To begin, determine whether you want and open or closed terrarium – a closed one will require no maintenance and will be fairly self-sufficient, while an open terrarium requires watering and some care every now and then. This choice will also depend on the sort of plants you want to use, and the kind of mini-habitat you are looking to create.
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Next, select an appropriate container. Whether you opt for plastic or glass, it is essential to ensure the container is clear, not tinted or smoky, as this will prevent the contents from being easily visible. If you’re looking to use the terrarium as part of your decor, go for a well-designed glass container, and if you’re aiming to make the terrarium-building a fun educational activity for kids, opt for a plastic container.
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Before you begin assembling, spread some newspapers to work on, and since a little mess is inevitable, work in a safe area where you will not mind dirt or spills.
Start by lining the bottom of the container with pebbles or small stones – this layer should be roughly an inch deep (although it depends on the size of your container), and will allow for easy draining of water. You can also get creative and incorporate sea shells in to the mix. Next, spread on a layer of activated charcoal (which will keep the terrarium smelling fresh), and then a layer of sphagnum moss, which will allow for easy drainage and keep the soil from filling in between the rocks.
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Then, proceed to layer on some moist, fertile soil – this layer should be around 2 to 3 inches deep. If you are not going to do more than planting, use regular potting soil – however, if you plan to introduce a small amphibious critter like a salamander into the terrarium, use a kind of moist organic soil mixture.
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Next, add in your preferred plants, arranging them as you want. Use ferns, moss, ivy, small flowering plants, and any other plants that grow slowly, without much supervision. You can take them directly from your garden and add them in. If you are going to add a frog or a salamander, make sure the plants are a native species that the critter is familiar with.
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Finally, add in any additional accessories to decorate the terrarium if you wish. You can use these to create a small scene inside the terrarium, such as a fishing or camping scene, or a small park complete with a bench and a miniature swing set. Just make sure the accessories are waterproof, and not made of any materials which might prove harmful to plants. Give the entire terrarium a spray, and place it in your preferred spot, for viewers to enjoy.
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