The word mandala comes from Sanskrit and means magical or sacred circle. Humans have always used mandalas. The Mayan calendar, the medicine wheel of the First Nation, Stone Henge, the Celtic spirals and the Tibetan wheel had symbols that originated in mandalas. The mandala symbolises the whole, the coordinated cycles of time and space, uniting the paths of heaven and earth, activating our inner power of healing, love, and peace.
The mandala pattern celebrates the circle, one which never ends and is always beginning. The circle is a fundamental shape in nature. It is seen in the form of the sun, the full moon even in the rainbow.
Gardening in circles
Gardening in circles has many benefits. Irrigation is easier to place when the garden is a circle and is often cheaper. In addition, the area of cultivation is more significant and often more beautiful.
Mandala gardens are great to make with children. Each circular area can have a theme, such as an Italian pizza garden with oregano, basil, tomatoes, peppers and rosemary or a Thai garden with coriander, chives, lemon verbena and chilli.
When making a mandala garden, choose an area with a diameter of around 9 metres. If you have a larger area, you can try a diameter of 12 metres. With the help of a friend, mark the circle using a 4.5-meter string. You can use lime or ashes for the job. Mark the centre of the mandala with a stone.
From the centre, mark another inner circle with a string of 1 meter. This will be the centre of the mandala. The centrepiece can be a herb spiral, a pond, a dwarf tree even a scarecrow.
Now mark another circle of 1.80m, forming a path that is 80cm wide. Divide the large circle into six equal parts. These lines indicate the walking path that will also be at least 80cm wide. Two of the paths will be the entrance/exit. The other four will be the “keyhole” entrances. These beds allow easy access to the vegetables without having to step on them. You can learn more about keyhole gardens here.
Planting the mandala garden
Plants that need to be clipped and snipped regularly grow well around the keyhole beds. Plant oregano, marjoram, thyme, chives, coriander, mustard greens, dandelions and basil near the edges as they benefit from the warmth of the sun and protection from the wind. Cut regularly to increase growth.
- Reserve some of the paths for the constant harvesting of vegetables.
- Plant pumpkin, zucchini and bush tomatoes in the wider areas of the mandala.
- Plant the outside border with comfrey and lemongrass. This combination helps keep the grass out of the beds. Excess lemongrass can be cut short and used as mulch. Excess comfrey can be used to make a biological fertiliser.
- Spread sawdust or wood chip on the paths. The colour difference will give a beautiful definition to the path and allow rainwater to absorb into the earth.
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