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Make your own tiny moss garden in a bottle.

 
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Step 1: Materials

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Glass jar with lid or cork
Pebbles or gravel
Activated charcoal
Peat moss
Potting soil
Moss
Spoon or funnel
Water spritzer bottle

Some notes on finding supplies

Activated Charcoal: Your best bet for finding activated charcoal is an aquarium or pet supply store. They sell this charcoal in bulk packages. This is the type of charcoal used in Brita filters and air filter masks as well. You only need a few tablespoons of the stuff for one moss garden.

Peat Moss and Potting Soil: These are common and can be found in at most garden centres.

Pebbles: You can find pebbles on the ground, or you can buy them in a store. Aquarium stores sell pea gravel that is the perfect size. The stones should be quite small, about the size of lentils or raisins. You need enough pebbles to create a solid layer in the bottom of your container. Wash your pebbles well before using them.

Step 2: Find a bottle

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First, you need to find a glass bottle.

Once you start looking, you will see bottles everywhere. You can recycle old jars or bottles from your house - salt shakers or clear glass spice jars work well. I like to find bottles in thrift stores or garage sales, or rescue them from the garbage.

I recommend a wide-mouthed container (such as a canning jar or spice jar) to start with - it's a lot easier than one with a narrow neck.

The bottles that work best are ones that have a tight fitting lid. This helps to keep moisture inside the container.

Step 3: Find some moss

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It can be easy or difficult to find moss, depending on where you live. I live in a coastal city with lots of rain, and moss seems to grow everywhere.

Look for places that are moist and slightly shady. I avoid moss growing on trees. I also avoid moss from sensitive areas like protected parks or by streams. Once I really started looking, I noticed that plenty of moss grows right by the sidewalk, in that grassy strip between the sidewalk and the road. It can be hard to spot sometimes, because it is often mixed with grass. This roadside moss is often quite hardy because it is already growing in a tough environment.

If you know someone with a shady backyard, try looking there. If you're really having trouble, try talking to some local naturalists, or do some moss research. There is an incredible book called Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer that can help you understand more about the different types of moss and where they might be found.

Step 4: Collect moss

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Gather the moss by gently digging into the soil with your fingers and pulling it up. It comes up in a mat, because it doesn't really have roots.

As a rule of thumb, I only harvest 25% or less of the moss in one area. You really don't need a large amount of moss - just enough to cover the bottom of your glass container.

When collecting moss, I place it in a plastic bag to help keep it moist. If you aren't using your collected moss right away, you can spritz it with water and store it in the fridge in a tupperware-type container.

Step 5: First Layer: Pebbles

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Using the funnel or spoon, pour pebbles into the jar until the bottom is completely covered. You can make this layer as tall as you want, depending on the height of your container.

When your bottle garden is complete, the pebbles will provide a place for water drainage.

Step 6: Second Layer: Charcoal

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Next, you want to completely cover the pebbles with a layer of activated charcoal.

The charcoal acts as a filter, grabbing impurities out of the water as it drains through to the pebbles.

Step 7: Third Layer: Peat Moss

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Add a layer of peat moss on top of the activated charcoal. Half an inch of peat moss is enough for a small container.

For anyone unfamiliar with peat moss, it doesn't actually look like living moss. Peat moss looks a bit like soil, but it is made from partially decomposed sphagnum moss. A layer of peat moss holds water and helps to prevent the soil nutrients from leaching through to the bottom of the container.

Step 8: Fourth Layer: Soil

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Follow up the peat moss with a layer of potting soil.

Half an inch to one inch should be enough. If the soil is dry, spritz it with some water from the spray bottle.

Step 9: Final Layer: Moss!

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Now is the fun part! Inspect the moss you gathered. You might want to remove any stray potato bugs or blades of grass, or you might want to leave them in.

If you are using a wide mouthed jar, gently tear off a piece of moss just a little bit smaller than the bottom of your jar. Push it into the jar so the bottom of the moss mat is touching the soil. Spritz generously with water.

