How to Design Zen Gardens


If you're looking for a relaxing, meditative space, then try adding a Zen garden to your landscape. This Japanese-style garden uses sand, rocks, and smooth elements to mimic the movement of water. The size of your Zen garden depends on the available space you have, but ideally it should be about two feet by four feet. Zen gardens can be constructed using simple supplies from your local hardware store and are easy to maintain, usually just needing regular raking.

Step 1

Lay one of the 2 foot boards lengthwise. Take one of the 4 foot boards and lay it lengthwise, perpendicular to the 2 foot board. Keep the edges even so the two boards resemble the letter "L".

Step 2

Place the second 2 foot board lengthwise, parallel to the its twin. Make it perpendicular to the 4 foot board with the edges lined up to create a rectangle shape. Complete the shape by adding the last 4 foot long board to this side.

Step 3

Secure the four intersecting boards together with the hammer and 2-inch long nails. Pound two nails on the 1 foot wide side's top and bottom, right where it is overlapping on the board next to it.

Step 4

Lay the tarp inside the wooden box, tucking it under the edges of the box. The tarp will hold in the sand and rocks, and prevent weeds from growing up through the Zen garden. Pull the edges of the tarp up under the box edges about one inch, all the way around. Secure each box corner with the hammer and nails, inserting a nail every 1.5 feet through the tarp into the wood to hold it up securely.

Step 5

Fill the Zen garden box with white or light tan sand. Typically, the sand needs to fill the box with about four inches to spare between the sand and the top edge of the box. With this in mind, you will need about 50 pounds of sand. Pour it into the box until it is within about four inches of the top edge and level across. Organize smooth rocks and pebbles in various shapes and sizes on top of the sand along the edges of the box.

Step 6

Use a rake to create long, curved lines throughout the entire Zen box in the sand. This represents the movement of water.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 2x1 wooden boards
  • 2 4x1 wooden boards
  • Hammer
  • 2-inch round head nails
  • Rake
  • 3x5 plastic tarp
  • Sand
  • Rocks and pebbles of various sizes


  • Building a Zen Garden
  • Zen Garden Box Construction
Keywords: zen garden design, building a Zen garden, designing zen gardens

About this Author

Lauren Wise is a journalism major from Arizona State University with over forty published magazine and media articles and over 400 Web site articles. Wise owns Midnight Publishing with over eight years experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food and wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in magazines including Runway, A2Z, Scottsdale Luxury Living and True West.