By Vina Medenilla

Dish garden is a miniature garden concept that originated from Japan where plants are placed in a shallow dish or bowl. In this type of garden, there are stones that represent three things: heaven, earth, and mankind. For Myrna Frago, a landscape designer and owner of Forest Wood Garden, it serves as an outlet where she can unleash her creativity by designing and building a small scale forest in a dish.

In the third and last series of AgriTalk 2020 in Calabarzon leg entitled “Dainty and Artsy,” A webinar series in plant arts, Frago has shared the requirements and steps in building a dish garden. 

Dish gardens can be maintained without consuming too much space. This can filter out indoor air toxins and can also help in reducing one’s stress. “When we speak, our plants absorb [carbon dioxide], while plants also give us oxygen,” Frago added. 

Materials and requirements for a dish garden

The items you’ll need in creating a dish garden are a dish or a pot, gravel, charcoal, soil mix, vermicompost, and small plants that can thrive with minimal water. As per Frago, pots for dish gardens usually measure about four to five inches deep, while other growers also use flat, more shallow containers. A terracotta container is recommended for this as it absorbs water best. The charcoal you’ll be using must be crushed into smaller pieces, Frago added, while your soil mix must vary based on the plants that you will tend in each mini garden. Vermicompost serves as a natural fertilizer for the soil, therefore, must be part of your soil mix, too.

Due to the limitations that this gardening technique entails, the plants that you must grow are the hardy ones. Study and choose plant species that will survive in your area’s weather condition. Many gardeners use succulents in dish gardening as it is low-maintenance. Ensure that your plants will have the right size to fit your container. Most importantly, avoid combining plants with contrasting requirements for successful gardening.

Principles of design in dish gardening

Space is an important element when building a dish garden. Positive space pertains to the objects placed in your dish garden, while the empty spaces are the so-called negative space. Color combination and texture are also part of the things you need to consider in this method. Blending colors properly will keep your dish garden alive and pleasant to the eyes. When it comes to texture, three things that matter are depth, width, and height. “There should be unity according to the theme of your garden,” said Frago.

Creating a dish garden 

Before creating your dish garden, visualize, or illustrate the look of your garden. Do you fancy a 360 view dish garden or you’d want to have front and back parts? Planning will help you arrange the plants properly according to their height. After you have set a garden in mind, you can now begin building your dish garden. 

Pour pebbles in your glass container as your base and add charcoal atop the pebbles afterward. This will help your plants get proper aeration that will prevent root rot. “Usually, we put plastic in between charcoal and pebbles,” Frago explains, but it is also possible not to add plastic between them. Put your soil mix on top of the charcoal. For succulents, 70% pumice and 30% soil is a great mix for proper growth, says Frago. Position your chosen plant into the container and add embellishments like shells and stones for the final touch. 

For the actual demonstration, click here.

Dish gardens are one way to address any space restrictions in your living space while achieving your desired green area in a smaller form. One can creatively explore according to their needs and resources. It won’t just beautify a place, but would keep your environment a healthier space to breathe and live in.