How to Create a Zen Garden

One Methods:Zen Garden Layout Plan

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.


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    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.
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    Create a mold to contain the sand and/or gravel. 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.
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    Nail, screw, or glue together your form. After you have completed your form, you can decorate the wood by painting, staining, or varnishing it.
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    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.
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    Fill the form to the top with sand or gravel. 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.
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    Put selected features in your Zen garden to set a visually stimulating theme. 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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    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!

Zen Garden Layout Plan

Sample Zen Garden Plan


  • 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
  • Remember, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Weeds can ruin a Zen garden in no time. Take the precautionary measures to avoid nasty weed problems.
  • Most pets and Zen gardens do not mix; the same can be said for many children. Remember, your Zen garden is supposed to be a place of peace, not stress, so locate your garden appropriately

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)
  • Patience

Sources and Citations

  • Based on a real world example, the Tsubo-en garden in Lelystad, The Netherlands, offers an online guide with a pragmatic structured 6-phase approach to realize and maintain a garden, with specific focus and many details and references on the Japanese karesansui (dry rock) Zen garden

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