How to Build a Zen Garden


A Zen garden is an ideal addition to any garden, especially if you want to bring some peace and meditation to your lifestyle. It is typically a Japanese-style garden that uses rocks, pebbles, gravel or sand to mimic the shape and movement of water. They are simple to create and maintain, and Zen gardens are said to help heal and relax the mind, body and soul.

Step 1

Figure out the size you want for your Zen garden. This will depend on the available space you have. Keep in mind that the Zen garden should be located somewhere peaceful and somewhat quiet. An ideal size is the area bounded by four wooden boards that are 2 feet by 4 feet.

Step 2

Set each board on its side. Use a hammer and two-inch roundhead nails to secure the four boards together in a rectangle. You are trying to create a crate-like appearance, so the sand and pebbles can sit within the box. Stain the wood if desired, or paint it with a neutral color. Let dry.

Step 3

Lay the black plastic tarp or plastic sheeting inside of the wooden rectangular box, tucking the tarp into the corners. You want to use this to prevent weeds growing here, as well as to contain the sand and pebbles that will go within in.

Step 4

Fill your Zen garden up with sand (typically white and made of crushed granite). Make sure that the sand level is as even as possible, and it should be at least two inches deep. Then add smooth rocks and pebbles in various shapes and sizes. The point of a Zen garden is to position these things within to create a soothing environment for you. Try out different designs, such as placing the rocks to the edges of the box to create a waterfall illusion, or scattering them randomly around the garden to resemble a natural landscape. Don't add so many rocks that your Zen garden looks cluttered; it is supposed to have a natural flow of energy through it.

Step 5

Use a rake to create long, curving lines or circles in the gravel or sand, in order to mimic rippling water. Create whatever patterns you choose that help you feel calm.

Step 6

Set up a sitting area next to your Zen garden with a comfortable bench, hammock or chair so you can sit and enjoy the Zen garden, meditate, read or sleep.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 wooden boards
  • Hammer
  • 2-inch roundhead nails
  • Rake
  • Tarp or plastic sheeting
  • Sand, rocks of various sizes, pebbles


  • Building a Zen Garden
  • Building a Zen Box
  • Zen Garden Information
Keywords: garden designs, building a zen garden, zen gardens

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.