The Zone Analysis in Permaculture Design
In the last article, we introduced readers to some of the concepts of coming up with a holistic design for their house and garden that would guide them along the pathway to sustainability. We specifically looked at Patterns and the Sector Analysis. We looked at the natural energy flows across sites, patterns that can be seen in 3-dimensional space and over time and the need for protracted observation of one’s site before any physical implementation. We walked through an exercise where the readers were taught how to observe and analyze their patterns of movement through the space they were designing with the goal of using this information to optimize their final design.
The next part of this design process is the Zone Analysis. Here we divide our landscape into zones that accurately reflect the patterns of movement you recorded from the previous exercise. The places that your patterns show that you visit or pass the most during the day describe areas where you should put things that require a lot of attention. Places that you visit less should have things that require less attention. In Permaculture design we divide the entire landscape into 5 zones with Zone 0 being your house, Zone 1 being your kitchen garden and zone 5 being areas that can be left to go wild. An idealized vision of zoning is below with each concentric circle being a little further from the house and requiring less attention.
An idealized vision of zoning with each concentric circle being a little further from the house and requiring less attention. (Photo via: Deep Green Permaculture)
The idealized version above, in most cases, is not a practical design but just a way of showing the overall pattern being desired. Your ‘pattern of movement’ analysis is a better guide to laying out your zones. From a gardening perspective, your zone 1 would then have your seedling tray and nursery area and herb garden that you are constantly cutting from. Your zone 2 will become an area where you may have a little kitchen garden that is as close to your back door or kitchen so produce is always handy. Your zone 3 will become an area where you may have a few fruit trees or your ornamental garden that does not require as much time as your zone 2. Your zone 4 will become the larger area of your ornamental garden with its edges possibly being the zone 5. In Permaculture, we are always learning from observing natural patterns and having a little area within your landscape that you leave to go wild will always be a source of inspiration once you learn to see the patterns evolving and not seeing it as just ‘bush’.
Some houses or projects will embrace all 5 zones while some may be limited to the first three. Even some small gardens can be creatively designed to have 5 zones if designers begin to work in a 3 dimension landscape instead of just 2….something we can look at in the future. The design below reflects a realistic design for a house in an urban/suburban setting with some yard space around it
Zone analysis diagram reflecting a realistic design for a house in an urban/suburban setting. (Photo via: Pinterest)
A brief description of the different zones is as follows
- Zone 0 – House: it is the location from which the entire design is based as it is the location from captures and the main function here is Consumption, processing
- Zone 1 – Nursery, herb and greens garden that is used daily. An area where young animals like chicks or small pets are kept that require constant attention or supervision
- Zone 2 – The vegetable garden, planted with a variety of perennial plants that will produce year after year, the owner constantly harvesting what in season, animals in this section could include larger pets, suitably fenced off from areas that they may damage.
- Zone 3 – Fruit trees and the Ornamental Garden, an area requiring only weekly visits to make sure everything is doing well and to see what may be flowering or fruiting.
- Zone 4 – The less often visited areas of a large yard or landscape with more space. Normally planted with bigger fruit trees only requiring visits when in season once the trees are established.
- Zone 5. – The wild edges of the property. Along gully edges or forest edges or stream edges. Sometimes just a large tree in a residential area becomes the zone 5 as it supports all different types of wildlife at all different times of the day and year.
Take the pattern of movement that you created from the previous article and begin to observe where your zones could go.
- Be guided by what your pattern tells you and lay out your zones based on this.
- Do not be afraid of how this may look in your actual landscape, but just draw it on the sketch you are working with. The images will begin the thinking process.
- Your Zone 1 should fall around the areas you pass by the most…(is it between your front door and your car? For many people it is…in which case just imagine that being an area where things requiring a lot of daily attention need to go…you are not committing to anything yet, just exploring the options on paper)
- Your Zone 2 is an area that you frequent a little less in your landscape but still visit regularly, could you plant a small kitchen garden here or maintain some large pots or planters with herbs and a few hardy vegetables? Put it in your drawing
- Explore the options for the other 3 zones on your sketch…would you have put things in the places you are now visioning them if you had not done a pattern of movement analysis?
- Reflect on and revisit your sketch a few times to see if things could change. Get a feel for the process so that any new ‘things’ added to your landscape from now on should meet some new criteria you are generating to make sure they will get the attention they will need.
Everyone’s landscape and patterns of movement are different, and each person’s design will be unique. No two permaculture designs are the same although the process of creating them is identical. Observe your results, and in the next article we will look at elements, the ‘things’ we place into our landscape and how the different functions they perform can influence their positioning in different zones and their interactions with other ‘things’ in the landscape.