with Crystal Stevens
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
When you begin to look at your own site with a permaculture lens, you begin to see your home as a system in which the zones and sectors can provide a foundation for your design. Zones are a tool for organizing and laying out a site so that energy, time and resources like water are used efficiently.
In classic zone mapping, the house is referred to as the centralized hub of human activity. The home is more efficient and functions better when everything has its place, when items are organized, and when clutter is minimal. Our homes are the places we retreat to. The home system is where we can reduce our carbon footprint while building a legacy of green handprints.
It is important to start at home when designing the home system since the home is the central hub for our activities. If our home functions well as a permaculture system, then our other permaculture endeavors will be more successful and we will have overall better organizational and design skills. In this mini class you will learn to view your home and its immediate surroundings through a permaculture lens.
Zone One: Home sweet home, the domestic zoneZone one includes the home, the central hub of our activity. A place where we rest and recuperate, eat, sleep, gather, dream and create.
Everyone’s home is different. Some people prefer quiet, minimalist spaces while others thrive in busy chaos. Within the shared and different preferences of the household, there is space for creating systems that reduce the amount of work needed to keep the home as you all prefer it. So often, time and energy (and tempers!) are lost looking for things. Mapping the zones and sectors inside the house can serve as a useful observation tool and help reveal fresh insights into how the house and its occupants function.
An example from my own home system:
For the last several years, I have been eliminating things that no longer serve me in my home. Each month, I dedicate a day to go through old bins of paperwork, fill a few bags of donation items, re-organize spaces that are not functioning efficiently, etc. Through this process, I have been able to organize zones of my home by categories. Because my husband and I are multifaceted and have way too many hobbies, we have several functioning zones throughout our home.
We have an area that functions as an art studio with shelves for clearly labeled art supplies.
We have an area designated to our gardening resources, which houses our seed library, gardening books, and small gardening supplies, such as small tools and gloves.
We also have a home apothecary, stocked with homegrown dried herbs, tinctures and oil infusions in process, herbal medicine making supplies, and a resource library for herbs and herbalism. We have a huge farm table in our dining room that serves multiple purposes; as a place to have family meals, an arts and crafts area, and a seed starting workspace. This table is located in a room where we host workshops.
Growing and storing food in Zone 1.There are a surprising number of things you can grow indoors, especially if you have a sunny windowsill or two. Sprouting seeds and growing microgreens can be done all year round, and are a great source of vitamins in the winter months. However, sprouting seeds works best in drier climates. In humid areas mould can be a problem so you may find you need to sterilise glass jars in the oven between crops.
Houseplants don’t have to only look nice! Spider plants are renowned for cleaning toxins the air, but they are not the only ones that do this as this poster shows. Some of these plants, such as ferns, prefer not to be in direct sunlight, leaving that sunny windowsill free for other things.
Aloe vera is a useful plant to have in the kitchen as a living part of the first aid kit. Dab some of the goo from a leaf on a burn for instant relief. (Hold the injured part under cold water first.)
There are several edible plants you can grow indoors which means that even in an apartment you can grow some of your own food. Herbs are a great addition to a kitchen windowsill, especially as you only need a small amount to transform a dish. Don’t forget to water them! Keep an eye out for aphids. These can be squished or else brushed off with the help of soapy water. Or simply swap the pot with one outside, and let the ladybirds enjoy the aphids!
A sunny windowsill is also a good place to get seedlings off to an early start in Spring. Don’t forget to protect them from frost on cold nights, especially if they are behind thick curtains, and keep the soil moist with a fine spray mist.
A pantry or a cupboard where you can store preserved food is a way of extending the season and enjoying the harvest long after the fruits have gone. Bottling or canning is a useful skill to learn, as is making jam, pickles and chutneys and also fermentation.
Zone 1 can also include the area immediately outside your house. Consider how to make best use of this space. Take advantage of the fact that it is so close and you pass it regularly. It’s worth taking time to sit or stand at the door as you make your plans.
