Learn how to create a miniature 'jungle in a jar'.

All you need to build a terrarium is a good balance of plants, water, light and soil. This 'jungle in a jar' acts as a miniature ecosystem that teaches the basic concept of rainfall. As water accumulates in the soil, light causes this water to evaporate, causing small water droplets to cling to the sides of the container. As the drops get larger, they slide off the sides and fall back into the soil. When the water passes through the layer of charcoal, the impurities are trapped and the water is cleaned for the next cycle. A healthy terrarium will continue like this... in the same way that rain works in our environment. Give this DIY project a try! It's a hands-on way to teach children about the everyday workings of our natural world while having fun playing in the dirt. You can enjoy plants as sculpture with the endless combinations of shapes, colors and textures or turn your terrarium into a magical fairy garden.


Basic materials

Clear glass containers: Choose a mason jar, hanging glass orb, clear glass cookie jar or any type of glass container that will allow the light to come through. The lid could be a part of the glass container or you could use a small plate or plastic wrap-- anything that will retain and regulate the humidity in the terrarium.

Potting soil: A well draining, potting or soilless mix is best for plants in a closed terrarium.

Sphagnum peat moss: Add a layer of this fibrous material to prevent the soil from washing down into the gravel layer.

Pebbles or gravel: Small-sized pebbles or gravel  will insure good drainage. (Aquarium-size gravel works well.)

Charcoal: The main benefit of adding charcoal chips to a terrarium is to remove toxins and odors in the mini ecosystem. Charcoal absorbs chemicals in soil, water and air that build up inside.

Small plants: Choose plants that share the same growing conditions. Low light: ferns, African violets, moss or even the 'carnivorous, Venus Flytrap. Bright light: succulents, sedum, cacti or an air plant (Tillandsia).

Tools: Make your own miniature shovel. Tape or hot glue a plastic spoon to a straw or chopstick. This new tool will help you dig holes and move elements around inside small openings.


How to Make your Own Terrarium

It's never too early to get kids involved with gardening. Give the terrarium some kid-appeal with colorful flowering plants or unusual, Venus Flytraps, colored gravel, or... tiny chairs, houses or other elements for a fairy garden.

1. Put a one to two-inch layer of pebbles or gravel on the bottom of the container.

2. Cover pebbles with a thin layer (one-half inch or so) of charcoal chips.

3. Layer two to three inches of sphagnum moss over the pebbles or gravel.

4. Cover the moss with several inches of potting soil (depending on the size of container).

5. Plan plant placement. Leave room between plants for growth. (Odd numbers of plants tend to look more interesting when grouped together.)

6. Dig small holes with mini tools. Tuck small plants into little holes. Next, cover he roots sufficiently with soil and tamp soil down lightly around base of plant.

7. Cover container with lid of jar or plastic wrap, if desired.

8. Place the terrarium in a spot that receives bright but indirect light. You don't want to cook your plants!

9. You can regulate the humidity by removing the lid for a few hours each day to allow air to circulate around the plants. This will cut down on mold or mildew from excessive 'rain' or condensation.

10. After 5-7 days, water sparingly with distilled water. To keep your terrarium from becoming too soggy, only water your plants when the soil starts to dry out.