Zoning in permaculture design refers to a method of ensuring that elements are correctly placed. Zoning is about correct placement- positioning things in ways that are the most appropriate; 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 0 — The house, or home centre. 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 — Is 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, e.g., salad crops, herb plants, soft fruit like strawberries or raspberries, greenhouse and cold frames, propagation area, worm compost bin for kitchen waste, etc.
- 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 compost bins, etc.
- ZONE 3 — Is the area where maincrops are grown, both for domestic use and for trade purposes. After establishment, care and maintenance required is fairly minimal provided mulches, etc. are used, e.g., watering or weed control once a week or so.
- ZONE 4 — Is semi-wild. This zone is mainly used for forage and collecting wild food as well as timber production. An example might be coppice managed woodland.
- ZONE 5 — The wilderness. There is no human intervention in zone 5 apart from the observation of natural eco-systems and cycles. Here is where we learn the most important lessons of the first permaculture principle of working with nature, not against.
In the desing of zones 4 and 5 Holmgren's permacultural model makes use of Yeoman's Keyline Design principle in the design of sustainable human settlements and organic farms. These simple concepts have led to complex theoretical work which nonetheless is important in underpinning the design proccess. In the context of zone analysis, Holmgren based much of his design system around the concept of a sequentially nested distribution of zones whereby geographically zone 0 ⊂ zone 1 ⊂ zone 2 ⊂ zone 3 ⊂ zone 4 ⊂ zone 5.
Some groups extended this with Zone 00, the self as an attempt to place people at the heart of the system . Others have also included Zone 6 indicating the wider world in which a permaculture system must exist.
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.