How To Make a Mandala Garden

In permaculture design, certain patterns crop up frequently. One of these patterns is a circular or spiralling design sometimes called a mandala garden. The term mandala comes from a Sanskit word for 'circle', and incorporating one in your garden could be a great way to make the most of the space, obtain a higher yield, and a beautiful visual appeal.

Circles are a form often found in nature. They can remind us of the cycles of the world around us, completeness and unity. By reminding us of these things they can help us make sure that we always bear in mind the importance of working with nature, and the idea that all of the elements in the ecosystem of our garden are connected.

But a mandala garden is not only about ideas and aesthetics. A mandala garden can also be a very practical choice. It can incorporate many permaculture ideas about efficiency, edge, flow and obtaining a yield. A geometric, circular garden design can help us to make the most of the space we have available, as proposed by Linda Woodrow in her book – 'The Permaculture Home Garden'.

In a permaculture garden, the soil is left undisturbed as much as possible. A circular garden design, with paths like the spokes of a wheel, or keyhole shaped access points to the circular form, not only maximise the amount of edge (the most productive part of an ecosystem) but also allow for easy access, so the gardener does not need to step on the soil. This means that growing areas are left uncompacted, and the soil ecosystem can flourish.

A mandala garden can take several different forms. For example:

  • It can be one large circular bed, with keyhole access points that ensure that all the parts of the growing areas can be easily accessed without trampling the beds, with outstretched arms.
  • It can be a small, central circular bed with wedge shaped beds around it and paths between them like the spokes of a wheel.
  • It can be a central circle with broken rings around it, with pathways allowing for easy access between the rings. (Like a kind of labyrinth.)
  • It can be a circular bed with curving 'wing' beds spiralling out from the centre.

There are many different types of mandala beds, but all draw on the circular form, and create geometric patterns from paths, beds and planting. Before you begin creating your mandala garden, it is a good idea to sit down with pencil and paper to work out a geometric, circular design that might work for you and your garden.

Mandala gardens can incorporate in-ground growing areas, or raised beds to make up the geometric designs. But ease of access and practical accessibility should always be foremost in your mind.

Once you have your design, mark it out on the ground and create your beds using permaculture 'no dig' methods. Colour is another key feature of these beds and you may like to think about how bed edging and paths as well as planting can create this.

Once you have created your growing areas and paths, it is time to plant up your design. Remember to create biodiverse polycultures, and to think about the beneficial interactions between each of the plants you include in your design, as well as what they can provide for you.