A beginner’s guide to Zones

Still looking for Zone 5? (Photo credit: planet a.)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about zones. Not the London Underground ones – the permaculture ones. Zones are a key building block used in creating and organising a permaculture design. It seems like a simple enough idea. Think of your plot – however large or small that may be –  as a series of ‘zones’ radiating out from ‘zone zero’ – usually your home. If I’ve got it right (and I’m a permaculture newbie – you have been warned, people!) anything that needs daily attention or use – like seedlings, herbs, a wormery, a play area –  goes in Zone 1, closest to the home. Zone 2 has the stuff that needs visiting less often – say, some maincrop potatoes, a big compost bin or some fruit bushes. Zone 3 is for things grown on a larger scale, perhaps crops for sale, or grazing for animals, while Zone 4 includes areas visited quite rarely – maybe a patch of willow coppiced every few years. Then there’s Zone 5, the wilderness area. It’s a key idea in permaculture that we observe, and learn from, the natural world around us. Zone 5 is where we go as visitors to watch and learn, but don’t interfere. Of course, on our crowded island in the UK, few plots will have all these zones on any sort of scale. But the idea remains – save time and effort by placing things in the best place you can.

Well, it all seemed pretty straightforward when I was doing my Permaculture Design Course recently. But the more I think about it the more seems to be involved. So I want to look into it a bit further, by writing some more  posts on zones. (A beginner’s guide, if you will – ie written by me, the beginner…)  The advice in permaculture is always to start at your back door and work out. But because I’m a novice, I’m going to do it all backwards, and start by writing about zone 5. Heck, I may not even write about the zones in order – cos that’s how I roll.

2 responses to “A beginner’s guide to Zones

  1. I have a lot to learn about permaculture. Just wondering how to incorporate it when spaces I am free to choose what happens to are so small? Is there a good book or website you recommend as a starter?

    • Hi Sarah – great to meet you, I have a lot to learn about permaculture too! Permaculture is a set of principles and design methods that really can be used anywhere. There are some amazing examples of using permaculture ideas in very small spaces. There’s a book on Amazon called Permaculture in Pots – tho I haven’t read it so don’t know what it’s like. The Sustainable Smallholding blog also has a detailed post here showing how he planted up some ‘permaculture pots’ as a demonstration for visitors to his smallholding. (The first bit is all about his design process – keep scrolling down to get to the pots themselves…) For a general intro, the UK Permaculture Association has an overview section called Knowledge Base here . I’ll be putting some more permaculture links and resources together over the next few days!

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