How to Create a Zen Garden

How to Create a Zen Garden

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A zen garden is a refuge that can be placed in nearly any space. Some zen gardens are large sweeping creations that encompass acres, while some are tiny desktop gardens that take up no more room than a notebook. It’s not difficult to create a constantly changing work of art that is visually pleasing with clean, flowing lines and carefully placed objects. Best of all, a small zen garden is incredibly inexpensive to create! It will also show your unique style of rocks and sand patterns.


  1. How to Create a Zen Garden


    Decide how large you want to make your Zen garden. Assess your available space. Are you going to make a garden that fills up part of your backyard, or are you going to start with a Zen garden to place on your desk? The steps are the same, the scale will just be different.

  2. How to Create a Zen Garden


    Create a mold to contain the sand and/or gravel.[1] Sand or gravel generally form the matrix of a Zen garden, and to keep it looking sharp, you need the matrix to be contained. If you are making a large garden, consider using 2″ x 4″ pieces of lumber, old railroad ties, or any other type of wood. If you are making a desktop Zen garden, simply gather and cut enough wood to make a small container.

  3. How to Create a Zen Garden


    Nail, screw, or glue together your form. After you have completed your form, you can decorate the wood by painting, staining, or varnishing it.[2]

  4. How to Create a Zen Garden


    Place a weed retainer, such as black plastic, down prior to setting your Zen garden mold. Zen gardens receive much of their appeal from their cleanliness. Keeping out weeds is a must for outdoor gardens.

  5. How to Create a Zen Garden


    Fill the form to the top with sand or gravel.[3] Spread the sand or gravel evenly and as level as possible. For a small desktop garden, you might be able to buy sand in small bags at a local pet shop or aquarium supply store. For larger gardens, call the local rock shop, quarry, or landscaping supply company. This is only needed in an outdoor garden.

  6. How to Create a Zen Garden


    Put selected features in your Zen garden to set a visually stimulating theme.[4] Consider using old, mossy logs, rocks with interesting colors, shapes or textures, or other items. Place them off-center and partially submerged for the best effect. Zen gardens generally include natural items made of wood, rock and vegetation, but don’t be afraid to add statues or other additions. Just don’t clutter your Zen garden. Remember, you want it to be peaceful and simple. Make sure that the feng shui is in check with your karma an dharma before enjoying your zen garden! If it is not balanced properly, there could be some major problems and could possibly send your karma into a yin yang whirlwind (which is NOT good!) * See feng shui and karma for details.

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  7. How to Create a Zen Garden


    Rake the sand or gravel in long, curving strokes to represent water ripples. You can use a number of patterns to accentuate your garden. The nice thing is that you can change it as many times as you like![5]

Community Q&A

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  • Question

    Can I put small stones and a statue in your miniature Zen garden?

    How to Create a Zen Garden


    Community Answer

    Absolutely! General principles of Wabi (simplicity without pretension) and Sabi (solitary ancient beauty) are said to apply. These are a direct expression of the four unique characteristics of Buddhist teachings: all things are impermanent, passing just as they arise, disappearing; suffering is caused by grasping at such an objective reality; objective realities exist utterly without their own self-nature; realization is vast, peaceful bliss.

  • Question

    Where can I get a small rake?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    Faiza Talukder

    Community Answer

    You should check out your local shops that sell gardening supplies, or buy from Amazon or eBay.

  • Question

    What is a Zen garden?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    Mr. Sagdiyev

    Community Answer

    A Zen garden is a peaceful place where you can go to meditate or admire the simplicity of its design, pebbles, rocks stone and sand, all basic elements put together to make a simple, yet beautiful space. It’s a great thing to have whether you’re Buddhist or not and a statue of one of the Buddhas or a sage is a common element.

  • Question

    What is the implement that looks like a fork?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    It’s a a garden rake, you can make one yourself. It is used to create patterns that resemble the ripples of water movement in lakes and oceans.

  • Question

    Would azalea bushes be a good addition to a Zen Garden?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    If you find azaleas relaxing, then go for it! Traditionally, Zen Gardens would only have wild plants and grasses that are cut low though.

  • Question

    If my garden is outside in a box, how do I keep it from being waterlogged?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    You could store the box in an airtight container, put it in a sheltered place, or bring it indoors when it rains.

  • Question

    Where do I get the plants for my zen garden?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    You can buy plants from any garden store, nursery, and even some home supply stores (like Home Depot). You could also grow your own from seeds!

  • Question

    Where do I purchase a weed retainer?

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    How to Create a Zen Garden

    You should check out your local gardening shop or Home Depot, most likely you will be able to find one at one of the locations.

  • Question

    Is it necessary to place a Buddha or sage statue in the Zen garden?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    It’s not necessary. Zen gardens originated from before Buddhism entered Japan (which itself was very long ago – the 12th century).

  • Question

    I wanted to know if we want to make Zen garden in outdoors, how to safe guard the chips in the monsoon?

    How to Create a Zen Garden

    Building outdoors, you should still use a “mould” (basically a container) to prevent the sand from washing away. You will have to re-rake the designs in the sand, but that is part of the point of Zen gardens.

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  • Have enough sand to completely fill your form to a depth of at least 2″. If the sand is too shallow, it will look unsightly after raking.

  • Don’t be afraid to try new raking patterns or to add and remove items. Your Zen garden can be as adaptable and ever-changing as your desires.

  • Go to a local rock shop to find unique items to add to your Zen garden.

  • Consider adding selectively placed lighting, either by flame or by electricity. Colored bulbs will add another dimension to your Zen garden, especially at night.

  • Try your best to keep your Zen garden free of clutter, vegetative material and debris. A clean garden will accentuate the flowing lines and carefully placed objects.

  • Zen gardens do not have to be square or symmetrical, and your additions do not have to follow any official placement requirements. Make a Zen garden that is visually stimulating and mentally pleasing to you.

  • Take a field trip to a Zen garden to get ideas for yours.

  • Another quick & easy way is to fill up a flower pot of any size with sand and assorted items that you want in your Zen garden. The pot would be decorative and on top would be the zen garden, great for patios and balconies at apartments.

  • Try using a nice, light sand for your Zen Garden. It would make a great contrast to dark rocks, and it will really light up the whole thing.

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  • Most pets and Zen gardens do not mix; the same can be said for many children. Your Zen garden is supposed to be a place of peace, not stress, so locate your garden appropriately.

  • Weeds can ruin a Zen garden in no time. Take the precautionary measures to avoid nasty weed problems.

Things You’ll Need

  • Forms for your Zen garden (whether they be big or small)
  • Nails, screws or wood glue to keep the forms together
  • Saw (to cut and create your form)
  • Sand or stones (depending on the scale, small = sand, larger = stone)
  • Rocks and/or logs
  • Polished pebbles and other amendments
  • Rake
  • Lighting (optional)

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