Zone 2: The home orchard zone.This zone is fairly near the house, so is easy to keep an eye on things. You might not go here every day, but perhaps most days of the week. Think through what you want to grow that will need regular attention, such as vegetables, soft fruit and herbs.
Other components that need to be relatively close to the house include the worm bin or composting area, chickens and other small animals, the woodshed, tool shed and workshop. A greenhouse or polytunnel, and cold frames also need to be in this zone. You will learn more about these n the Aquaculture and Season Extension module.
This zone could have animal housing, rotational grazing, small pastures, cover crops, permanent raised beds, permaculture guilds, nitrogen fixers, pollinator attractors, grazing between rows, interplanting of vegetables, and ponds.
Use a big piece of paper to roughly map out zones 1 and 2 of your home system as it is today (a base map). Create a sector analysis map to understand the external influences on your home, make sure to include arrows showing the direction the physical sectors enter the space. Draw a zone map which describes how spaces are currently used either inside or outside the immediate living space.
Your current zone map could act as a real time inventory of your property, your activities and the things in it. Be transparent when creating the current zone map. Include the clutter, the chaos, and the things that are not working, and work toward eliminating those things in real life and in your dream scenario. Be sure to label the current zones.
This miniclass is excerpted from the Home Systems module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Crystal Stevens.
Crystal Stevens is an Author, an Artist/Art Teacher, a Folk Herbalist, a Regenerative Farmer, and a Permaculturist. Crystal is the author of Grow Create Inspire and Worms at Work, published by New Society Publishers. Crystal speaks at conferences and Mother Earth News Fairs across the U.S.. She has been teaching a Resilient Living workshop series for over a decade. She is the Garden Manager at EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson, MO, where her husband, Eric Stevens, is the Farm Manager. They have two children and live along the rolling hills of the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Visit them at www.growcreateinspire.com, on social media @growcreateinspire and @earthdancefarms
Further reading on this topic:
Here is an article that describes how Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture Magazine, transformed her site from grass to garden! Harland, Maddy. “How we made a garden of edible delights: monoculture to permaculture.” 9 July 2014. The Guardian
I highly recommend watching the Inhabit Film to greater understand the need for permaculture in our home systems. http://inhabitfilm.com/
#freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #foodnotlawns #thehomesystem #growcreateinspire
by Becky Ellis
When people discuss permaculture design, one of the first aspects mentioned are zones, followed by sectors (or vice versa). In some books, articles and PDCs, zones and sectors are written about in ways that are most relevant to rural settings. When we think about applying permaculture to the city, we need to adjust the concept of zones and sectors to fit the scale, and realities of vibrant urban living.
When I first discovered permaculture and for several years after I attended my Permaculture Design Course with Earth Activist Training, I continued to live in rented spaces in cities, with little or no access to my own space. I found it challenging to figure out how to design a permaculture life without owning a large tract of land.
This article is about how to think differently, on a city scale, about zones and sectors so that you can plan for a season of amazing urban permaculture design and practice whether it be in a small-space, no space, or community space!
The use of zones in permaculture is a useful way to organize our space and our lives so we can begin to design it regeneratively. It seeks to describe the intensity and frequency of use of varying spaces and is typically outlines as:
People play with the zones to make useful for different scales but you can see this classic template, modified from David Holmgren in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, is not so useful for those of us in cities.
Permaculture Activist magazine (now Permaculture Design) suggested urban zones be based on the use of fossil fuels in transportation. I find this useful as movement around cities, particularly large cities, affects the frequency and intensity of use of spaces.
Here is an outline of their vision (from the very useful article Zones and Sectors in the city):
I like this conception of urban zones and think it is useful, although it does not speak to everyone’s experience of city living or the methods of transportation to which they may have access. Living in a small city vs. large city can drastically change this use of zones, as can living in a city centre vs a suburb.
