How to - Gardening with Kids

Create a mini-garden under glass

Building and caring for a terrarium is an easy project for kids -- and their parents

Building and caring for a miniature garden enclosed in clear glass or plastic is an easy project for young gardeners. A covered, well-constructed terrarium needs little care, only requiring warmth and low light to flourish. Plus, a terrarium is a great way to demonstrate how water transpires from plants and evaporates from soil to create rain that falls back to the soil, and is then drawn up through the plant roots and lost through transpiration again.

Choosing a container
Select any clear or lightly tinted glass or plastic container with an opening big enough for your child's hand to easily fit through. A fish tank, large brandy snifter, two-litre pickle jar, candy jar and even a casserole dish are all good choices. If the container doesn't have a lid, you can cover it with a sheet of clear plastic once the terrarium is planted. Wash the container with a 10:1 solution of bleach and water to avoid bacteria, fungi and algae that thrive on soil surfaces in warm, moist environments.

Selecting plants
Choose naturally small or slow-growing plants that grow well in moist environments, picking plants with similar requirements for temperature, light and humidity. Add interest by choosing plants that provide a variety of height, texture, leaf size and colour.

To create a woodland effect, gather mosses, lichens, small ferns, pinecones, small stones and bits of wood from a nearby forest. You can also look for small plants such as these:

  • Maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp.)
  • Pussytoes (Antennaria spp.)
  • Wild strawberry (Fragaria spp)
  • Patridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
  • Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
  • Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)
  • Sweet violet (Viola odorata

For an herbal garden, you can easily find suitable herbs at a garden centre, in a local field or woods, or maybe even in your own garden. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Dwarf Goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius)
  • Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata)
  • Ebony spleenwort fern (Asplenium platyneuron)
  • Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
  • Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
  • Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)
  • Labrador violet (Viola labradorica)

Many houseplants native to tropical environments also grow well in a terrarium. Check out these ideas:

  • Asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus)
  • Fluffy ruffles fern (Nephrolephis exaltata)
  • Peperomia (Peperomia caperata)
  • Aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei minima)
  • Artillery Plant (Pilea microphylla)
  • Baby's tears (Soleirolia Soleirolii)
  • Cypress Spikemoss (Selaginella plana)

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