Installing and Maintaining a Japanese Zen Garden in Your Backyard

                          a Japanese Zen Garden

                          a Japanese Zen Garden

guest post by Craig Scott

Zen gardens were originally created by Buddhist monks as a place for meditation and contemplation. In earlier times, they became known as a space for the ruling elite in Japan – a place where they could find calm and peace while the country was in the midst of war or strife. But with the passing of time, Zen gardens became associated with a way of life deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

A traditional Zen garden is a miniature landscape of mountains and water. It is created using artistry infused with tranquility that can inspire a homeowner as well as visitors seeking peace and comfort in their lives. Installing and maintaining a Japanese Zen garden in your garden will not only add beauty to your premises, but will also add value to your house. Here are the steps you should take in building this type of garden in your home.

Tools and Materials Required to Build a Japanese Zen Garden                  

Here is a basic list of some of the tools and materials you will need:

  • shovel
  • level
  • measuring tape
  • tamper
  • hoe
  • hammer
  • rake that has wide-spaced tines
  • pruning equipment
  • beige or white crushed granite
  • large stones
  • two-by-fours or edging stones
  • a stone bench, Buddha statue, pagoda lanterns (optional)
  • plants, such as low shrubs or moss, or trees (optional)
  • landscaping fabric (optional)

How To Build a Japanese Zen Garden

Here are the steps you should take in building your own Japanese Zen garden.

Step 1

Choose a location in your premises that is leveled and suitable for a Zen garden. You can select a 10 x 16-foot rectangle in your side yard or backyard that is far from the street noise. Start digging this rectangle down to a depth of 4 inches.

Step 2

Correct the level of your site using a carpenter’s level. Adjust as needed. Use the tamper to compact the soil.

Step 3

Start lining the edge of the rectangle with the edging stones. This will create an enclosure to the garden. Alternatively, place a two-by-four along each edge of the garden. Use the hammer to seat the boards in place.

Step 4

Use the tip of the shovel to mark desired spots for the big stones and for the plants, statues, lanterns and benches you may want to place in the garden. With the shovel, dig holes of 6 inches deep for the stones with diameters as big as that of the respective stones. Place the stones in these holes. This will create a more natural-looking landscape. Be sure that the stones appear to be random and yet symmetrical.

Step 5

Choose spots where you want the plants to stand and dig holes for them in the soil. The bottom should be more than two inches deeper than the plants’ root ball. Put the plants in these holes and return the dug-up soils to stabilize and straighten the transplanted plants. Gently water these plants. Choose the spots where you want to put the additional items in the garden and place them accordingly. These items may include things that are associated with a Zen garden, like Japanese lanterns, a stone bench or whatever other Zen-appropriate things you may want.

Step 6

Spread the crushed granite or small pebbles on the ground. They should be about 3 to 4 inches deep. Make sure that they are evenly spread throughout all the spaces in the garden. Use the hoe to do this. If you want the place to have that characteristic appearance associated Zen gardens, use the rake and work it into the small granite and pebbles to create ripples of waves.

Step 7

Use the pruning equipment to prune the plants so that they will match the mood and scale of the Zen garden. Follow basic rules in pruning plants for Zen gardens, and use your imagination as to how the plants will be suited to the atmosphere that you want to create in your garden.

How to Maintain a Japanese Zen Garden

To keep a Zen garden looking nice, you have to undertake regular maintenance of it. Here are some tips on how to perform regular maintenance of a Zen garden.


maintaining a Japanese Zen Garden

maintaining a Japanese Zen Garden

Your pets, small children and even adults can alter the overall look of your Zen garden, especially if they frequent the place more than once a day. The flat surfaces of the garden may get damaged, and the features and elements may be moved from their original settings. After a heavy rainfall, the patterns will disappear. Therefore, be ready to rake the garden each time that the patterns and the elements are changed. The typical tool used in this task is the wide-toothed rake, which is usually homemade.

Groundcover Maintenance

You need to keep the ground-covering plants from the gravel of the Zen garden. They can easily creep and cover the gravel and the stones. The required maintenance for groundcover is frequent trimming on the edges of the stones and gravel.

Drainage System Maintenance

The drainage of the Zen garden must be maintained, or it will be easily inundated with water after a heavy rainfall. If the drain is on the surface level, you should place a filter in it to prevent the drain pipes from being blocked by small stones or debris. Ensure that the drainage system of the garden is working at all times by regularly inspecting the drain, the filter, the pipes and the drainage outlet.

Have you ever spent time in a Japanese Zen Garden? Are you interested in building your own Zen Garden? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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Craig Scott loves to spend all the time he can outdoors and finds every excuse to leave his house. He writes about everything from backyard DIY projects to gardening. If you can't get a hold of him he is probably on a trail or a boat.



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Build a Japanese Zen Garden