This is a continuation of an introductory series exploring my study and application of Permaculture. You can find the related articles by visiting GHC’s Site Index. All of these topics are discussed more deeply during our Workshops and Seminars.
This turned out to be even longer than I anticipated… so here’s Part 1. I’ll soon publish the conclusion.
Last time, we dug in to what a Permaculture Zone Analysis is and defined each zone from another. Feel free to head over there if you missed that discussion. It’s pretty pertinent to what we’re creating here today. That’s because it’s time to get out from behind the desk, put down the textbooks, and get to work. Let’s see what a real world example of a Zone Analysis might look like.
Below is a screenshot I took of our five acres soon after we moved in. It was important that I have a “clean slate” picture I could reference that would not show any elements I later add.
So without further ado, welcome to our home:
After a year of observation while I’ve been adding systems… and a slew of evolving drafts… here is my current Zone Analysis of the property:
That looks a lot different from the picture perfect, cookie cutter graphic I created to explain Permaculture Zones, don’t you think?
Want to step through my analysis piece by piece with me?
I’ll repeat my warning in the previous explanation post to not get too hung up on specific “stuff” yet (i.e. basil here and beehives there). Even though I’m going to talk about the “stuff” a little to help you picture things, it’s much more important that we focus on the “where” and the “why” in a Zone Analysis.
So lace up your boots and let’s take a walk around.
Zone 1 – Area You Manage Aggressively
A – This circle is where our dedicated kitchen herb garden will be. It’s very easy to access from either the front or side door. More important, I imagine coming home from the grocery store, pulling into the attached garage door (just to the right, or east, of the big letter A), stepping out to pluck a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme to add to the pork we just pulled out of the garage deep freeze, then carrying everything into the house to begin dinner prep. The herbs live in an herb spiral, but that’s not as important as its location. I mention it because an herb spiral is a cool looking element and can be something of a showcase if you understand its use correctly and can verbalize it, so I want it to be in an area with lots of traffic so we can introduce guests to Permaculture techniques… and weed or mulch it often as we walk by.
B – This rectangle is my largest annual and (needy) perennial garden area. It’s the largest spot on my property with great southern exposure and I’ve already enclosed it with a 9 foot deer fence. Yeah, it’s a little further away from the house than I would prefer, but open area and sunlight patterns heavily influenced this part of my design. I’ve dug several hugelkultur beds on contour to help minimize irrigation and am installing a large Mandala pattern bed as well.
C - This rectangle will also be annuals and needy perennials for reasons I listed for letter B. I haven’t developed this yet and haven’t decided what’s the best way to go yet though. It will definitely be some sort of greenhouse. Just not sure if it will be a full, traditional greenhouse structure or a bunch of raised beds that will have individual hoop house “greenhouse” covers. We’ll see…
D & E - We spend a lot of time on the front (northern) patio and head out that way for our evening walks. It just makes sense to plant things here that need a little more maintenance, and we can keep looking somewhat tidy for visitors. E is the walk to the mailbox, so that area will always be visited at least once a day. I’m excited about experimenting with D, since it gets partial to full shade. I’ve already established gooseberries, currants, and comfrey here.
Next, let’s look at
Zone 2 – Area You Manage Often
F - Both F & G are on the border of my largest Zone 1 garden area and have perennials sprinkled around that do not need much maintenance. F is also the future site of a large(ish) pond to bring in a lot more diversity to this part of the property. Right now the Muscovy ducks spend most of their time in a paddock in another zone, for reasons I’ll explain later, but they will be shifted regularly to area F. That will allow me to selectively give them access to the Zone 1 garden for slug control and whatnot. Also, the pond here in F will be fertilized by the ducks, and I’ll use it for irrigation.
G - This is where our chicken coop is. They also get to selectively frolic in the garden at certain times, hunting pests and eating weeds. Right along the southern fence/property line, so about 8 feet below (or south) of the coop, is a three bin compost system I made out of pallets very similar to what I built Here out in our woods (for leaf mold composting). When the chickens get released from their run, they have constant access to dig through those compost piles, turning and aerating it as they gobble up scraps, worms, and bugs… and as anyone with chickens can verify – they constantly add manure to the compost. Those compost bins are easy to access for when I clean out the run’s deep litter a few times a year, and are easy to access when it’s time to top dress the large nearby Zone 1 garden with finished compost. The pallet bins are tucked away behind the coop so they’re sort of hidden from view since composting isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing process in the world… at least it’s not pleasing to weirdos who don’t get excited about free manure from Craigslist.
Do I visit F & G every day? Probably. But I don’t have to. That’s why they’re Zone 2.
I’ll also throw in that part of Making my Garden Work Harder Than I Do is being able to accomplish lots of tasks in one trip.
- Take a look at the Zone 2 pic again and imagine myself walking out the back of the house carrying a bowl of kitchen scraps.
- On the way into the Zone 1 garden, I empty the bowl by throwing those scraps to the chickens.
- I fiddle around the garden for awhile, harvesting what’s ready and pulling any weeds I feel like.
- When I’ve had enough, I walk back past the coop on my way out the garden gate, throw the pulled weeds to the birds, and add any eggs to my bowl of freshly harvested garden veggies on my way back to the house.
Alright, I think we’re already running a little wordy… so I’m going to pause here and keep you in suspense for a couple days.
Please stay tuned for a look at Zones 3-5.
Question of the Day: Have you designed in any big time savers to your day?