The Importance of Topography in Permaculture Design

Topography -essentially the shape of the piece of land – is one factor often overlooked in permaculture design. In small gardens, topography may not be a huge defining factor – the space my be flat and level. However, in many larger designs, and even in some smaller ones, slope, elevation and other topographical features can, of course, be key to a design.

The shape of a landscape will obviously influence sectors acting on the site – such as sunlight, wind, water. A consideration of the land form can also be key in combating wildfires, or managing other environmental challenges such as flooding…

Topographical features of a piece of land can also bring advantages. And good permaculture design will think about the ways in which those features can be harnessed and utilised in the best way possible.

Earthworks, planting, and holistic design should work with the contours of a landscape, using the shape of the land to best advantage as well as tackling any potential issues the landscape could bring. Many of my own larger scale designs, for farms, communities and ecosystem restoration projects are to a large degree shaped by topographical details. I work from the patterns of the landscape to the details of the design.

Tomorrow, I will share a part of a large design I am currently working on – a hilltop and surrounding farmland and vineyards in the Mediterranean climate zone in France. This is a good example of a design where topography is hugely important, and shapes many features of the design.

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