[permaculture] Re: zonation

Graham Burnett grahamburnett at blueyonder.co.uk
Tue Apr 20 19:18:59 EDT 2004

Hi all- interesting debate on how to use the concept of 'Zones'- I thought
I'd put in my own fourpenorth i the form of this extract from the
permaculture cookbook I'm currently writing;

Cheers Graham
Understanding 'Zones'

The structure of this cookbook differs from many others in that it is laid
out using the permaculture concept of 'zoning'. Good design is about
maximising the beneficial connections between elements, in other words,
putting things in the right place. There's not a lot of point in planting
'Cut and Come Again' lettuces on your allotment two miles away from your
house if you only visit it once a week. When you are knocking up a salad for
tea, human nature and the law of minimum effort dictates that you will pop
round to the greengrocers and buy a lettuce whilst your crop sits running to

Zoning is therefore a tool to help us decide where things best belong. Zones
are numbered from 0 to 5, and can be thought of as a series of concentric
rings moving out from a centre point, where human activity and need for
attention is most concentrated, to where there is no need for intervention
at all. Zone Zero is the house or home centre. In terms of food production
this might be about using energy efficient cooking and storage methods, or
designing an ergonomic kitchen layout. Zone 1 is your immediate back garden,
the place nearest the house where the gardener's shadow ("the best
fertiliser of all") most often falls. This is where to put crops that
require frequent attention and harvesting, those 'Cut and Come Again'
saladings, herbs, strawberry plants, espalier trees, seedlings in trays, as
well as your greenhouse, worm compost bin and cold frames. Fruit trees and
bushes might be in zone 2, whilst main-crop vegetables production will be a
feature of zone 3 (perhaps that once a week cycling distance allotment?).
Zone 4 is semi-wild, for example coppice managed woodland used for timber,
woodland products like charcoal, poles, fencing, etc, and edible crops such
as nuts, leaf protein or fungi. Zone 5 is the wild nature, where apart from
foraged wild foods, the main 'yields' are the observation of natural
eco-systems and cycles, and the lessons these can teach us.

The tool of zoning can be utilised in many different ways. Try, for example,
applying them to determine scales of community organisation and how they are
relevant to you. Where might your energies best be employed in influencing
and effecting change, and when do different strategies become appropriate?
'Zone Zero' could be the people you share a home with, i.e., your partner,
family or room-mates; 'Zone 1', friends, immediate neighbours or work
colleagues; 'Zone 2' the streets around you, or within your district or
parish boundaries, and so on outwards, with 'Zone 5' representing national
government and it's intractable bureaucracies. If you truly want to make a
difference, do you approach your lover in the same way that you address a
community meeting or an Anti War protest event?

What's important is that zones are interpreted in a way that makes sense to
YOU. For the purposes of this book I've used them to reflect where time and
energy might be typically spent; 'Zone Zero' looks at energy flows and
inputs and outputs within the house and kitchen, with some recipes for
'indoor' crops such as sprouts, window ledge greens and so on; Zone One
focuses on the small back garden of the typical urban household (together
with some salad recipes); Zone Two looks at home scale fruit production,
storage and uses, particularly the concept of the forest garden, whilst
Zones 3 and 4 look more at maincrops and staples, including ways to develop
local food links. Zone 5 looks at our relationship with the wilderness and
the yields it can offer us both in terms of wisdom and useful wild plants
that we can forage. But don't get hung up on my interpretation. As we all
know, the 'typical' person doesn't exist and we all have different
circumstances and opportunities. For example in a rented household maybe you
don't have much access to your back garden, yet are able to visit your
allotment every day on the way to work- obviously your use of 'zoning' will
be different to that I have suggested. Use your own judgement of what suits
you, and never forget that rules are there to be broken!

A seventh important 'zone' in permaculture design is 'Zone 00' meaning the
person or persons at the very heart of the system, perhaps the most
important part of the design of all, and the place where this book begins.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Robyn Francis" <erda at nor.com.au>
To: "permaculture" <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2004 10:59 PM
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Re: zonation

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