Permaculture Zoning Outside and in the Home

Permaculture designs often focus on time, and how frequently the humans of the system will visit the various elements and areas of it. Zone one is used designated to the most frequently visited places. Somewhat less frequently visited areas are zone two. After which there may be further zones, radiating out the wild zones outwith the perimeter of a given site. 

Zoning is all about practicality and begins with the simple premise that the elements on a site that we visit most often should be closest to the centre of operations. In a domestic setting, this centre of operations, zone zero, as it is sometimes called, is your home. In a garden, the annual vegetable beds and herb gardens visited most often are logically placed closest to the centre of operations.

Permaculture designers usually define up to five zones on any site, though smaller sites will usually only include one or two of these zones. Zones spread out sequentially, larger numbers used to designate areas visited less and less frequently, though the zones may not be placed strictly in order moving out from the centre. Some areas closer to your home but less accessible, for example, may belong to a higher zone. 

Zoning is not only pertinent in outdoors growing systems. As we discussed the kitchen yesterday in my piece on sectors and flow, let’s take a look at how zoning might help you work out the best layout and configuration for a kitchen.

Even in the smallest of kitchens, it can make sense to zone the space. Logic and common sense dictate that those items that we use most often will be the easiest to access from where they are most used.

For example, a place to store dishes could be right next to the sink, and storing plates etc. on a rack that allows drainage could even do away with the need for washing up. Pots might hang directly above a stove… Well-organised open shelving could give easy access to all the things you need, right where you need them.

One interesting thing to think about when zoning a kitchen is that there might be multiple ‘centres of operation’. For example, one centre of operations might be the stove, another the pantry, and a third the kitchen sink… Thinking about what you need most frequently in or near each of these areas can help you decide where everything should go.

Small time savings can really add up, allowing the kitchen user or users more time to grow their own food, or to implement other measures for a more sustainable way of life.

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