Posted in: greenhouse, indoor, insects, projects On: Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
With the terrarium “revival” there have come a lot of perks – I get to talk with all sorts of people interested in these mini gardens and hear about their own personal tricks for success, favorite plants and creative construction and decoration techniques. I’ve also had the opportunity to hear (and experience…) the little ecosystem dilemmas we can encounter while growing under glass. So I’ve compiled this list of common questions and issues in an effort to save beginners and experts alike the time of experimentation and share some tried and true solutions. (That being said, feel free to e-mail me with other questions about persisting issues or failed solutions. I’m super friendly, really: Elizabeth@primexgardencenter.com)
Q – Don’t I need a layer of gravel for drainage or something?
A – No. No you don’t. Gravel does not increase drainage in a terrarium (or anywhere else for that matter) and can actually make things worse. It’s a little surprising, but true. I won’t bore you too much with the science-y explanation. Put simply, water will not move easily from finer material like soil to a coarser material like gravel without fully saturating the soil first. Gravel’s just a big no-no, unless you like that layered look. In that case, go for it! Just know, it’s only for decorative purposes and not actually helping with drainage or anything.
Q – I think I overwatered! What do I dooo?!
A – First, if your terrarium is lidded, remove the lid for at least 24 hours. It’s also a good idea to move your terrarium into bright light to try to evaporate excess water. You can also roll up a bit of paper towel and make yourself a wick – one end goes into the soil medium and the other in the air. Your wick should absorb excess water and allow it to evaporate more quickly. Please don’t use a hairdryer. Your plants will be sad.
It’s not easy to reverse overwatering. I encourage you to err on the side of under-watering. You can always add more water, but you can’t as easily take it away. Allow the medium in your terrarium to lighten in color and give just enough water to moisten the areas around your plants. Plant’s roots need just as much air as they do water and overwatering essentially suffocates them and causes them to die and rot. Don’t overwater, ok?
Q – I have mold, fungus or some sort of fuzzy growth in the bottom of my terrarium. What is it, where did it come from and how do I make it go away?
A – Your new furry friend likely moved in when some organic material was left to rot on top of the soil. Be sure to remove spent flowers, dropped leaves and other organic material from the soil surface to inhibit this type of infestation. (And you’re probably overwatering. Quit it.)
Q – Oh, GROSS! I’ve got bugs in my terrarium!
A – Not exactly a question, but I get it. Finding bugs in your terrarium may be extremely annoying (as in the case of mealy bugs), only mildly irritating (say, spider mites) or actually, mostly harmless (fungus gnats). I recommend bringing in a sample to Primex and letting one of our staff identify the pests for you. We can give you advice on control and suggestions to prevent reoccurring infestations. In the case of fungus gnats … Hey, guess what? You’re Over-Watering. Quit it.