What are zones?

Following the series on site conditions, this post kicks off a series on permaculture concepts.

Permaculture practitioners begin by analyzing their site to determine what should go where. Considering site conditions is one method through which they do this. Another method involves a concept called zones.

Zones describe areas of a yard in terms of how often they are – or need to be – visited. Zones are numbered 1 through 5, with the term “zone 0” sometimes used to refer to the house.

Zone 1 is closest to the house, and typically includes vegetable gardens and other elements that need regular attention from the gardener. It can also encompass a backyard grilling area or other elements that the homeowner enjoys using frequently.

At the other end of the spectrum, the far corner of the backyard would be designated zone 5. This could be a good spot to place native plants, which need little care and are more likely to be used by animals than by people.

The concept of zones focuses on making a yard easy to take care of. Placing a vegetable garden right outside the back door makes it easier to access and harder to forget about, increasing the chances that the gardener will produce and enjoy a good crop of homegrown food.

A zone map can be created simply by thinking about where you go in your yard. Which areas are within arm’s-reach as you walk to the mailbox or relax on the patio? Which areas do you rarely visit? These can become your zone 1 and zone 5, respectively, with zones 2-4 falling somewhere in between.

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What are zones?

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