#21: Open Terrariums!

This week we hosted an open terrarium building workshop with the Dalhousie Student Union’s Sustainability Office. So many people came out and it was WONDERFUL to see all of your faces! I figured since we were on the topic, I should put together a quick blog post about what an open terrarium is, how to make one and how to care for them!

What is it?

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An example of an Open Terrarium

An open terrarium is usually a glass or plastic container that is partially closed in and contains warm loving, water sparing plants like succulents and cacti. These terrariums make great additions to homes, offices and living spaces! They add a bit of spice to your home decorating, and can be quite soothing to care for.

Open terrariums are not closed in because the goal is not to keep moisture in, unlike the closed terrarium. Because succulents and cacti will not do well when overwatered, we use open terrariums for them. Closed terrariums, however, do need to be closed because they usually house mosses and other damp-loving plants. So to seal in that water, we put a lid on them!

How do I Make One?

Open terrariums are pretty straight forward. They require a few things to thrive:

  • Good draining soil
  • Some water capture system (usually just a layer of rocks at the bottom of your terrarium to keep the soil from holding too much water)
  • Plants! (Succulents, cacti, air plants, etc)
  • A glass or plastic container without a lid

For your container, ensure that you use material that will allow the passage of light for your plants. If it is heavily frosted glass, you might have some trouble getting your plants to have enough light to survive. Otherwise be creative with the container you use. This is a great opportunity to recycle or reuse old sauce, pickle or mason jars, takeout containers or old mugs (maybe cracked ones for a distressed look!).

How do I Care for It?

The main rules with open terrariums are:

  • Don’t overwater!!
  • Allow direct sunlight for at least part of the day – but not TOO much direct sunlight if you have a glass globe as a container or you might bake your plants!
  • Fertilize monthly with a water additive fertilizer

Because succulents and cacti are not used to lots and lots of water, it is very easy to give them too much. Only water cacti and succulents when the soil is very dry. This usually translates into twice a month in the summer and once a month in the winter (this is a very general rule, if the soil is bone dry, give them a bit of water!). Also because terrariums are in pots, you will need to supplement with fertilizer occasionally, but you can buy lots of mix-in fertilizers you can just add to the water you water your terrarium with.

Last, but not least, enjoy your terrarium! They are fun ways to get into apartment gardening and have a little piece of nature in your home. They are easy to take care of, inexpensive to make and can be wonderful tools to get started apartment gardening!

~Landon Getz – External Coordinator

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