Animals, Charlotte O, Container Gardening, Gardening, How To, Planters, Plants

If you don’t have your own small animal audience, store-bought is fine.

Exciting news folks! Primrose has recently got in a whole new selection of terrarium making tools, the first on the site made specifically for closed-system terrariums! Well since they’re so new, and terrariums are finally making the come back they deserve, I went and wrote up the journey through creating my own closed-system terrarium.

You will need

All of this and a good dash of patience.

The sets we have online also include a very handy shovel and rake set that extends to reach the bottom of your jar, these are indispensable if you have a very deep terrarium! (Although you could always wrap some wire around a fork and a spoon, no judgement here.)

If possible, it’s recommended to find a piece of plastic mesh to help keep the stone and soil layer separate, but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of any, I didn’t use it in my terrarium.

Also handy:

  • A lot of newspaper to work on (it gets messy!)
  • A funnel (I made one out of a cereal packet)
  • Scissors (for pruning if needed)
  • Small hand trowel (for removing soil from roots)

And last but not least, the plants and accessories you want in the terrarium.

These are the two species I used, Tradescantia Purple Passion at the front and a Chlorophytum Comosum behind.

The process

The idea of a closed terrarium is to create an ecosystem that will sustain itself. Both the plants and soil release moisture that becomes water vapour, and condenses against the walls of the terrarium during the warm daylight, falling back to the soil in the cooler evenings. This creation of an enclosed watering system is what will keep your terrarium growing, but just throwing dirt and plants at it isn’t going to work, an irrigation system is needed to stop the soil from rotting under too much water.

At this point you’ll want to grab the funnel, or if you’re on a budget, make one out of cardboard or paper to make for easier application of the materials.

First pour in a layer of small stones, pebbles, or gravel. There’s no hard and fast measurement as it depends on what size receptacle you’re using, a good rule to stick to is one-quarter stones to three-quarters soil. Remember this layer has to be deep enough to stop any pooling water from sitting in the soil.

I’d highly recommend checking out this video on youtube for a visual representation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lg4tzkHgVo

Check your terrarium from all angles, sometimes it’s hard to judge the level of coverage with curved glass.

Next is activated charcoal. This is an integral ingredient in the tasty soup that is your closed terrarium. It absorbs chemicals in the soil, water, and air that could otherwise build up over time and damage the plants. Charcoal also cleans up unpleasant odours that are released from the decomposing soil and helps stop mildew forming.

You don’t need a whole layer of the stuff, but make sure there’s a good handful being placed in, it’s going to do a lot of work after all!

If you’ve been able to source some plastic mesh, now is the time to cut it to shape, fold it up and pop it in. You’ll need some long tools to push and pull it into place, and then you can add the substrate. (Note that the charcoal seems fine both above and below the mesh layer.) Again, if you don’t have a mesh layer don’t worry! You can still power on!

Okay, let’s layer up some soil! You’ll need a decent amount, remember we’re working to approx one-quarter stones to three-quarters substrate. Don’t worry if your measurements aren’t perfect, it’s all a learning process!

Make some small divots for the plants to sit in, and let’s move on to prepping some plants!

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Plant choices

A closed terrarium is a specific type of environment. There’s a lot of damp warmth in there, and if left in direct sunlight, the refraction of the glass will cook everything inside. So we need moisture-loving, low light-thriving, quite small plants. Which admittedly cuts down our options somewhat, but here are some plants that I’ve discovered-

Small ferns will help fill out any space, and they’re relatively easy to come by. Try and find a miniature variety if you can, as some ferns can grow pretty big.

Some that come recommended:

Peperomia, Maidenhair fern, Pteris, and Adiantum. I chose a variegated fern to place in mine, the pot I purchased had three separate plants in it so I picked out the smallest to place in my also quite small terrarium.

Soleirolia variants are perfect as well, and have a variety of amusing names such as, mind-your-own-business, baby’s tears, angel’s tears, friendship plant and Irish moss. (It is in fact, not a moss, but a plant from the nettle family.)

Tradescantia- also known as Spiderwort, is another plant that does well in humid climates. There are a lot of variants though, and I’d recommend staying away from any that are flowering as they will wilt and die quickly in the terrarium. I chose a Tradescantia Purple Passion to place in mine.

Other tropical foliage such as Dizygotheca and Neoregelia ‘fireball’ enjoy a humid environment, making them other possibilities for your display.

