Thursday, February 13, 2020

Dollhouse garden dirt

If you are planting a garden for your miniature scene then you will need lots of rich soil. While I was making my Ophelia dollhouse garden I was asked to do a product review for the Deluxe Materials product, Ballast Magic.
This product is popular with miniature train hobbyists because it is a great way to adhere scatter ballast (gravel or coarse stone used to form the bed of a railroad track or road).
Ballast Magic is an innovative powder adhesive that when mixed with other dry materials and then misted with water and left to dry it is solid to the touch.

The directions for working with Ballast Magic for miniature railways may be different than how I have used it for this tutorial. But that is what our art form is all about–using materials and products in new ways. This is PERFECT if you want dry dusty looking dirt too.

I experimented with the amount needed for tea leaves to dry hard. The photo shown gives you an idea of the mixture I used. Do a few tests to see what works best for your project. I will go ahead and share what I did for mine.

We usually use tea leaves and white glue in our 1:12 world but I would recommend this product if you don’t have to fill a deep large area with ‘dirt’. I will show how I used a white glue mixture as well...

 First I cut the shape of my garden bed using thin cardboard. I already had some plants I made from years ago that were glued in floral foam. I glued those to the cardboard with white glue and let them dry.

 You should already have been saving used tea bags after making hot tea or iced tea. Because my foam was thick I had to fill in with lots of tea leaves to build it up. For this I mixed the tea leaves with white glue and spackled it on top of more white glue leaving the tops of the foam exposed. Then left it to dry over night.
Showing white glue mixture.

Showing white glue mixture.

 Ballast Magic Mixture
You have to use A LOT of white glue with tea leaves for it to dry hard so this is where the Ballast Magic comes in handy. My ‘dirt’ base is now a little spongy to the touch and the tea leaves will flake off when touched. So I want to add a top layer that is hard and won’t flake away.   

Add the tea leaves and Ballast Magic in a plastic container as shown in the photo. Mix them together and then add a little water at a time. You don’t want the mixture to be sloppy wet, only wet enough that you can spackle it onto your garden bed. If you add too much water, no worries, just add more tea leaves and more Ballast Magic. I added this on top of my dried white glue mixture to save on product use. You could use the Ballast Magic for all of the garden dirt. Do what is best for your project.

I like this product because I don’t have to rush before it dries when applying the ‘dirt’. If you have a collection of flower stems already made, you can use the mixture to fill a garden bed by packing in the ‘dirt’ tight and then insert your flower stems into the ‘dirt’ with a touch of glue on the stem. You could also apply the ‘dirt’ on a thin sheet of foam shaped like a garden bed so the stems have something more substantial to sink into. All of this will depend on the flowers you are adding.

I put some flower stems in a thin piece of floral foam and pressed the Ballast Magic tea leaves mixture all around it and it dried nice and hard. Now it is a mound that I can add or take away from a tiny bed in front of another dollhouse.

   When working with railroad dirt/dust the idea is to mix the Ballast Magic with dirt/dust, lay on the surface and then spray with a light misting of water and let it dry. I couldn’t do this because my flowers are made from paper.

After your mixture dries, you won’t see any of the Ballast Magic white powder, just the illusion of rich dark top soil. Give it up to 3 hours to dry. It will depend on how thick you made it and how much water you added in the mixture.

I am very happy with the results. Bits of moss can be moved around the garden without the tea leaves moving everywhere. I also used the ‘dirt’ to fill some planters and pushed in some flowers with a spot of white glue on the wire and left to dry. When turned upside down (or when knocked over) the tea leaves stay put!


Deluxe Materials products are available in USA miniature stores and distributed by Aztec Imports. Or they can be purchased direct from: You can also find it on Amazon or eBay!


  1. A great product review Auralea and thanks also for your mini gardening tips! Railroad landscaping products are Very Useful indeed :D


  2. So many beautiful plants and flowers! Great job!

  3. Hi!
    Very fine flowers.
    A tip: when you brew coffee, let the coffee sump dry in the filter and then you have got soil for your flower beds
    Many hugs Britt

    1. To each his own. I don't care for coffee grinds for something like this. The oder and more brittle. :)

  4. Muy bonita combinación de plantas en el jardín.Buen trabajo.

  5. Beautiful plants and flowers in the garden.