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Published on September 10th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Introduction to Permaculture, part 2

Just a few weeks ago, we did an Introduction to Permaculture looking at some of the basics of this holistic growing practice. Today we have more to add to our introduction to permaculture, and we’ll discuss zones and sectors. For those interested in permaculture design, this is a good place to begin learning.

{Want to learn more? Check out this post on Planetsave about how to make permaculture practical and watch a video of a permaculture garden in action on Sustainablog}


Sectors are a way of considering the external energies that move through a system such as prevailing wind direction, site orientation and aspect (north, south, east, west, etc.), winter/summer sun paths, underlying geological make up (bed rock causing clay or sandy soil types, etc.), frost pockets and so on; and how we might best take steps to either utilise or counter such factors.


Zones can be thought of as concentric circles classified according to intensity of human intervention, on-site energy and resources management or physical characteristics (slopes, temperature variations etc.). Typically zones are numbered from 0 to 5.

Zone 0

The house, or heart, of the home is Zone 0. Here permaculture principles would be applied in terms of aiming to reduce energy and water needs, harnessing natural resources such as sunlight, and generally creating a harmonious, sustainable environment in which to live, work and relax.

Zone 1

The zone nearest to the house, the location for those elements in the system that require frequent attention, or that need to be visited often, such as salad crops, herb plants, soft fruit like strawberries or raspberries, greenhouse and cold frames, propagation area, worm composting bin for kitchen waste, and so on.

Zone 2

This area is used for siting perennial plants that require less frequent maintenance, such as occasional weed control (preferably through natural methods such as spot-mulching) or pruning, including currant bushes and orchards. This would also be a good place for beehives, larger scale home composting bins, and so on.

Zone 3

Main crops are grown, both for domestic use and for trade purposes, in Zone 3. After establishment, care and maintenance required are fairly minimal (provided mulches and similar things are used), such as watering or weed control once a week or so.

Zone 4

A semi-wild area is that which defines zone 4. This zone is mainly used for forage and collecting wild food as well as timber production. An example might be coppice-managed woodland. Coppicing refers to purposefully cutting a tree back for regrowth, where the regrowth is used for anything from fence posts to firewood.

Zone 5

Wild areas are called Zone 5. There is no human intervention in zone 5 apart from the observation of natural eco-systems and cycles. Here is where the most important lessons of the first permaculture principle of working with, rather than against, nature are learned.

Some individuals extend the zones to that of the spirit or individual choice through a new zone called Zone 00. This recognizes that people at the heart of the use and design of the system. Others have also included Zone 6 indicating the wider world in which a permaculture system must exist. And yet there is also development in permaculture that includes the urban environment that emphasizes the use and type of energy expended. This manner of thought is used to determine the most earth and people friendly use of individual types of energy, such as human energy via bicycling, train, automobile and air flight.


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