Making a Zen Garden on a Budget

A zen garden can be a very cost effective way of sprucing up your garden. Here’s how you can do it.

Kyoto Zen Garden

While zen gardens have only recently come into popularity within the western world. They have quickly diversified in design and implementation. While a zen garden at home will most likely not be as grand as those showcased by the temples around Kyoto. There is no reason not to try.

Zen gardens have quite a few benefits, both in beautifying a space and creating an easy to maintain garden.

This guide is for creating a zen garden at minimal cost (it cost me nothing). The price it costs to set up will be determined on the materials you want to use and how fancy you want to get.

Contemplating Space and Design

The style of your zen garden will be bound by space more than design. That being said, it is always helpful to have a design in mind before starting. Whether it be a Yin and Yang type symbol or a repetitive pattern formed out of different coloured materials. As the garden bed I was working with was small and circular, it made sense to attempt the Yin and Yang symbol.

Choosing a Feature

boronia - super dooperThe most attractive thing about zen or rock gardens, is their smart use of a feature. This can be anything from a statue, to a plant, bird bath or if you want to get fancy, a full on water feature. As I needed to move my Boronia to a sunnier location, the feature I used was already predetermined. However you can be as creative as you like when choosing or even making a feature for your garden. Just remember that this will form the centerpiece, so use something you want to be on full display.

Gathering Materials

This can be as fun or as boring as you want to make it. For my zen garden I wanted/used;

  • Gravel, or rocks that were a lighter colour than the soil
  • Sea shells
  • River stones of various colours and shapes

I chose these materials because they provided me with an excuse to go exploring on my weekends. The seashells were free, I just spent an few hours wandering the local beaches with a bag in hand. The same applied to the river stones, though I did have to do some searching for rivers/streams that featured water worn rocks.

The gravel on the other hand I obtained via urban exploration. After finding a construction site, I piled close to 1kg/2pounds of gravel into a bag before creeping away into the night.

Additionally I had some I-Ching coins lying around the house. I used these in the garden as well, as they were just gathering dust on the shelf.

You can go to a garden center and buy the colour materials that you need. Hell! You could buy everything you need to make your own zen garden there. However as stated at the start, this is all about making a zen garden with whats on hand so it costs you nothing yet adds something to your garden.

Putting your Zen Garden Together

This step can be as simple or as complicated as you like. It’s its own form of meditation in a way. I suggest just going with the flow and placing/moving things according to your own likes before moving onto the next step.

Enjoying the Fruit of your Labor

By far the best part about any type of gardening. Once your garden is complete, sit down, relax and enjoy the view. Whether or not you do it with a cup of tea or poison of choice is up to you. But you can now pat yourself on the back and say “I made that”.

Completed Zen Garden