It’s time for one of my DIY garden ideas on a budget! This Rotisserie Chicken Mini Terrarium is inexpensive to make and looks great as a table decoration. It is also a fun way to get a head start on spring gardening by using the recycled container to start seeds.
Early spring or late winter is the time of the year for seed starting in many parts of the country. You can purchase all sorts of seed starters from big box home improvement stores, but why not recycle things you already have on hand?
Many normal household items can be used to start seeds. A staple in our house – a rotisserie chicken container – is one of my favorites. Starting seeds indoors is a really great way to introduce gardening to your children.
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Gardening with children
I love to encourage kids to do what they can in the way of gardening tasks.
Letting children do small tasks early on will help to encourage them to be life long gardeners. It is also a wonderful way to spend time with your kids.
Mini greenhouses and terrariums bring the outside indoors and let children see the results of their gardening projects up close.
Rotisserie chicken containers are the perfect recycled item for small gardens and for starting seeds. The domed top of rotisserie chicken containers gives room for the small plants to grow and ensures they get the humidity that they need.
What type of rotisserie chicken container do I need?
Be sure to select a rotisserie tray that is fairly sturdy. Not all rotisserie containers are the same. Some can be quite brittle and won’t last long with extra weight in them.
Depending on your store, some containers even come with vents the in top which will allow more leeway in the type of plants that can be grown.
Rotisserie chicken containers also come in different sizes. The jumbo sized one that I get with the larger barbecued chickens will hold much more soil than a smaller chicken container.
The larger one makes a better mini terrarium, while the small container is suitable for starting seeds.Don't throw that rotisserie chicken container away. Use it to make a homemade seed starting tray or mini terrarium. This project is lots of fun to do with kids. #recycle #upsycle #miniterrarium Click To Tweet
Rotisserie Chicken Seed Starting Tray
Start by giving the container a thorough cleaning. This is very important, especially if you have a cat or dog. The last thing you want is for the garden to be planted and have your dog come along and decide there is a dinner lurking within it!
Add a layer of aquarium gravel to bottom of your homemade seed starting container. This will allow water to collect below the level of the gravel and make sure the plants don’t become water-logged.
If you will be placing the container on a tray, you can also just cut some holes in the bottom of the container and omit the gravel.
Seed starting soil is best for growing seeds. This is a soil-less medium that is used for starting plants from seed.
It’s a much better choice for starting seeds than normal potting soil because it is finer and lighter. This makes it easier for tiny seedling roots to grow.
Add your seeds. Any seeds will grow, but some are better suited than others to this type of environment. These are some that I have tried which work well:
- wheatgrass – lots of fun at Easter
- microgreens – very fast to sprout which is great for the little ones
- mixed lettuce greens
A plant mister is one of the best ways to keep the soil watered. Even though the container has a plastic top, you will need to keep an eye on the moisture. Plant misters don’t disrupt the placement of fine seeds.
Place the rotisserie chicken seed starting tray near a bright light source but not right in a sunny window. The combination of the plastic top and too much sunlight can wilt seedlings easily.
New seedlings also like heat, so a warm window or plant heat mat under the tray will help with germination.
When the seedlings have emerged, move to a more sunny spot and you’ll have a head start on gardening.
A tray of mixed lettuce greens is perfect for a salad garden indoors. The kids will love to use scissors to snip the leaves and put them in salad and be delighted when they re-grow!
Now that we know the basics of using the rotisserie chicken container for a garden project, let’s move on to something a bit more decorative.
Making a rotisserie chicken mini terrarium or greenhouse
Seed starting is not the only way to use a rotisserie chicken container in your DIY gardening projects. The tray can also be used to make a mini terrarium.
Terrariums are small enclosed environments for plants that enjoy a humid environment. Think of them as a mini-greenhouses.
To use the container for a terrarium, you will need to use a box cutter or a sharp Exacto knife to cut a fairly good sized hole on the top of the plastic dome.
