Get Started with Permaculture: Zoning & Design
Updated: Apr 12
When you have a 6 acre piece of land with nothing on it, the biggest problem is - Where do we start?!
Thats exactly the problem we faced. What do we plant where? How to we make a layout? How do we implement it on the ground?
We started with making a list of things we wanted on the site - like a tube well, a wineyard, a nursery, a forest, an orchard, a walking path, a store, a cowshed, and possibly a house at some stage. Being quite busy with day jobs, and not confident of our expertise in this area, we roped in a local landscape architect Somit Midha to help us with the same. Unfortunately, he knew little about permaculture and the concept of zoning. So we sent a copy of our permaculture to him to read. And gave him the contract to create an overall site design so we could i) plant the trees, ii) have a walking path, iii) have an outhouse and iv) a tube well by July 2011.
We followed the process of zoning as recommended in permaculture design.
Zone 0 - wherever there is a physical structure
Zone I - The kitchen garden/ lawn/ flower garden surrounding the structure (ideally kitchen garden should be at the opening of the kitchen door)
Zone II - Orchard (the food forest)
Zone III - Some plots for farming cereal
Zone IV - The Forest (providing windbreak and protection on all sides of the farm)
We kept the vegetables, the herb garden and the orchard closer to the outhouse and probable house. And beyond a certain cut off, we kept the forest which would be left to itself, with minimal human intervention. We would plant a periphery of wind break trees to slow down cold and hot winds and create a more equitable micro climate at the farm. Somit Midha followed some of these principles and gave us some layout which allowed us to i) build a walking path through the property ii) dig holes for all the trees we wanted to plant and iii) mark out the area for the outhouse and tube well. He also designed a nice gate for us.
Unfortunately, he lost interest in the project half way, and didn't see it through. At the time of plantation we kept trying to get in touch with him, but he disappeared. He took most of the payment, but didn't deliver all the drawings. We decided that this would be the last time we would take an architect's help to design the layout for plantation. The future pieces of land we added to the property were completely designed by us, and we did a fairly good job. I would not recommend hiring a landscape architect to any permaculturist. They don't understand what we are doing, they have little education in sustainability and working with nature, and they are too expensive.
We are pleased with the final layout of the farm though. Many structures were added later over the years. But the basics of the design in terms of water flow, and sun direction and separating the forest from the orchard etc. are nicely done.