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How to Make a Zen Garden

This minimalist Japanese-style garden utilizes rock and sand to mimic the movement of water.


  • Step 1: Select the plot Choose a quiet, isolated setting for your Zen garden.
  • Step 2: Define the site Define the garden’s shape and size. A raised, wooden rectangle creates a structured garden box, and a free-flowing stone border gives a more organic form.
  • Step 3: Build the garden Place plastic sheeting inside the garden area. Then pour 2 inches of sand throughout, level the sand, and add sculptured rocks or boulders to the area.
  • TIP: Use sand made from crushed granite in white, beige, or gray for a pleasing contrast.
  • Step 4: Add texture Layer pebbles, evergreens, and moss for additional texture. Use a rake to create ripples in the sand, which mimic water.
  • TIP: Don’t overdo the elements or the space will appear cluttered instead of serene. The process of creating the garden should be meditative in nature.
  • Step 5: Appreciate the harmony Add unobtrusive seating, such as a low-profile bench, for a pleasing meditation spot. Depending on the size of your garden, you may wish to add a water element or traditional Japanese bridge.
  • FACT: The tenets of Zen Buddhism were compiled by a Chinese monk in 1004 C.E.

You Will Need

  • Garden plot
  • Wood or stones
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Sand
  • Sculptured rocks or boulders
  • Pebbles
  • evergreens
  • or moss
  • Seating
  • Rake
  • Water element
  • Bridge

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