Getting started with a care-free terrarium

Terrariums are sprouting up everywhere and are the newest way to display and enjoy your plants and flowers. A terrarium is a glass with soil in it and can be of many different sizes and shapes. A common type which is easy to plant is the aquarium since the top is wide and allows you to easily work inside the jar. The size ranges from, say, 5 gallons up to 20. A glass bubble also is popular.

No matter what size or shape of glass you tackle, the basic principles remain the same. The water required to keep the plants alive is provided by recycled moisture when it comes into contact with the sides and top of the glass. The moisture drips down and into the soil. As a result, the terrarium is basically a self-watering device.

Materials needed:

* Any clear-glass container, large or small, with or without a lid.

* Charcoal granules to keep the soil sweet.

* sphagnum moss for the sides of the jar or bottom.

* House-plant soil mixed with one-half part perlite.

* Roofing pebbles, peastone, or coarse gravel for good water drainage.

* One set of terra-tools.

terrariums are draft-free and the possibility of insect attack is limited because of the enclosure. Quick shifts of temperature will not affect your terrarium, and if you turn up the heat on a cold winter night your plants will not be harmed.

Now, how do you use the terra-tools? First, use the spoon end of the planting tool to dig a small hole in the soil which is deep enough for the roots of the plants. Next, grasp a plant with the tweezers and lower it into place inside the bottle. Use the tapper end of the planting tool to press the soil firmly around the roots -- first one, then another, and so on.

Don't pack the soil too firmly, but be sure to get rid of any air pockets.

After planting do not cover the bottle for at least two weeks. condensation may appear on the sides if the cover is put on too soon.

If moisture does appear, remove the cover until it disappears; then replace it.

Water sparingly when the plants are dry. A terrarium with a lid may need water only once a year. An open-mouthed terrarium may need it once a month.

Your terrarium will thrive best in indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight can burn the plants.

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