How to Grow a Dinosaur Terrarium

How to Grow a Dinosaur Terrarium

Part of Ep. 2002 The First Gardens

Many ancient plants are easy to grow in terrariums.  At Olbrich Botanical Gardens learn how to make a dinosaur terrarium.  It’s a great project for kids, or those of us who still like to pretend we’re kids.

Premiere date: May 02, 2012

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

SEGMENT #4 HOW TO GROW A DINOSAUR TERRARIUM

 

Shelley Ryan:

We're moving indoors from living fossil trees that you can plant in your own backyard to a dinosaur terrarium that you can put on your windowsill. This is a great project for kids or the kids in all of us. We're at Bolz Conservatory at Olbrich Gardens in Madison. I am with Jennifer Sterling. Jennifer is the Youth and Family Programs Coordinator.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You teach a class in this.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

I do, I teach a class called Dinosaur Domes that we teach kids about ancient plants. Then we pull in dinosaurs to kind of have a lot of fun.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So they get to learn a little horticulture. They learn some paleontology. And they go home with a terrarium.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, show us one of your terrariums and then we'll go ahead and make one.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Sure. This is an example of a terrarium that we made here at Olbrich. As you can see, it's complete with dinosaurs.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Of course!

 

Jennifer Sterling:

We've got a couple samples of plants. We've got ferns, liverworts, and some moss.

 

Shelley Ryan:

These are all examples of, not only ancestors or descendents of ancient plants from the Mesozoic, they're also plants that love a moist, humid environment which is why they're in a terrarium.

 

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Which is what we're creating when we create a terrarium with a closed lid on it like this.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, let's talk containers. I have a feeling it has to be clear glass.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

It does. One of the keys is that it has to be clear. Glass is preferable to plastic, because it doesn't scratch as easily.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

You want it clear, so the sunlight can get through.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Here's a sample of different sizes. You can use anything like an old wine glass, as an example. This is an old sugar bowl that has a lid.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Look at how great that is. I mean, somebody who has a small apartment or small space.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Exactly, right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Garage sale timing, what a great idea that is.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

They don't have lids so the only problem with this one is you want to make sure to moisten the soil more often.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, and looking at these already, I would say plant size is going to be important depending on the size of your container.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

We will have more information about good choices for terrariums on our website that you'll give us.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Good, and that's excellent, because that is one thing you want to consider. Here, you have a lot of room to work with in this container, so you can have ferns and other plants that grow a little bit larger. This is a terrarium that we've started.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You said this was actually a cookie jar.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

This was a cookie jar, yeah. This was a cookie jar. It's got a sealed bottom, which is different from other kinds of planting containers.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Don't buy something with holes in it.

Jennifer Sterling:

Right, exactly. Yeah, you want the sealed environment for these.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, because this is like a miniature ecosystem.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

It is. You want to have kind of a closed ecosystem where the moisture funnels through.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, looking at the bottom, this is is our first layer and that's this right here?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Correct, this is charcoal. You can get that at a horticultural supply store or gardening center. What it does is it filters the water.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

So that it keeps it sterile and keeps the environment clean.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Because it is a closed system.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Correct. Then, the next layer, these are just aquarium rocks that you can buy at a pet store.

 

Shelley Ryan:

They're real pretty.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

They add some nice color. A variety of colors, blues, reds, and then you know, more natural tones.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

It shows the more natural tones. You just put about a layer of about an inch of each.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Then your next layer that you're going to put in is the actual potting soil medium.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, the soil is sterile potting mix.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Yep, and we've moistened it so it's wet.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Ahead of time?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

We've pre-moistened this, so it's already wet. Then you're just going to add a layer in.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I suppose how much you add is going to also depend on the size of the roots of the plants you're putting in.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Exactly, so with the mosses and the liverworts, they don't have much of a root system, if any.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, so those are easy.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

With a shallower bowl, they makes sense. Something like a fern, as you can see the plug is a couple inches, so you're going to need to give yourself that much space in the soil.

 

Shelley Ryan:

These are all plants that you've either collected from the greenhouse here at Olbrich, or here at Bolz Conservatory.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Exactly. Some of these come in on the tropical plants we get so I don't know the exact varieties of the ferns. We would never recommend that you get them from outside.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And not in the wild especially something like liverwort is very, very fragile.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, shall we try this one then?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Excellent. Let me just put a little more soil in.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Because it's going to need to be deeper.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

It's going to need a deeper base, right. Then with the taller plants, you want to place them more more towards the center, so that it has a little bit more room to grow.

 

Shelley Ryan:

There?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Yeah, perfect.

 

Shelley Ryan:

This one doesn't have very many roots so we don't need to break up the root ball.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Then you can just sort of pack the soil gently around it.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Then you're going to need a piece of moss. This, again, you said probably just lays right on top?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

It doesn't really have much of a root system, as you can see, so we can just layer it right on top.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Then the liverworts, which are one of my favorites.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

The liverwort is similar. You're layering it around. Making it up to the edge makes it look really pretty. Then you can always add rock, to kind of landscape it.

 

Shelley Ryan:

If you were going to use the selaginella here on the corner of the table, this is truly an ancient plant from the Mesozoic, would you use this a little differently maybe?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

That one, you might want to use in an open container. You can see how it trails, so that would be perfect for this wine glass.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, kind of let it just hang over the edge or something like that.

Jennifer Sterling:

Correct, yeah.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Again, we'll have a list of different choices and different heights for different containers.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

In this, we're missing something.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

We're missing the major component. Yes, the Tyrannosaurus! You can get these at any kind of craft store or any store any more.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Most people wouldn't have trouble finding dinosaurs, so we could put him maybe in front here, like that. Just place him, or one or two.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Or however many you want.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Or depending on the child, six.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Right, exactly. You've made your little environment.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Now where am I going to place this?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

You’re going to want to place this where it gets indirect sunlight. So, not in a really bright location, because these are all low light plants.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, and they're going to get real hot in direct sun.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

They're going to get hot in direct sunlight. You also want to keep it away from heat vents in the winter so it doesn't dry out.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, same reason.

Jennifer Sterling:

That's the main component. It needs sunlight, but we don't want it to get too hot.

 

Shelley Ryan:

What about things like watering and fertilizing?

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Fertilizing, you shouldn't need to worry about. For watering, you have this lid on it, so it helps keep it moist. However, you want check it regularly. Maybe once a week, take the lid off so the oxygen can kind of you know, circulate through.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

You'll want to just check, as the soil get dry, that's when you just want to add a little bit of water. A little bit.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Yeah, just a little bit. We're not pouring, we're not gushing.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

No, no, just a little bit.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Because we don't want to grow mold, we want to grow a dinosaur terrarium.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

Yes, exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

This is a great, fun project and a great maybe winter project, too.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

And a great gift.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Good idea. Thank you, Jennifer.

 

Jennifer Sterling:

You're welcome.

 

Shelley Ryan:

What a fun project. For more information on dinosaur terrariums and fossil plants and all the topics we discussed today, check out our website at wpt.org. Then click on The Wisconsin Gardener. I'm Shelley Ryan. Thanks for watching.

 

For more information on all of the topics we shared with you today please check out our website at: wpt.org then click on The Wisconsin Gardener. In the meantime, don't forget to read the label. I'm Shelley Ryan. Thanks for watching The Wisconsin Gardener.

 

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Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.