In Permaculture design, we divide the world outside our house into 5 zones.
Why is it the #1 recommendation I have for improving your property?
Done right, it saves time & effort so you enjoy your property and succeed with it.

Lets teach you each zone, provide examples, + give you my advice for applying it to YOUR life and property.
The main takeaway is for you to improve your relationship with your physical world.

The 5 Zones of Permaculture Design

The easiest way to explain zones is in 2 words:
“Oftenest = Nearest”

Essentially everything we need to interact with more, should be placed closer.
Done right, we save time, human energy, and have a sensible guide for expanding inwards out.
I like to call Permaculture Zones a less mystical Fung-sui.

An example for explaining zones is the “kitchen triangle”. This is where you place your stove, fridge, and sink equidistant to each other. Its more efficient. Less tiring. More enjoyable.

Imagine applying that sensibility to your entire property!
Now that you have a general understanding and some comparisons, lets dive in:

Zone 1

Zone 1 is the area right outside the doors of your home. You place everything you interact with on a daily basis here. With careful thought, it becomes a graceful extension of the home and can even produce most of a families food. Elements such as a herb garden, greenhouse, or a chicken coop are placed in Zone 1.

My Advice: The most common mistake is to place the compost far away from the house. The result? Wasted human energy going back and forth and it gets underutilized and mismanaged. Place your compost system in Zone 1 or Zone 2.

Zone 2

Zone 2 is an extension of Zone 1. While everything placed within this zone benefits from regular attention, its not daily, so this zone can be further from the doors of your home. This could include a market garden, a multi-graft fruit tree, fruit shrubs.

My Advice: Placing everything that needs managed watering within Zone 1 & 2. Otherwise, you are spending more time, energy, and money to force life into a space further from home base.

Zone 3

Zone 3 is the last space that you intensively manage – could be a mowed open area, main crop, an orchard, a berry patch. Its an extension of your yard or acreage where you don’t spend much time, but still cultivate and maintain what otherwise could fall into disrepair or become overgrown.

My Advice: Once you have Zone 1 & 2 harmonious and dialed in, only then focus on Zone 3. As a larger space, mistakes and work are multiplied. Zone 3 can take up all your resources if you are not careful so spend your time, energy and funds closer to home first so you know what you have left.

Zone 4

Zone 4 is the last zone that we try to influence. Examples include pasture, a woodlot, or where we plant low maintenance perennial grasses, shrubs, & trees. Some will place animal systems here, plant trees as shelter belts or for later fuel or harvest. An underutilized practice is to encourage a naturalized ecosystem for hunting or foraging.

My Advice: Encourage more spaces on our properties – city lot or farm alike – where you can hone the art of doing the least minimal work for the greatest result. When landscaping and maintaining our properties is exhausting, it is feedback we have favoured Zone 1-3, and need more Zone 4 and 5.

Zone 5

These are the spaces we leave for nature to run its course untouched by human hands. They are places of contemplation, relaxation, and respectful recreation. Here we can also humbly learn how nature designs itself and carry that wisdom back into Zones 1-4.

My Advice: While most people think of provincial and national parks, Zone 5 can be recreated even in our own backyard. A property owner could plant native species, or even leave an area to naturally express itself. There is much that can be learned watching even a small patch heal itself. While it can take hundreds of years to heal back, we can give it a leg up.


Whats Next?

If you enjoyed this article and improving your home, property, and world piqued your interest, then I have 4 options for you to dive deeper:

  1. Join the Newsletter: A great way to learn more for free. I write weekly-ish to you with more articles just like this + unique offerings for courses, events, and resources. The newsletter sign-up form pops up on this website & is also at the bottom of some of the pages.
  2. Join Our Free Sharing Community: To reach more people and bring them together in comradery to create kick-ass homes and properties, I am creating an online community. There is a free guest membership you can apply for. Once we launch there will be a free Permaculture course, a community Q&A, and a space where our community show-cases what we are working on. Join the waitlist for a guest membership HERE.
  3. Join Attainable Sustainable Academy: If you are ready to dive in here and now, you can apply to join the next cohort of students. Spots are limited. Members learn step-by-step how to create their dream property and home, right from buying a property to establishing all the systems to bring it to full abundance and resilience. They have access to exclusive benefits, meetings with coaches and industry experts, and a community where we support each other in comradery and friendship. Join the waitlist for full membership access here. 
  4. Private Consultation & Design: While I have limited time outside of my projects and this community, I take 2-3 private jobs per year to stay fresh in the field. This can include single day on site visits, 1-on-1 calls, surveying and aerial drone photography, and full project designs and support. Internal community members are given the first opportunity to book these limited spots. You can inquire about these services, rates, and my availability through my contact form HERE.

Be fruitful and multiply,

Kenton Zerbin

(Kenton is a passionate educator for sustainable living who lives in an off-grid tiny house in northern Alberta. Kenton runs a wide array of workshops on tiny homes, sustainable living, and edible landscaping. He also does consulting and design for homeowners, communities, and businesses)

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