To finish it off I would recommend some moss. I took a trowel and dug some out of my garden. Moss is a great way to fill out your terrarium, it helps to cover bare soil and brings more diversity into the jar.

Trixie spent the whole time trying to eat my plants and the moss. Thanks Trix.

Preparing plants

This section entirely depends on what container you’re using for your terrarium, but for brevity’s sake I’m going to assume you’re using the same line of terrariums that I am, and in that case you’ve got some trimming to do. The opening of the bottle is a lot smaller than you first think, so you’ll need to carefully extract the plants from their pots, and gently scrape or shake off most of the soil around the roots so you can fit it through the top. This is where having another container or a lot of newspaper down comes in handy to catch all the soil!

Move the plant around after it’s fallen inside, and make sure you push soil back around the roots when you’ve confirmed the placement.

Now is a good time to consider the layout of your terrarium. Instagram and Pinterest are great sources of inspiration, just make sure whatever you use is small enough to fit!

In my terrarium I used some old chunky sticks to create a divide in the middle, putting the fern one side and the tradescantia on the other, with moss liberally applied all around. To finish it off, I added some more height with a mossy stick reaching up through the bottle, remember to consider your layers to make for a more visually interesting display!

Here’s my finished terrarium! I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and it didn’t take more than about half an hour to put together!

Finishing off

Before adding the cork, make sure you give your terrarium a good spritz with a spray bottle, or pour a little water down the side. You don’t need to add the cork straight away – allow the bottle to stand for a day to let the plants settle, and for the first week or so, take the cork off for a few hours every day. This allows you to adjust the water, and allows the plants to breathe and accumulate to their new closed-system environment a little easier.

Keep your terrarium out of direct sunlight, and rotate it every day or so to allow all sides to soak up some heat.

And here’s my beauty after 2 weeks! The tiny wild clover in the moss are loving it!

Troubleshooting and the future

There’s always the fear that your terrarium won’t last the weekend. Fear not! If you’ve used the right plants and followed the guide you should be safe. One thing to bear in mind is the water cycle, moisture should build up over the day, then drip back down to the soil overnight. If there is too much condensation then plants might start to rot, so remove the cork and allow it to dry out a little. If there’s no moisture on the sides by late afternoon, it may need a spritz of water to keep the cycle going.

If it does unfortunately go wrong, there’s no shame in calling it a day, dumping it all out and starting again. We all have to start somewhere, and I’m sure your next terrarium will look amazing!

If you do make up one of our terrariums, be sure to snap a photo and send it in!

Bonus points for getting your pets involved!

 

Charlotte at PrimroseCharlotte is a Copy Writer at Primrose, writing product descriptions and about anything else that comes her way. She owns 2 rabbits and 5 chickens that she loves very much. (Her garden is most certainly not tidy).

When not at her desk you can find her attempting to find her way back to Japan again, or drawing.

See all of Charlotte’s posts.

Zoe

Care Home Garden

As many of you are already aware, Primrose has been running a national care home competition in which the lucky winner would receive £1000 towards their communal garden.  We have received near 100 entries from across the country from Glasgow all the way to Isle of Wight! There have been some incredibly moving nominations from those who work in care homes, those who have family in care homes and people who just simply want to support their local community.

A common pattern in all the entries was people recognising the amazing benefits of spending time outdoors, echoing the belief that the outdoors can relieve stress, stimulate the senses and promote calmness. One entry also said “the garden is important for the residents not only for them to enjoy being in an outdoor space that is safe and accessible but it’s also a great social space” which highlights the ways a garden can encourage residents to speak to one another and build lasting friendships.

Gardening From Wheelchair

Despite all the wonderful entries though, there could only be one winner…and we are thrilled to announce them as Abbeywood care home in Aldershot!

We were touched to see the heartfelt nomination written by their activities co-ordinator which talked about what difference this money could mean to them and how the garden was currently being used by the residents to connect with the community and spend time reflecting.

We learnt that Abbeywood would use the money to encourage local woodland wildlife so that the residents may enjoy watching the birds and other creatures in the garden, and also invest in some raised beds which would make gardening much easier for residents who have trouble bending down. We loved the idea of making the outdoor space a place for people to relax but also a place where residents may get involved with growing vegetables and gardening if they wish to.

There were also several other nominations for the same care home from families of residents which reflects the great care work they currently do. Well done Abbeywood – it’s so great to hear positive reviews!

