Introduction: Little Zen Garden

Picture of Little Zen Garden

Zen Gardens or dry gardens "kare-sansui" are large outdoor gardens found near temples or monasteries in Japan and are thought to encourage inner contemplation. The sand represents the ocean and the rocks, mountains or islands; the rake is used create ripples in this ocean.

In this instructable I will show you how to make little indoor Zen Gardens that can be kept on your desk at work or in your home to relieve stress and help create a calm and clear mind.

I have also included an unorthodox version more suited to the daydreamer than the meditator which I call the Zen Beach. It is good for remembrance of summers past or tropical getaways we dream of taking(but can't afford). In this version there is no symbolic meaning to each of the elements -the sand is just the sand and the beach ball is merely a beach ball. Drinking a few margaritas or mojitos may enhance the experience.

Step 1: Materials:

Picture of Materials:

What you need:

  • Saucer -I used a 12cm diameter (and 1cm deep) terracotta saucer from a terracotta plant pot ~50cents each
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Craft paint and paintbrush
  • Sand and pebbles -you can get these at a craft store, gardening store, pet store, or a beach or playground
  • Glue
  • Knife or scissors

Beach version

  • Cocktail drink umbrellas (I got mine at the dollar store)
  • Fabric - not very much, just about 2X3 cm square
  • a bead
  • blue and white paint, brushes and felt pens

Step 2: The Saucer

Picture of The Saucer

  • Paint your saucer the desired colour. I choose a deep forest green for the Zen garden to create the feel of tranquility as only green can do.
  • For the Zen Beach I choose a light blue, giving it the impression of sky or water.
  • Apply one or more coats as necessary to cover the inside and outside of the saucer.

Step 3: The Rake

Picture of The Rake

With a sharp knife or scissors cut the bamboo skewer the following lengths:
  • 6cm -the handle
  • 2cm -the base of the fork
  • 4X 1cm of the pointed part of the skewers -for the prongs

Once the prongs are cut, take another 1/4cm off the pointy end (we are making a rake not a weapon).

Now; glue all four prongs to the 2cm long base of the fork. When glue dries, glue the handle to the base of the fork; such that it runs perpendicular to the prongs (see images below).

Step 4: Zen Garden; Putting It Together

Picture of Zen Garden; Putting It Together

Pour sand into the saucer, about 3/4 full.

Select the 3 pebbles that you would like to use, they can vary in size and shape, pick which ones are aesthetically pleasing to you. Using 3 pebbles creates asymmetry which implies that there is no perfection in the world, which is important in Buddhist thought.

Rake your sand and place the pebbles. You can rake straight lines or draw circles around the pebbles to create the appearance of ripples caused by dropping a pebble into water.

Step 5: Zen Beach Ball

Picture of Zen Beach Ball

  • Fill in the two holes of the bead with glue, dab the glue over the holes and once it dried a bit press it into the holes so that it was flush with the surface.
  • Once the glue is completely dry, paint the bead with white craft paint, do one side at a time.
  • When the paint is dry, with felt pens, draw in stripes on the bead to make it look like a beach ball, I used red, blue, green, and yellow.

Step 6: Zen Beach Umbrella and Blanket

Picture of Zen Beach Umbrella and Blanket

Beach blanket
  • With scissors cut a piece of fabric, 2X3cm square. Try to avoid getting frayed edges.

Beach umbrella
  • The drink umbrellas are a bit too tall to stand properly in this sand, so cut about three centimeters off the handle.

Step 7: Zen Beach; Putting It Together

Picture of Zen Beach; Putting It Together

  • Make the same rake used in the Zen Garden -see step 3.
  • Pour sand into the saucer about 3/4 full, and rake it.
  • Place your umbrella and beach blanket so that you are protected from the sun and keep your beach ball close, for when you would like play in the water.


JulianAzz (author)2015-08-26

Lovely idea, i always liked the idea of having a zen garden especially hand made!

ChrysN (author)JulianAzz2015-08-26


mworsley (author)2012-11-19

Love these.

anibioman (author)2011-01-19

in the first picture they look black and purple instead of green and blue

ChrysN (author)anibioman2011-01-19

The pictures were taken under different lighting, it's a light blue and a dark green.

Whales (author)2010-08-29

Would non-white sand work? I have a massive amount of brown-ish sand.

ChrysN (author)Whales2010-08-29

Yes, that would work too!

aglaranna (author)2008-10-23

This is really cute! I love the Zen Beach :)

ChrysN (author)aglaranna2008-10-23

Thanks, I live in Canada, so in the winter, it's nice to daydream of a nice sunny beach.

SasquatchKid (author)ChrysN2010-06-04

Nice hope you can visit the Jersey shore some time

blodefood (author)2010-03-01

I did one like this in a small jar with some fine white sand from a beach I frequent.  I added some small shells, a feather, some small stones and a drink umbrella.

