Here’s a DIY on some Gothic Gardening for those of us who don’t have access to proper garden space but still crave some spooky haunted greenery. Great for shaded windowsills or tables, one of these would be ideal for an office desk decoration. These tiny terrariums are super easy to construct and care for! You can also customize it to any décor you like- maybe you prefer a little glass mushroom or scattered set of ceramic doll plates instead of a spooky graveyard. 🙂
I am not a trained gardener and I am not a moss expert. My terrariums have all done well with exactly these steps, and I know there are lots of tutorials recommending many other ways to do this. 🙂 Do your research, if you find a better tutorial or method you prefer use that one.
-Glass container with lid. Thrift shops often have old jars that work well for this for very little $! (Who doesn’t like a cheap craft!?)
-Potting soil, one specific for indoor plants. You don’t need very much of this so grab the smallest bag you can find. Ideally you want a peat-moss type potting soil, as the higher acidity in this mimics the perfect conditions for moss in nature.
-A about a cup of small stones. Mine are leftover from decorating my fish tank. You can find smooth stones in most dollar shops, or collect your own (just be sure to clean them thoroughly prior to use).
-Moss, we’ll explain the best ways to find/transport your moss shortly.
-Butter knife and a spoon.
-Plastic lunch bags.
Wash your glass container and the rocks for the terrarium with several rinses of hot water (no soap) to make sure there is no foreign residue on them. Allow to air dry.
Collect your moss! This is the romantic part of this tutorial. Grab your lunch bags, butter knife, and spoon, and set out to the nearest woods to you. I live across from a valley in the middle of an enormous city. Yes, there is moss in urban areas. Moss grows in dark moist areas, think stream beds or anywhere with constantly damp soil and trees, on rotting trees and right on top of stones. You will need a few chunks of moss, depending on the size of your container. Look for moss that is bright green and healthy and not dried out at all.
There are many kinds of mosses! Some look like a pin-cushion, some tiny ferns, others like little juniper bushes. Most like similar conditions- moist, shady places, tombstones. 😉
When you find some moss simply wiggle your butter knife or spoon gently under the moss to lift it carefully from the ground. You do not want to shake the soil from the moss’s delicate roots, that will help it acclimatize to the terrarium, so keep the dirt on. Get a few good sized clumps of moss. Try to keep them in solid pieces as it’s easier to plant them in the terrarium this way. Place the moss in your lunch bags to keep it protected from drying out as you head home.
You can keep the moss in the fridge inside of the sealed lunch baggies for a few days if need be (but it’s better to plant it the same day).
Prepare your terrarium! Start with a layer of the small rocks. About 1-2″ high in the bottom of your glass container. What you are doing is creating layers for drainage and to store water for the moss.
Put a layer of dampened potting soil (just pour some in a bowl and run cool water on it to moisten) on top of the rocks. About 2″ thick. Add a little water so the soil stays moist, you’ll want to see some drain down in among the rocks below (don’t flood the terrarium however). The roots of the moss should not sit in water, this will cause rot and decay for your moss. 😦
Plant the moss! Carefully arrange the sections of moss on top of the soil and gently press down. You want to cover the entire surface of the potting soil with moss (remember you’ve kept the outside moss-dirt still attached so it is now settling into the potting soil). Once it’s in place add a tiny (maybe 2 tablespoons) of water to the moss to cheer it up and wipe down the inside of the glass to clear off stray soil.
Decorate! This is the fun part. You can now customize your terrarium! The tombstones I used were unpainted plaster ones used for model train sets, I attached each stone to wire after painting them and planted them in the moss gently. You can add any sorts of miniature things you have on hand to fancy up your terrarium! Things like glass marbles, tiny figures, or plastic dinosaurs would all look great.
Caring for the terrarium is easy! I have a few of these and they have all been growing steadily for over a year. Place the terrarium out of direct sunlight in a shaded area with the lid on. The natural condensation and evaporation inside of the container will provide most of the water needed for the moss. Check the moss occasionally for dryness, if it seems dry mist it with a spray bottle and add a little water so there is a bit collected down in the rocks below. Moss shows when it has been watered too much by becoming dark and shorter in height, if you see this then just reduce how often you water it and if this effect is pronounced just leave the lid off of the terrarium a few days.