DIY: Desktop Zen Garden

Turn a tiny corner into an instant meditation space


Zen gardens are part of a Japanese gardening tradition that aims to mimic water and mountain landscapes with the use of rocks, gravel, and sand. Known in Japan as karensasui, it literally translates as a Dry Mountain and Water Garden, and can often be found in Buddhist temples as they are perfect for meditation.

If you don't have a space for an actual Zen garden just yet, you can build your own miniature one. Let these steps guide and inspire you:

What you need:

  • Wood scraps (planks and sticks)
  • Nice, smooth rocks (maximum 10cm in size)
  • Small pebbles
  • Sand
  • A material to separate the pebbles from the sand (plastic, rubber, or fiber)
  • Old newspapers
  • Old paint

For needed tools:

  • Measuring tool
  • Right angle
  • Screwdriver (manual or electric)
  • Sharp knife or cutter
  • Stapler
  • Clamp
  • Hand saw
  • Scissors
  • Screws
  • Pencil
  • Metal file
  • Paint brush or roller


1. Cut the planks to your desired size to form the base. Once you're done, cut the four pieces of sticks to form a low wall that will surround the edges of the plank. Lastly, cut four more pieces into tiny ones to create the legs of your box. Drill in screws to hold everything together.

RL Tip: Be careful not to split the wood when putting in the screws. For a step-by-step guide on how to get started, click here.

2. Cover your wood with newspaper strips and brush them with glue to give you a nice paper finish and hide the screws and the wood's uneven or rough edges, if there are any. You can also opt for a natural look and just proceed to painting the wood.

RL Tip: You may choose to put some kind of material on top of your base to separate the wood from the sand.

To see how it would look like, click here.

3. Add the fillings once the paint is dry. To have variation, you can also add bigger rocks. The design and layout is up to you but you may want to check out actual Zen gardens to serve as pegs and inspiration. Remember that this mimics water and mountain formations, so draw some ripples on your sand and around the rocks.

Once you're done, place it on your desk or side table so you can have time to relax and meditate after a long day.

For more in-depth instructions and tips, click here.

Source and Photos: Instructables and Feelings and Flowers.

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