Also, what if someone cannot walk or bike? Or doesn’t own a car? I do aim to only drive in zone 4 (3, if it is outside the city) so I think it is a very useful and important way to think about regenerative design in this way.
Having said that, I conceive of zones slightly differently but still along the lines of frequency and intensity of use. I think it is very important to leave zone 5 as the wild and to also incorporate places in the world you will never visit but that impact you and, especially if you are North American, YOU impact. I also think it is interesting to ponder how the use of the internet and social media affect zones, especially the “community” and “people” zones.
Here is my proposal for zones in the city:
This can be played with to make it work for you. Once you have a sense of your zones, write them out using five concentric circles with zone 0 in the middle. I recommend making a diagram about your present life and a diagram about how you hope to redesign your life/spaces. You can divide the diagram into different sections such as food, outdoor spaces, community, and people.
Sectors are a design tool that helps you think about the different energies, sometimes thought of as ‘wild’ or uncontrollable energies, that make their way through your spaces. I recommend doing a sector analysis on zones 0, 1, and 2, if possible (you may have little control over some of the zones).
Energies typically mentioned in permaculture guides:
I also add human-created sectors:
It is important to think of how these different energies, not directly controlled by you (even your children, let’s be honest), affect and use your spaces. They need to be considered when designing space. You need to know where the sun shines and at what time of day before planting gardens but you also need to know where your children like to play. These categories are not bound and they all interact with one another. In a city two crucially important and entangled sectors are city bylaws and neighbours.
It’s important to think about the flows of these energies not only the natural ones (wind, water, etc) but the human-created ones (children, domesticated animals). What energies flow in and out of your spaces and how can you design for and with them? Personally, I try to mostly think about how to work with these energies not to stop them. We might think we can block a meddling neighbour with a fence, but that is partly an illusion and might also block the flow of other energies (wild animals, for example).
Flexible, dynamic design
People can be rigid with how they use permaculture tools and practices. Thinking through zones and sectors is an important design tool, helping you to uncover patterns and assisting in the visioning process that is so crucial to any good design. Use it in ways that help you and make sense for your life. Redo your zones and sectors regularly and think about what has changed and what has stayed the same (and WHY).
In my heart I am still a high school dropout who dislikes authority and rules so I need to state that these are guidelines not rules. Use zones and sectors in flexible ways to help create vibrant, regenerative urban spaces!
If you want to share, I would love to see your zone diagrams and I’m sure others will find it valuable. Post them in the comments or email me.
Originally published at permacultureforthepeople.org on January 14, 2018.
I am a permaculture educator and social activist in London, ON, Canada. I am currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Western University, where I study the relationship between people and bees in cities. My M.A. in Anthropology, also at Western University, focused on gentrification and belonging in a community garden in Toronto. I live in a suburban permaculture sanctuary with my family, two dogs, three cats, two bunnies, and thousands of gorgeous, busy bees. I maintain the blog Permaculture for the People.
Want to know more?
I am so excited to be teaching urban permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught exclusively by women. If you would like to know more or would like to have me as your permaculture design reviewer, please check out my blog and get in touch with me at email@example.com.
#permaculturezonesandsectors #urbanpermaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #regenerativecity
This resource is brought to you by
Food Not Lawns,
Permaculture Women's Guild, and Heather Jo Flores.
Subscribe to the #freepermaculture blog via email and get fresh articles every week! This does not add you to other lists, but you can opt into those below.
You're good to go!
Writers! Let's Crosspollinate!
We'd love to feature your article here and/or swap guest posts with you.
Join the #freepermaculture public discussion group
FREE Permaculture Coloring Book!
Watch this video to learn about our online Permaculture Design Course with advanced certificate in Social Systems Design.
FREE Introduction to Permaculture class
Enjoy the first module of our double-certificate design course, absolutely free.
Pay-what-you-want online course: