Gardening

How to make a Zen garden in 10 steps

The Zen garden as we know it today has its roots in the 13th century, but the principles that guide them are as true today as they were yesterday. Creating a space like this, which wants to be quiet and aesthetically pleasing, is an experience as serene and rewarding as its maintenance.

The main objective of a Zen garden, or “dry garden”, is to be a place for meditation and contemplation. One of its great advantages is that it does not need much space to create one – it can be outside your home or even inside – the most important is not its size, but the elements that make it up. When creating your first Zen garden, there are three essential aspects to consider: space, fluidity and simplicity.

  1. The first step is to decide the location and size of your Zen garden, considering the space you have available and the time you will have to dedicate yourself to this little wonder of nature. You can make part of your yard available or start with a miniature Zen garden that you can place on top of your desk, for example. Don’t forget that the Zen garden is, above all, a place of peace, so if you have children or pets, consider your location. The steps to be followed will be the same, albeit at different scales.
  1. Most of the elements needed to create a Zen garden can be purchased at gardening, DIY and hardware stores. What you’ll need to get started:

    • Wood or a large container
    • Nails, screws or wood glue
    • Appropriate tools
    • Weed protection material
    • Rake 
    • Sand, gravel, rocks, stones and other decorative elements
    • Lighting
    • Patience
  2. Using the appropriate wood sizes, create the desired mold to contain the sand and other elements that will make up your Zen garden. Use the long wooden boards to build a box deep enough to accommodate about ten centimeters of sand. Once the mold has been built – which can be square, rectangular or octagonal – you can paint or varnish the wood to obtain a more perfect finish. If the idea is to have a miniature Zen garden, you can build your own wooden mold or choose from a variety of suitable containers. If you prefer a wicker container, for example, it will be necessary to cover it with plastic to prevent the sand from loosening.
  1. Zen gardens are particularly attractive because of their cleanliness and simple lines, so if you are building one outdoors, you need to protect this space against weeds. To prevent weeds from destroying your garden, line the mold with black plastic, with several layers of newspapers or a weed barrier, which you can buy in specialized stores.
  1. Fill the container with sand up to the bottom, putting a good layer on the bottom. Using the rake, distribute the sand evenly. If you want, you can add gravel to give the sand more consistency and balance. Each of the elements found in a Zen garden has its own symbolism, with sand and gravel representing water, which in turn symbolizes peace and tranquility of the mind and spirit.
  1. The rocks are central pieces in a Zen garden and symbolize the mountains as a predominant element of nature. To these are added decorative stones of varying colors, sizes and textures; small trunks, with or without moss; a green element like a plant or a bonsai; statues, lanterns, bridges or elements with water. The rake itself is often a piece that also decorates the garden. Basically, a visually pleasing scenario is intended, so experiment with the different elements, without overfilling the space. A minimalist garden will accentuate the fluidity of lines and objects.
  1. Rocks and stones look better if you partially submerge them in the sand. Do not place them in the center of the container, but more to the sides. It is said that to be lucky, you must use an odd number of stones, placing them asymmetrically. Buddhists believe that each stone has a “happy face”, that is, examine them from every angle to determine their “best side”. Traditionally, Zens arrangements are composed of five groups of three stones each. Experiment to see how you like it best and don’t forget that the idea is to keep the garden as simple as possible.
  1. The lights and shadows lend a very peculiar and even mysterious air to the Zen gardens, making it possible to enjoy the space at night. You can add some points of electric light (colored lamps are an interesting option) or candles, for a spectacular visual effect, especially under the stars!
  1. Using the rake “comb” the sand, forming the most diverse patterns: a long and curved design represents agitated waters, while straight lines symbolize calm waters. Vary, creating different effects on the sand in order to accentuate different parts of the garden or to renew its general appearance. Change your look as often as you like!
  1. Now just enjoy your Zen garden – lose yourself in its beauty, while relaxing and meditating. The maintenance and experimentation work itself is a powerful anti-stress agent and should be fun. Search and discover other gardens to get inspired and get new ideas: add or remove elements whenever you want, change the designs in the sand, adapt the garden to your mood. Enjoy it!

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