How to Make a Zen Garden

Rock and raked sand Zen garden

For those seeking peace and tranquility, learning how to make a zen garden is a great option. Whether an experienced landscaper or a beginner, gardening is a wonderful way to improve the value of your property while at the same time creating a relaxing space. To turn your backyard into a private oasis, consider a zen garden.

Zen Garden Origin

Peace and tranquility are what many of us strive for, but how exactly a garden helps us achieve those lofty goals may be unclear. To better understand, you must first know what a zen garden means. Originally, zen gardens were designed by Japanese monks as a place to pray. The oldest known zen garden is at the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto and was built in 1499. The most common type of zen garden is called "karesansui" which translates as mountain and water garden. A zen garden is intended to provide the visitor with inner strength as he gets back to the basic elements by having rocks represent mountains and sand represent water.

How to Make a Zen Garden

Desktop or miniature varieties of zen gardens can be purchased at many craft or hobby stores such as Michael's or Hobby Lobby, but actual life sized backyard gardens provide the visitor with a more comprehensive experience.

Materials and Supplies

  • Rake
  • Four 2x4x8 pieces of lumber
  • Wood screws
  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Playground sand
  • River or other attractive rocks

Assembly Instructions

Clear an area of your backyard approximately nine by nine feet. Make sure any grass or debris is removed and the plot is relatively flat. Use a shovel to remove sod or to rearrange the soil to flatten the surface.

Construct a wooden frame by screwing the four pieces of lumber into a square using wood screws. Alternate each end so the final shape is a square. The frame will measure eight by eight feet. Place the frame in the center of the area previously cleared and press the frame firmly into the soil so one inch is in the ground. This will prevent the frame from moving and sand spilling out once filled.

Slowly add finely grained playground sand until the frame is filled. Do not overflow the frame as other garden elements still need to be added. Playground sand is an inexpensive option but other choices include ground lava or bricks and are available in a variety of colors. Visit your local landscaping store to check out alternatives if desired.

Rake the sand so it is level. Add rocks in two or three areas. For a more dramatic effect, group rocks of various heights or shapes together. Make sure the rocks are secure and are not placed on top of each other where they may fall and create a safety hazard. Many zen gardens use round rocks or obelisks instead of groupings. The purpose of the rocks is to represent a mountain but you should use whatever shape best appeals to you.

Once the rocks are placed, use the rake to create lines in the sand. Since the purpose of the sand is to represent water, the designs you make in the sand should represent waves or ripples on the water's surface. You may want to use more than one size rake to get different designs in the sand. Practice different levels of pressure, pushing and pulling motions, or varying rake sizes until you have a design you like.

Place a bench or garden seat near the zen garden so you can review your handiwork. Since there are no plants in the garden, upkeep is minimal. Simply change out the rocks and rake the sand into another pattern when you tire of a particular design.

Final Suggestions

Once you learn how to make a zen garden, take time to use it. Spend a few minutes each day letting the worries and to-do lists float away. By calming your mind and taking time for yourself, you may find it easier to focus and deal with issues.

How to Make a Zen Garden