Permaculture: The Zone System
People garden for many reasons; some because they enjoy being busy and being outside. Some garden to grow prize winning roses; some to grow tomatoes; other seeks herbs and some garden to enhance the value of their property.
When you grow for food production, whether it be for personal or market use, yield is crucial.
Permaculture design will assist you to create a home garden that will maximize yoru yield.
Permaculture is a design system that is used to create sustainable human habitats.
Permaculture designers use a zone system to determine what goes where. The zones serve as guidelines which help plan where things will be placed in a landscape. The zone system allows for efficient use of time and energy and this helps increase the return on yoru gardening investment.
What belongs in what zone is determined by the frequency with which you need to visit that zone; how many times per week do you need to pay attention to what occupies a zone?
You place the items that you use the most such as herbs and salad green as near to the house as you can and the area that you have set aside for the native wildlife and to observe nature in action as far away as you can.
The Zones- 0 to 5
The zones have been modified to fit an urban backyard; for the most part the standard backyard will have only Zone 0, 1 and maybe 2. Zones 3-5 are for larger commercial operations but are included here for those who operate or are thinking about the larger scale.
ZONE 0: This is your home, your food concerns here may be a kitchen herb garden so that your favourites are nearby. You, if you have the space, say a basement want to set up a hydroponic system and grow cherry tomatoes and salad greens indoors all year round.
ZONE 1: This is where you grow the foods that you use on a daily basis and plants that demand the most of your time, herbs, salad greens and your vegetable garden. Your compost pile will also be in Zone 1 along with rain barrels and any other water catchment systems you may have. Zone 1 is also a good place for the henhouse if you live in an area where this is allowed. Do check first.
ZONE 2: is your orchard or food forest. If you have a small yard then 2 or 3 dwarf fruit trees will suffice.
ZONE 3: this is the commercial farm zone where you would grow green manure, low maintenance trees, large systems, big sheds, woodlot, and windbreak and place your aquaculture project.
ZONE 4: This is where you get your fire wood and harvest wild plants and mushrooms, for example.
ZONE 5: This is the wild place that you do not mange but rather use it as a classroom a place to observe, interact and learn.
As I have said for the average urban or suburban backyard Zones 0-1 will be the only areas that are relevant to you but if your follow the basic and mostly common sense rule of planting that which you use the most nearest to your backdoor then you will be using the space wisely.
When you first site out to grow your own food, be sure to do a site analysis first. You will need to determine the following:
1- How much space can I use for growing food?
2- What other activities will be taking place nearby?
3- How much sunlight does this space get each day?
4- What is occupying this space now?
5- What trees, flowers, other plants are growing there now?
6- What does my family like to eat?
7- How much time do I have to garden?
The answers to these questions will get you started. Be sure to write them down before you begin to draw your garden plan. A plan is a guide that is meant to get you going and keep you going, not written in stone, or an art project.