Permaculture Zones and Backyard Farming


Permaculture Zones are Absolutely Essential in Backyard Farming Design

permaculture zones

Permaculture Zones are a very interesting concept and cornerstone of Permaculture Design.  Basically you put things that you have to tend to more, closer to your house, like a vegetable garden; and you put larger things that don’t require much attention like fruit trees, further away from your home.  Permaculture zones are an essential concept for Backyard Farming in order to make the most efficient use of your limited space.

I remember once I put a vegetable garden way out at the very end of my property and I ended up never going back there.  Needless to say it was not a success.  After I discovered Permaculture Zones, I placed a vegetable patch about 3 feet from my backdoor which seemed weird at first, but now it is completely natural.  It is so nice to pop out and cut some greens and throw them into a soup right as I need to.  Also I find that we take much better care of this backyard vegetable plot since it is right in our face, so to speak.

There are many reasons to use these Permaculture Zones guidelines in Backyard Farming.  The major ones for me are convenience as well as making the most efficient use of a limited space.  It is also great for privacy.

Using the Idea of Permaculture Zones in your Backyard Farming design, It is nice to be able to start at zone one and then slowly build out as you design more and more of your yard.  You don’t  have to design your entire backyard farm at once.  I recommend that you design zone 1 first.  Once completed you can sketch out some rough boundary lines for the zones farther out.  If you have a small yard, you may not get to have some of these higher zones and that is OK for a backyard setting.  Start with 1 and work up as high as you can.

An example would be to map out a main zone 1 kitchen vegetable plot and then maybe some additional nearby sites for similar plots.  Once you have that taken care of, think about zone 2 things like vegetables that don’t need as much attention, perhaps potatoes or corn.  Zone 3 would be getting into berries and hearty perennials and then on to small trees…then larger trees… then crazy jungle…but only if you have room and it makes sense to your yard.

Remember that Permaculture zones are just a concept, and I use them to get the juices flowing.  But like any guideline you can bend and break the rules when you feel it to be necessary.  Careful observation of your yard can help with that.

Another reason to have different Permaculture zones designed into your plan is so that you can advantage of the different micro habitats and micro climates that exist in those different zones.  A kitchen vegetable garden placed near the kitchen is going to be weeded and possibly pruned and walked around a lot and so on.  It will likely be in full sun.

At the other end of the spectrum,  if your backyard farm is large enough to be able to have a zone 4 and 5, those micro habitats will be completely different, since it will be basically a forest out there.  Certain plants that like to live under certain conditions, and by setting up a variety of zones you are creating tons and tons of different nooks and crannies for almost anything you want to grow to thrive.

In one backyard it can be possible to grow vegetables, fruits, nuts, flowers, herbal medicines, herbal teas, of many varieties–almost anything you want.  And many times Permaculture folks can get things to grow that won’t typically grow in your climate zone.  You are also inviting a whole spectrum of insects and critters into your habitat and this is ultimately a good thing, but that’s for a different article.

See our post on backyard design (here) that touches further on this topic.  Also check out What is Backyard Farming.

Also Check out our Post on The Secret to Fertility which provides further insight into why you may want to set up different zones moving gradually from heavily managed areas out to completely non-managed areas.  It’s like having a little laboratory where you can observe these different stages.  With careful observation you will discover all sorts of tips and tricks for letting nature do a lot of the work for you.


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