If you are using a narrow-necked bottle, tear off a piece of moss that will fit through the bottle neck. Using chopsticks or something similar, push the moss through the bottle neck and into the bottom of the bottle. Make sure the moss lands right side up. You can probably flip it over with the chopstick if it lands upside-down. Do the same with other small pieces of moss until the soil is completely covered in moss. Using the stick, lightly tamp down each piece of moss to keep it in place. Spritz the bottle with a little water.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

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Be sure to clean any stray soil or moss from the sides of the bottle. Cap the bottle tightly and place it in a moderately sunny spot. Moss generally need less direct sunlight than other plants.

Keep an eye on your moss garden. If the lid is loose or has holes in it, spritz your garden with water once in a while. If it seals really tightly, you probably won't have to water it, but the moss might grow very fast. When the moss starts getting too tall for the bottle, 'mow' it with a pair of scissors.
DanH93 months ago

Would a worm work if i wanted to add an animal to produce more O2?

ccrowe12 years ago
Very nice
stefgala4 years ago
so, I guess you don't need holes at the bottom, to let water drain?
naheel4 years ago
hi iam naheel i want to begain asmall terrarium plant project ,i want to know whats the differant between potting soil and peatmoss and if we can use one of them not both please can u answer me thanks
NaturalCulture (author)  naheel4 years ago
Hello Naheel,

If you read step 7, there is an explanation of what peat moss is. If you have trouble getting a hold of peat moss where you live, you could try using a layer of stocking or some other fine screen/mesh to keep the soil from draining to the bottom of the container. Good luck!
woelfwynde4 years ago
These are actually called terrariums and I did them in school for a school project.
I live in the desert, but will be visiting the mountains. I am sure I can find moss there. If I transport it home (shortest time possible, right when I leave), how should I keep it happy ?
Just keep it damp. You could layer it between lightly dampened cloth or paper towels. I have relocated moss for a flower garden and kept it off the ground for a couple of weeks just by keeping it moist and giving it a bit of sunlight every day.
Tithen5 years ago
Nice. So how long roughly does it take for the moss to start to grow?
and how long till you get it like in the last pictures?
Cheers
manderw5 years ago
Now that is just too cute.  We have this amazing variety of tiny little mosses and plants that grow all over the place here in England, and I have always thought it would be neat to have a miniature garden on my desk.  I never thought of putting it in a jar, though!  That would cut down on the chance of knocking it over and spilling potting soil all over my laptop!
EaglesNest6 years ago
The bottles look very nice. Doesn't the moss need holes for air circulation?
NaturalCulture (author)  EaglesNest6 years ago
Thanks! The salt shaker has tiny holes in its lid. As for the tight sealing ones, they seem to be doing ok. I open them about once every week and a half. If you have something living inside (such as a beetle or snail) to consume the oxygen and produce carbon dioxide, you probably don't have to worry about that.
That would be cool to have a living creature in it
Question - over time do things become sludgey (I know I just made that word up!) and require maintenance?  I would think that you might have to empty it all out and give it a real overhaul.

Just curious.

You did a great job with this instructabl.  Thanks for sharing.

www.theruralindependent.com
Good question. I still have the salt n pepper garden in the picture (I had to give the others away when I moved, but they were still healthy after 5 months), and it is not sludgey at all. I think that would only happen if you had too much water/not enough charcoal, or if something else threw off the balance.

I have only had this one for seven months, so I can't say what would happen over a span of years.
Do you have to open it for the moss to breathe? I imagine it'd need new CO2 every so often.
NaturalCulture (author)  armored bore5 years ago
If the lid isn't tightly sealed, they should do fine. If it's a tight seal like a cork, you can open it occasionally, depending on the size of the bottle.
Zorasta5 years ago
I've gotta say that this is a really awesome idea
and once I actually have green things around again I will definitely be going off in search of some moss to create a garden of my own ^^
This is a great Instructable with good detail and visual examples for each step. I've been wanting to do some of these (I have been collecting glass bottles) and now I have a perfect guide to help me succeed. Thanks
OakCariad6 years ago
Amazingly, I had just done the very same thing two weeks ago. We currently live in Germany and the spring and summer have been unusually wet, so the moss that 'usually' goes 'a little' has grown a LOT. I have some small jars and old refrigerator containers from my grandmother that I decided needed to become moss gardens. Thanks for spreading the word on these beautiful little micro-environments!
NaturalCulture (author)  OakCariad6 years ago
That's great! You should post some images of yours if you get the chance - I'd love to see them.
ChrysN6 years ago
These look really nice, a great way to add a touch of green.