Permaculture Design: Part I

Design guidelines.

| July/August 1984

  • Permaculture Design Water Tanks
    Photo 1. Water-filled, 550-gallon tanks constructed of fiberglass-reinforced polyester provide thermal mass.
    PHOTO: ROBERT SARDINSKY
  • Permaculture Design Irrigation Water
    Photo 2. Ponds provide fertile irrigation water for vegetable crops. 
    ROBERT SARDINSKY
  • Permaculture Design Mixed Small Farm Design
    Ground plan for mixed small farm design. (Adapted from Permaculture Two by Bill Mollison.)
    ILLUSTRATION: TAGARI BOOKS
  • Permaculture Design Hydroponic Crops
    Photo 3. Ponds also supply nutrients for hydroponic crops.
    ROBERT SARDINSKY
  • Permaculture Design Siberian Pea Shrub
    Photo 4. The Siberian pea shrub is a multifunctional element.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Creeping Thymes
    Photo 5. The creeping thymes are low-maintenance, nectar-producing alternatives to lawns.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Poplars
    Photo 7. Poplars assist in erosion control.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Pond
    Photo 6. Canal-like ponds can control livestock movement.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Weeding Geese
    Photo 8. Weeding geese are biological resources.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Beneficial Interactions
    Photo 12. A beneficial interaction between blackberries and grapes.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Successional Systems
    Photo 9. A successional system incorporating beans, plums and walnut trees.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Competition
    Photo 10. Competition between a hedge and a shade tree.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Cedar Apple Rust
    Photo 11. Cedar apple rust.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Praying Mantis
    Photo D. The praying mantis is a pest predator.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Permaculture Design White Cabbage Butterfly
    Photo C. Chickens can control caterpillars of the white cabbage butterfly.
    BEVERLY REED
  • Permaculture Design Brown Chinese and White Chinese Geese
    Photo B. Brown Chinese and White Chinese weeding geese.
    BEVERLY REED
  • Permaculture Design Maremma
    Photo A. A Maremma, a livestock guard dog breed.
    RANDY KIDD
  • Permaculture Design Garden Toad
    Photo E. The garden toad is another pest predator.
    ROBERT SARDINSKY
  • Permaculture Design Beneficial Insects
    Photo G. Flowers adjacent to a backyard garden attract beneficial insects.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Spider Web
    Photo F. A spider's web can be a means of pest control.
    EDWARD GOODELL
  • Permaculture Design Sticky Traps
    Photo H. Homemade yellow-orange sticky traps complete the year-round pest-control system at the New Alchemy Institute.
    JOHN QUINNEY
  • Permaculture Design Root System
    Photo I. The white nodules of the root system of the autumn olive.
    HILDE MAINGAY

  • Permaculture Design Water Tanks
  • Permaculture Design Irrigation Water
  • Permaculture Design Mixed Small Farm Design
  • Permaculture Design Hydroponic Crops
  • Permaculture Design Siberian Pea Shrub
  • Permaculture Design Creeping Thymes
  • Permaculture Design Poplars
  • Permaculture Design Pond
  • Permaculture Design Weeding Geese
  • Permaculture Design Beneficial Interactions
  • Permaculture Design Successional Systems
  • Permaculture Design Competition
  • Permaculture Design Cedar Apple Rust
  • Permaculture Design Praying Mantis
  • Permaculture Design White Cabbage Butterfly
  • Permaculture Design Brown Chinese and White Chinese Geese
  • Permaculture Design Maremma
  • Permaculture Design Garden Toad
  • Permaculture Design Beneficial Insects
  • Permaculture Design Spider Web
  • Permaculture Design Sticky Traps
  • Permaculture Design Root System

The primary characteristic that distinguishes permaculture systems from conventional agriculture is the emphasis on skilled design. The placement of elements in a landscape, their relationships to each other, their evolution over time, and the ability of the system as a whole to meet the realistic goals of its managers should all be taken into consideration.

The following permaculture design guidelines are derived from texts (some of which are listed in the Permaculture Design: Part II reading list) and from our understanding of ecological principles. As such, they represent a synthesis of scientific findings and common sense, combining proven practical ideas with experimental ones. These guidelines should assist your design process, influencing your management strategies and aiding in the selection of landscape components and their relative sizes and locations.

Zones and Sectors

In permaculture systems, landscape components are divided into zones and sectors to help produce an energy-efficient design. Zones separate the site according to labor needs: Frequently visited or labor intensive areas are situated close to the center of activity (which in most cases is the farmhouse), while those requiring less attention are placed farther away. For example, as shown in Fig. 1, annuals that are tended daily—such as herbs and vegetables—are located near the farmhouse ... whereas low-maintenance livestock and tree crops are situated in a more remote zone. This concept makes sense in terms of minimizing labor, and it helps ensure high yields: After all, distance invites neglect, while proximity encourages management.

In general, farm development follows the concept of zonation, as well. Distant areas are utilized only after the nearby land is put to productive use. Sector planning divides the landscape into wedge-shaped areas that radiate from a particular point (again, most often the farmhouse) or points. From any one such center, we identify some or all of the following sectors: views, both attractive and repulsive ... noises, some pleasant and others undesirable ... winds, warm in the summer and cold in winter ... sunshine, with its seasonal variations ... and fire risks.



For each sector, planting and building schemes are designed to block or channel these external inputs. Undesirable noise can be masked with earthen banks or dense bands of evergreen trees ... cold winter winds can be blocked with windbreaks ... fast-growing trees can screen ugly views ... and deciduous shrubs and trees planted to the south can provide summer shade while still allowing the warming winter sunlight to penetrate. Looking again at Fig. 1, you can see that the roadway, poultry run, and pond have been situated so that they assist in fire control in addition to fulfilling their primary functions. Blazes coming from the southern sector would have to cross the pond, the road, and the bare ground of the poultry run before reaching the house. Placing these three components in another relationship would mean the loss of this extra control function.

Relative Location

Within zones and sectors, farm components—orchards, the market garden, farm ponds, the farmhouse, the barn, the woodlot, and so forth—should be placed in relation to one another so as to conserve labor and energy. Each component is thus viewed relatively rather than in isolation.






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