Nice instructable on miniatures.

ChrysN (author)blodefood2010-03-01


soulcalibur (author)2009-07-13

lol just looks like an ash tray filled with sand and rocks to me :P

DennyTom (author)2009-07-04

I made something similar few years ago. I is really nice decoration, but has one big disadvantage - it is nearly impossible to dust off without damaging the scenery. I also recommend to not trying to blow the dust off, you will only end with sand all over your place.

ChrysN (author)DennyTom2009-07-04

Yes, unfortunately, that's true.

itisjustmelorrie (author)2009-07-03

Awesome! (Maybe I should go throw the toys out of the grandkids sandbox out back when they are not here,but would have keep my kitties of of the new "litter box" lol. )

ChrysN (author)itisjustmelorrie2009-07-03

Yes better keep the kitties out, lol!

Creativeman (author)2009-07-02

Inspirational! Thanks. Cman

cwhelan74 (author)2009-04-27

The sand must be as fine as possible for smooth flow and elegance. Onegaishimasu.

headlessbubble (author)2009-03-11

Good idea. I want one!

addictinganimal (author)2009-01-01

Great idea! I just made one and put in a plastic hermit crab toy.

daniel! (author)addictinganimal2009-01-25

Why not take some chicken wire with tiny holes in it and make a fence around it and use something for the top and then put a real hermit crab in it? You could call the crab zen master or think up some buddhist monk name for it.

ChrysN (author)daniel!2009-01-25

Zen master crab, what a cute idea.

daniel! (author)ChrysN2009-01-25

Yeah I should try that some time

FaqMan (author)2009-01-13

This is classy and yet peaceful thank you for making this.

ChrysN (author)FaqMan2009-01-13


TheMoonMaster (author)2008-10-25

I have the same awesome fish ruler.

ChrysN (author)TheMoonMaster2008-10-25

Yah it's a cute ruler and it was free, bonus!

halo99 (author)2008-10-23

nice instructable! i'll make one for christmas for my friend!!!!

Yakeyglee (author)2008-10-23

Wouldn't it be better to use a finer sand? The scale is smaller so the sand should to to better create good lines...

ChrysN (author)Yakeyglee2008-10-23

True, it would look nicer, but I just used what I had on hand.

jdtwelve12 (author)2008-10-21

desktop paradox: a mind assuaged and calmed through peaceful ripples invoking summer, a whimsical craft begets desktop vacations

NinjaSloth (author)jdtwelve122008-10-22


jdtwelve12 (author)NinjaSloth2008-10-23


ChrysN (author)jdtwelve122008-10-21

Nice haiku!

jdtwelve12 (author)ChrysN2008-10-23


hcold (author)2008-10-21

"Sand from the craft store" "Pebbles from the aquarium" Haha, Capitalism is lovely. What next? "Water from the supermarket"

NinjaSloth (author)hcold2008-10-22


ChrysN (author)hcold2008-10-21

Lol, it does seem silly to buy this stuff.

toekneebullard (author)2008-10-22

My wife thinks I'm weird cause at the end of the day I almost always use my son's sand box as a little garden. I use his sandbox toys as stones. It really is quite relaxing.

ChrysN (author)toekneebullard2008-10-22

That makes a nice size zen garden.

wilsonater (author)2008-10-22

I really like this idea but I think it would be even better if you got one of those little air plants that you just spray with a little water once in a while, it'd make it look really natural but still minimalistic.

ChrysN (author)wilsonater2008-10-22

That's a good idea, I think a lot of the large outdoor zen gardens have plants in them.

dchall8 (author)2008-10-21

I really like Zen gardens. Thanks for posting this. I wonder how the coarse sand from the bottom of a fish bowl would work? If you want to see an inspirational Zen garden in real life, here is a picture of the one at Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California near Pasadena.

ChrysN (author)dchall82008-10-21

That full size zen garden looks amazing, thanks for posting a picture. The sand I used was a bit courser then I'd prefer, but it still works. I think the store bought zen garden kits use a finer, whiter sand.

canida (author)dchall82008-10-21

The Huntington gardens are gorgeous! I particularly loved their enormous cactus section.

Kiteman (author)2008-10-20


Lithium Rain (author)Kiteman2008-10-20


bumpus (author)Lithium Rain2008-10-20


ChrysN (author)bumpus2008-10-21

Cool mantras

About This Instructable




Bio: I like sewing and crafts,and trying new things. I'm vegetarian and always looking for new recipes. My cat's name is Mirko and ... More »
More by ChrysN:Crochet Pokeball Keychain FlashlightYarn BrainAnalog Word Clock
Add instructable to: