April 23, 2014

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How To Design Your Own No-Dig Mandala Garden

Mandala is a geometric symbol. The art of Buddhism and Hinduism often takes the mandala form. Etymologically, mandala is a Sanskrit word that means “circle”.

Mandala garden is a garden design, first proposed by Linda Woodrow in her book The Permaculture Home Garden.

Nothing is set in stone

Like the mandala itself comes in many variations, so does the mandala garden. What I’ll write below are just basic guidelines for designing your mandala garden. You can, and should, tweak them to your liking and preferences.

Remember, when designing a new garden it’s always best to utilize a complete design process, such as SADIMET.

After all, a mandala garden is just one weapon that you can use in the D (=Design) part of SADIMET. You’ll get much better results if you complete the S (=Survey) and A (=Assess) parts first.

A mandala garden example

Let’s start with a picture:

Mandala Garden

An example of mandala garden

Now let me explain what’s on the above sketch.

First of all, the garden shape obviously stays true to the original meaning of the word ‘mandala’. It’s circular. In the center there’s a herb spiral. BTW, a herb spiral is probably the single best way to grow your herbs.

Surrounding the herb garden is a keyhole shaped path. On the outer edge of the circular bed there are four fruit trees. Between them are five vegetable circles.

One of the vegetable circles is currently occupied by a (again circular) chicken tractor. A chicken tractor is a movable chicken coop that has no floor. The chickens are feasting on the weeds, while fertilizing the soil at the same time.

The vegetable circles are used primarily for annual vegetables. After you harvested the vegetables from one circle, put a chicken tractor there. Let the chickens work for 2 weeks or so and plant some other vegetable there afterwards.

The remaining space on the bed is covered by a living mulch. Living mulch are special kind of plants that serve the same purposes as mulch and more: they prevent soil erosion, attract beneficial insects, …

The borders of the beds are made of stones and rocks. Round the great circle there’s boxwood to give it a sort of formal look.

Variations

OK, that was the analysis of the mandala garden that I designed on the picture. But, as already mentioned, this is just an example. You’re free to change every piece that you’re not particularly fond of.

You could drop the herb spiral and put a pond in the middle. A pond is a must have in every permaculture garden. It provides a habitat for all kinds of animals and plants.

Now that you’ve ditched the herb spiral, you can plant your herbs on the border (instead of boxwood).

If you’re not a vegetable fan, transform the vegetable circles into soft fruit areas. Plant raspberries, blackberries, currants, … Instead of living mulch, put the remaining space to use with strawberries.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) chickens, replace the chicken tractor with green manure crops (like legumes). You plant green manure crops after you harvested the vegetables.

You’re free do whatever you like. Just make sure to utilize as many layers as possible.

A “no-dig garden”? Really?

Yes, really. You can grow all the vegetables you want without any digging. How? Let’s leave that for another post.

From theory to practice

So, that was theory. How do you actually make a mandala garden? Stay tuned to find out!

Your comments

What do you think about mandala garden? Do you like it? Do you prefer conventional square gardens with crops planted in rows? Please tell us all about it in the comments.
 
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Comments

  1. Cynthia says:

    Yes ! Yes ! Yes! It is wonderful so much easier on the eyes than the linear rows. Wow, wish i would have thought of this. My whole yard is now going to be mandala. I will make mine 3 ft tall for handicap amd put a compost cylinder in the middle of each one.
    ~C

  2. Wow, this post is actually my first encounter with a Mandala Garden. I learned of it’s existence right here, on this page. Now I see a Mandala Garden in my future! I have a great idea – I think mine will look quite different…

    If you’re OK with it, I would like to re-post your article on my blog and link it to you across the board within the article.

    Hey, if you’re Permablogger, I’m a Permanblogger…?

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