Gardening with a Black Thumb: How to Make a Zen Garden

Reader Contribution by Eileen Troemel
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Residing in rural Wisconsin, by day Eileen Troemel works as a clerical worker and part-time student. At night she spends her time writing. Raised on a farm, she has a love for nature and is inspired by the beauty and power she finds there. Nature and her just don’t get along though as she has the blackest of black thumbs.

Who doesn’t like the feel of sand dripping between their fingers? It is soothing to make designs and shapes in sand. This is the draw of a zen garden. 

Zen gardens take the shape and size that you want them to. There are any number of reasons for the size and even shape of the garden. Some will say that a circular garden represents the never ending circle of life, death and renewal. Some will say that a square garden represents the four elements. 

I don’t know about all that. Here’s what I do know. I like to putz around with a little sand garden. It takes me from stressed out to calm and quiet within my own head. For this reason I have made my own zen garden. 

I’m sure you can find kits online or in the craft stores. I am cheap, I guess. Vicki, my daughter, found two containers–one at a discount store and one at a craft store. I had sand from a vacation. I have rocks (see my post on indoor rock gardens). The only other thing needed was the little rake. 

My daughter, who does all my shopping, went to a party supply store and found a wooden back scratcher. That works as a rake for me. I’m sure if we looked around more we could find other options as well. 

By the time we were done shopping for supplies we spent probably $15 on all the items. Now if you have to buy sand as well, it might go a bit higher than that. The time to assemble this project is about 10 minutes. It actually took longer to gather the supplies than to assemble.

The first step is to gather all the items together for your zen garden.

After choosing the container for your zen garden, pour the sand into the container. You want about 1/2 to 1 full inch of sand covering the bottom. 

Select an appropriate size of rock (or two or three) to go in the sand. Place the rock(s). 

Use your rake to smooth out the sand. Or if you are like me, play with the sand a bit just to make sure there is enough in there. 

One caution on this, if you have a cat in your house you might want to make sure the container is shallow enough and small enough that the cat won’t mistake this for its litter box. Clumpy sand is not a good thing in your zen garden.  

Photos By Eileen Troemel

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