Sinister Gives Life

Last week, Sinister did all the prep work for his terrarium: Cleaning; and Foundation Layers.

Now it is time to bring life to his project!

  
Not all of these plants are going in – and especially not all of the Maidenhair Fern! Sinister is also doing a smaller ‘back-up terrarium’ in a 3L OJ bottle with one or two of these plants. 

The plants that made the cut-off for the demijohn are:

  • Maidenhair Fern
  • Peperomia Peppermill
  • Ficus Benjamina Var

The Parlour Palm almost made it but he was concerned about space.

This is important – you do not want to crowd your terrarium. You need to create a balance of life-cycle with moisture, light, and air-flow. Too many plants and you start to lose light and moisture while creating the wrong balance in air-flow.

If you’re observant (and all aspiring Evil Genius should be), you have noticed the Maidenhair Fern … And how big it is. 

Good news is: ferns are fairly easy to break up. Sinister found a “how-to” video on Martha Stewart’s website. Seriously. Despite her jail time, she is pretty close to EG-material.

Divide and Conquer:

Any plant you put in has to fit through the opening. 

Maidenhair Fern can be divided fairly easily with a knife. Find the nodes on the plant (cluster points for the roots) and cut around them.

  
Once you have loosened up the roots drop it in to the terrarium on the end of a stick, if you can balance it. 

When putting the foundation layers in, Sinister used a tube to direct the flow. That probably would have worked here too. 
 
  Once in the vessel, move the plant gently with a long stick. When you have it in place, gently push the plant into the soil with the stick.

Each plant needs to have space away from the others (just like any sibling relationship). Sinister used some long-ish tweezers to “direct” his drop. His aim was pretty good. 

  
The last step was to add a little top up soil for the plants, and a few table-spoons of water.  Enough to moisten the soil but don’t saturate it. The condensation cycle should start within a day or two, and that should start producing enough moisture for your plants.

  
And that, my dear minions, is Sinister’s Self-Sustained Terrarium.

He is now in ‘Observation/Maintenance Mode’; Checking it every day and noting down any changes or maintenance required. This project is due for submission at the end of March so we’ll keep you updated then.

 

Preparing Your Own EG World

If you really want to create your own world to conquer and command, you need to do some prep work.

For those tuning in for the first time (slackers): Sinister has chosen to build his own self-sustaining terrarium for a science project. He has already researched what he needs and the environment he needs to create; we bought a demijohn (glass jar) and he has cleaned it up.

Today, he is preparing the foundation for the plants.

The first thing he realised was how narrow the opening was. No matter what he puts in there, he needs to be careful putting it in. 

Sinister came up with the idea of a funnel and a conical style tube – like a long straw. By using the long tube, he could control how much of each substance would disperse at the bottom, limiting the mess at the bottom. 

It’s not just a matter of dumping some soil in the jar and hoping for the best. There are a number of elements to consider:

First layer: Gravel
  

Gravel allows drainage, preventing water from pooling in your soil and rotting the roots.

Second layer: Charcoal

Charcoal is great for cleaning out toxins, in the soil and the air. This helps prevent too many micro-organisms in your set-up. 

Third layer: Sand

  

Sand is, again, about drainage but it also gives some stability to the plants’ roots.

Fourth layer: Soil

The final and crucial layer, but don’t lay it on too thick. Keep it a little moist but not heavy in the plants.

There is a magical ratio for the layers, providing a good foundation while allowing plenty of air-flow with the condensation cycle.

One third of your terrarium should be made of materials which are not air.

 Sinister explained the importance of ‘air-space’: the air-flow ensures the plants have fresh nutrients both above and below the surface. It allows sunlight to come through, which is a nutrient, and encourages the condensation cycle to distribute evenly through the terrarium. Stagnant air chokes the plants and that is bad for everything. 

 
Ignore the ruler propaganda – it was the closest ruler he could find. The point here is to measure your environment and plan your layers accordingly. 

So now the foundation is in, Sinister just needs to figure out how to put the plants in. 

  
I reckon he is up for the challenge. 

Sinister Cleans Up – DIY Terrarium

Sinister is starting off his school year by creating his own world to command and conquer.

I like this teacher already.

Sinister is in Year 5 OC (Opportunity Class – like a Gifted program in the public school system). In Science they are studying Space – Significant astronomers; Creation of the Golden Record; How to Survive in Alien Environments (biospheres).

As part of his assignment, Sinister has chosen to develop his own terrarium, focussing on the creation of a self-sustaining environment.

It’s a huge project but he is already noticing how to break it up into smaller scientific components.

For example: we bought a demijohn glass jar on eBay for $20 to house his terrarium (with cork plug). However, it needed a clean.

After a bit of research, Sinister came up with the following:

Hypothesis: That we can clean the demijohn with vinegar and uncooked rice; that the vinegar would wash and disinfect the jar without leaving a heavy chemical residue; that the rice would lightly scrub the jar without scratching.

Method:

  1. Pour about a litre of plain white vinegar into the large demijohn.  
  2. Add about a cup of uncooked rice  
  3. Put in the cork and shake it like a Polaroid picture… Well, make sure you use two hands; it’s heavy!!
  4. Empty out the vinegar and rice
  5. Rinse out with copious amounts of water.

Results:

  

Damn thing pretty much glistens. This mini-experiment produced the exact results he was looking for.
Next week: Sinister figures out how to fill and build the soil layers for his terrarium. That’s a tight neck there on the demijohn … But he has a plan!