Transitioning To A Permaculture Way of Life, Part 5

What do You Want From Your Garden?

Now you have been armed with some of the practical ideas of permaculture, you may be ready to test out your design skills and come up with a plan about how to implement them in your garden or outside space. You may be itching to get on with your organic growing, your rainwater harvesting system, composting and all the other details that you now know will help you to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly way of life. Wait. Before getting carried away and bunging everything in wherever it ends up, make sure you know what exactly you want to get from your garden. By now, you know what your garden can provide and will have begun to work out its limitations. But it is important to remember that you (and all others using the garden) are important to the design too.

Systems Analysis

This is a fancy way to say that you need to work out how all the elements in your garden fit together. The elements are things like your rainwater harvesting system, compost bin, garden pond, vegetable beds or orchard areas, etc… Elements also include those who live in the space and use it – you and your family and friends, any pets, any livestock such as chickens and the wildlife around you. Think about the needs of each of the elements, then think about the outputs – what each one can provide, then think about the characteristics of each. How are all the elements linked?

For example, working you will find useful inter-connections like the following: Chickens provide manure for the compost heap, the compost heap provides compost for the food growing areas, the food growing areas could provide feed for chickens as well as for you. A rainwater harvesting system may feed into this system at all its points. Working out how all the elements interact and thinking about the needs of each will help you decide where to place them.

 Permaculture Zoning – The Essential 5


In permaculture, zones are also used to help us understand where things should go, and how to use our space most effectively. There are no hard and fast rules however, and it is also important to adapt to the needs of your individual site and make your own decisions.

Zoning in permaculture is about planning the location of elements in your design by how often you need to use or visit that element. Simply speaking, those elements you visit most often will usually be closest to the house, those rarely visited will be further away. Zones can be any shape and will usually blend and blur into one another – there need be no physical barrier between them.

Zone Zero: Your home.

Zone 1: Easy access areas, usually right next to your home. Here you might locate vegetable beds and herb gardens, worm composting for kitchen waste, your rainwater harvesting system, greenhouse and propagation areas, perhaps a shed. This is an intensive area which would not be maintained without human intervention.

Zone 2: Vegetable beds perhaps, with a longer time before harvest, fruit trees/ orchards, compost area, perhaps bees or chickens, your garden pond. Most urban domestic homes will have only zones 0-2, while other set ups could have far more zones or incorporate elements of the following into the design.

Zone 3: Farmland and large livestock areas.

Zone 4: Part managed areas for forage/ timber/ animal pasture etc..

Zone 5: Untamed wilderness.

Post by Elizabeth Waddington

Eli Waddington
Elizabeth Waddington lives with her husband and her dog on a sustainable smallholding in Scotland. She is a green living consultant and freelance writer with a particular interest in permaculture and organic growing.

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