonymous said...

Um love terrariums! Very nice.

Lucky Pebble said...

Off to go hunt down some moss! Thank you for this.

Sycamore Moon Studios said...

What a lovely tutuorial. Thanks!

Lenox Knits said...

Great tutorial. I can't wait to try it!

LeelaBijou said...

Wonderful tuto! And what a great result!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE YOU!!!! I almost spent $50 on a terrarium...but was hesitant to fork out that much for "moss in a jar" though i have to admit they look ADORABLE!!!!
thanxs, your tutorial was AWESOME!

Mytutorlist.com said...

I'm so glad you've enjoyed this tutorial and that you found it helpful! I'll be posting some updates to this tutorial soon so you can see how my moss terrarium turned out.


Kmcclinton said...

I love this idea! I only have one problem thou. I live in Saskatchewan Canada we don't have a humid enough climate to have moss growing randomly. Is there any type of moss you can buy?

Claudia said...

thank you I will try this I made one and it was the wrong moss and you can't even see in it anymore it grew so tall. yours look just as nice as the ones on esty

Wil said...

I don't suppose you have updated pics of what they look like now that they have grown up?

Anonymous said...

I just bought all the supplies to make this today. The nursery I went to didn't have any live moss for sale, but the owner found some for me that was growing on the cinder blocks that they use to put the potted plants on... it was perfect! I did read somewhere else to use Rain-X (the stuff you use on your window shield) to keep the jar fog and condensation free so you always have a great view of your plants. Also going to use some random Fimo clay I have to make some little decorations (mushrooms and maybe a little garden gnome). Super excited!

Mytutorlist.com said...

Hello! Thanks for stopping by!

I never considered using RainX on the side of the jar, but it definitely seems like a good idea. It was a bit of a shame when the jar fogged up and I couldn't see the contents very well.

Wil: I wish I could show you updated pics, but I moved them outside in the summer last year and completely forgot about them until it was too late (eeks!)

I was going to start over with new moss, but my room at this new house (we moved) overlooks the neighbor's red roof which is dotted with very large, lush green clumps of moss. It's like having a roof-sized moss terrarium outside the window!

Sol said...

SO using the RainX - do you spray it inside the jar before you add anything? Thanks!! PS - can't wait for updated pics, but perhaps I'll have some to share in the near future too - so excited!