The reason for doing this is to allow extra moisture to be released if your dome does not have a lot of vents and to make watering easier. Without the hole, the plants inside the terrarium may rot from too much humidity.
Once again, add aquarium gravel or make some holes in the base.
Normal potting soil is fine since you will be adding plants, not seeds, for this mini terrarium. If you will be planting succulents, use a special cactus or succulent soil for better drainage.
I like to do this project with small succulents. Since I always have a supply of small succulent stem or leaf cuttings, this gives me plenty of plants to work with, and the terrarium looks great right away.
Start with tall plants and larger focal plants in the center of the mini terrarium. This allows you to add other plants around them of decreasing heights.
Planting this way also gives a domed look to the arrangement that mimics the shape of the dome top of the rotisserie chicken container.
Fit in smaller plants around the outside of the center focal plants. I ended up using tiny rooted leaves to fill in the edges and the whole look gave the mini terrarium a wow factor!
TIPS: Be careful when you are spacing the succulents. I had a few whoopsie moments with my mini terrarium.
The look I was going for was a fully planted terrarium, and I planted too close to the outside edges on first planting. The domed top of a rotisserie chicken container actually covers the lip on the edge and doesn’t sit outside it.
I had to remove some plants to fit the dome on top when I was done! 😁
Also be careful to note the shape of the domed top when choosing how large a succulent to put in as you approach the outside edge. The dome declines and large plants will keep the dome from sitting properly.
For best results, I would suggest placing the dome top on from time to time so that you don’t have any whoopsie moments!
Once the planting is finished, replace the domed top. The cut out that we made on the top does two things: it allows for some ventilation to release humidity (important in the case of succulents,) and makes it easy to water the plants without having to remove the top.
The finished mini greenhouse is an easy care way to display a lot of succulents in one small space and makes taking care of them a breeze.
A rotisserie chicken terrarium is also great for taking cuttings of plants. The humidity inside the terrarium is higher than normal air, so the cuttings don’t dry out as easily.
Plants for small terrariums
Keep in mind the size of your mini terrarium when choosing plants. Choose plants that will remain small when mature and those that like extra humidity. Some good choices are:
- Nerve Plant
- Succulents – be sure the top has ventilation holes
- Polka dot plant
- Golden Pothos
- Button Plant
- Miniature ferns
- Earth star bromeliad
- Miniature African violets
Having a mini terrarium during the winter months will satisfy your need for greenery indoors when the weather is too cold to garden. Enjoying one during the normal growing season means that you will have lots of plants to choose from when it’s time to plant.
Either way, using a rotisserie chicken tray to make a mini terrarium is a cost effective way to enjoy this type of gardening. No matter what time of year it is, this fun DIY project is a winner!
Pin this rotisserie chicken mini terrarium for later.
Would you like a reminder of this recycled mini terrarium project? Just pin this image to one of your garden boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in April of 2013. I have updated the post to add all new images, a second tutorial, a printable project card and a video for you to enjoy.
- Recycled rotisserie chicken container
- Potting soil
- Aquarium gravel
- Small succulents
- Exacto knife
- Plant mister
- If the top of the rotisserie chicken tray does not have vents in it, cut a hole with an exacto knife to allow moisture to escape.
- Add a fine layer of aquarium gravel in the bottom of the rotisserie chicken tray. (you can also cut holes in the bottom of the container if you don't have gravel.)
- Add enough soil to almost fill the bottom section of the container.
- Use stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, or small established succulents and plant in the soil.
- Be careful not to plant too close to the edges of the container - the dome has to fit!
- Mist the soil with the plant mister and place the dome on the top.
- Place in a situation with bright light.
- Check the moisture level once a week to make sure the soil has not dried out.
- If moisture does build up inside the dome, just remove it for a day or two.
This project can be as inexpensive as a couple of dollars for soil and rocks or quite expensive if you need to purchase plants.
For this reason, I always have succulent leaves growing to make new plants. It allows me to put a lot of them in one project without worrying about the cost.
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