Thank you to everybody who took the time to enter, we have really enjoyed the entries we’ve received and can’t wait to move forward with Abbeywood and their garden transformation.

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Garden Tools, Gardening, How To, Planters, Primrose Gardens, Zoe

Gardening From Wheelchair

Before starting my job as a Marketing Executive at Primrose, I spent four years working as a domiciliary care worker. It was during these years I learnt about the phenomenal difference a garden made to my client’s lives, and how important it is to have a wheelchair friendly garden. I spent many hours wandering my clients’ gardens hearing about the progress they had made and learnt a lot about gardening myself from their advice. I’ve seen first-hand how watching a garden grow improved the mood of my clients, and I’m sure all gardeners can agree there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the results from all your hard work when flowers bloom, fruit appears or the bumble bees come stumbling in.

It is so important then that everybody has the opportunity to garden independently, whether you have had greenfingers your whole life or decided to give it a try for the first time. Gardening presents a huge array of benefits and the light exercise of pottering in your garden has been proven to burn more calories than a gym session – and you save on that membership fee! There has also been significant research to suggest gardening dramatically improves your mental health and self-esteem…weeding doesn’t sound so bad now does it?

However, gardening with a disability is far from easy and the lack of wheelchair friendly garden products can certainly be frustrating. I have been researching ways you can make your garden wheelchair friendly so you can adapt your garden and make the most of your outdoor space!

You can also head over to our Disabled Gardening category on the Primrose website

Wheelchair Friendly Greenhouses

For serious gardeners, a greenhouse is a must. A greenhouse gives you the ability to grow plants and get results you ordinarily would not be able to, especially with the uncertainty of the British weather! It also gives you the opportunity to shelter your plants and yourself from any nasty weather meaning you get some extra time to tend to your plants, and who doesn’t want that?

Finding a wheelchair friendly greenhouse need not be difficult as long as you take proper measurements and research the greenhouse thoroughly. Don’t just take into account the space in your garden but also consider the space you need to be able to work comfortably, because you might be spending a lot of time in there.

Things to consider when looking for the perfect wheelchair friendly greenhouse:

  •         Check the width of the doors to the greenhouse and make sure your chair will be able to fit through easily when entering and exiting.
  •         Make sure there is no threshold (small step at the base of the greenhouse) which will be difficult to get over safely in your chair.
  •         Height of internal shelves: make sure if your greenhouse comes with shelving that it is at a height you can reach comfortably.

If you keeping these requirements in mind it should be easy to find a greenhouse that is perfect for you, have a look at our wheelchair friendly greenhouses that also come in different colours to see if you can find the greenhouse of your dreams!

Wheelchair Friendly Greenhouse

Raised Beds

Another way you may wish to adapt your garden may be through the use of raised beds. Raised beds minimise risk by saving you from bending down to care for your plants, which would otherwise strain your back. However, make sure to thoroughly research which raised bed is going to be best for you based on your individual capability; raised beds are fantastic but they can also be difficult when you have to reach across them to tend to your plants. Think about a height that is going to work best, as well as the shape and the depth in regards to what will be most comfortable for you.

Raised beds are also a great option if you have poor quality soil due to the increased depth which makes good quality aerated soil for your plants.  Isolating these plants also means you have the benefit of fewer weeds, and less pests! Raised beds are also renowned for improved drainage, which can be either a good or a bad thing depending on the situation, but does definitely mean more watering in the summer months which could become a burden.

Raised Beds

Garden Tracking

If you have a grass garden you might find that buying some roll out garden tracking may really help you get across your garden. Garden track can help to disguise uneven grounding and gravel that typically make gardening in your chair more difficult. Clip in tracking can be extended as much as required for your convenience, or you can buy specialist wheelchair garden tracking for this purpose. Tracking is particularly good to use in bad weather too, and can be rolled up to be stored away easily until you need it next.

Garden Tracking

Garden Tools

Finding good garden tools is an essential for any disabled gardener and there is a huge range online that have been adapted to make gardening jobs much easier; so be sure to shop around for what tools will make life easier for you personally.

In general, it’s great to have lightweight tools with wide handles. Not only will these help you with having a better grip, but it means you will be able to spend longer on gardening tasks without the tools becoming too heavy.
Without a doubt though, the most important tools when gardening in a wheelchair are those with extended arms which save you from bending too far. It’s possible to get a wide range of tools with extendable arms on the internet from grippers, sheers, weed burners and much more.

Gardening Tools

Potting Bench

One way to save yourself from constant bending is to have a potting station in your garden so you can get on with gardening jobs such as; potting and looking after cuttings and seedlings. They are also great for storage and hiding your tools and pots you’re not currently using. Make sure to check the measurements of the workstation so you find one that is the best height for you.
It’s also worth considering using lightweight planters for planting in future, as these will make it a lot easier to manoeuvre the pot in your garden and save a lot of strain on your back when you need to re-position it. There are a wide range of lightweight planters now on the market that still have an authentic look so it’s worth having a look to find some pots that suit your garden’s style.

Potting Table

 

My last bit of advice is seemingly simple; keep your garden neat and organised! Not only will this make your garden appear tidier, but it is also very important to help prevent accidents. By having an organised garden with proper storage solutions you can give each tool a place and ensure you always know where to find it!
If you have any more advice on how to create a more wheelchair friendly garden please do get in touch, and I hope everyone enjoys their gardens now we’re entering the Spring!

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Composting, Garden Tools, Gardening, How To, Plants, Weeding, Zoe

There are mixed opinions about whether you should bother to sterilise your compost. Some gardeners choose not to, which is fine, but we believe there are many benefits to this very simple process:

  1. It kills off harmful bacteriaSome may argue that in turn you will be killing useful bacteria but this is not the case. The only way you will kill of beneficial bacteria is by baking your soil at a temperature that is too high; we talk about this in more detail later. Professional nurseries sterilise their compost, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either.
  2. It’s proven to keep away pests such as thrips that are particularly annoying when using compost in your home and sterilisation can prevent such unwanted house guests.
  3. Prevention is the solution. Prevent disease in your compost before the problems arise, rather than skipping past the sterilisation stage and then making the situation a lot worse later on.
  4. Sterilised soil ensures that your plant will be happy and healthy, and this means the best optimal growth.
  5. Better safe than sorry. The methods outlined in this blog are super easy to do, and will make sure your compost is definitely safe for your plants. So why wouldn’t you want to give it a go?

    Making Compost

    Outlined here are three easy methods to sterilise your compost from your home:

     

    Oven

    Using your oven at home you can sterilise your compost easily; be warned that baking compost can create a smelly odour, so you may wish to open your windows whilst doing this.

    • Firstly, you need to use moist soil, do not over water the soil however you only want a slight dampness.
    • Use an oven safe tray and fill it with your soil until it is around 10 cm (4 inches) deep.
    • Cover the tray loosely with foil.
    • Put your tray in the middle of a pre-heated oven that’s around 80° For a more accurate result use a thermometer in the centre of the tray and bake between 80-90°c
    • Do not exceed the temperatures stated above, at temperatures above 90°c is when the good bacteria is killed and toxins are produced.
    • Bake for 30 minutes before taking out, make sure to take the foil off and leave it to cool for a while before handling the soil.

     

    Microwave

    The easiest and quickest way to sterilise your compost is with your microwave. We suggest using an old microwave in your garden shed or greenhouse to prevent bringing compost into your home, and this way you can get on with other gardening jobs whilst it’s baking.

    • As before you will need moist soil, but not too wet that it is slushy.
    • Find a microwave safe container and fill this with your soil.
    • Do not use foil in the microwave, instead cover with cling film with holes for the steam to escape or a plastic lid with air holes.
    • For every two pounds of soil will need 90 seconds in the microwave.
    • After it’s pinged, leave the soil to cool before handling.

     

Alternative method:

  • Place two pounds of moist soil in a polypropylene bag
  • Leave the bag slightly open for ventilation
  • Zap in the microwave for 2-2 ½ minutes on full power before removing and cooling

 

Pressure Cooker

  • Start by pouring a few cups of water into the cooker
  • Next add your pans of soil, be careful not to add more than 4 inches, and pop it on the top rack.
  • Make sure to cover these with foil to help insulate the soil.
  • Close the lid for your cooker but make sure you leave the steam valve

For every ten pounds of soil, leave it to steam for 15-20 minutes.

Voila! You now have sterilised soil that will be sure to sprout stunning plants in no time! If you prefer shop bought compost, read our Primrose Guide to Compost for further advice and information.

Sterilised Compost

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.