Are you in the Zone? The Placement of Landscape Elements Matters!

Are you in the Zone? The Placement of Landscape Elements Matters!

About the Author

Tonielle Christensen

Tonielle is a designer focused on improving the wellbeing of people and landscapes to generate abundance and efficiency.


A concept plan example, showing placement of elements in appropriate zones.

Where and why...Here or there?

Landscape Zoning

In permaculture design, 'Zoning' is a big part of the design consideration. By bringing awareness to 'zones' or areas based on how often we visit them, we can design elements into suitable locations to create a harmonious flow along access pathways and for time efficiency. Elements can be supported by other elements if located together, so identifying zones helps with appropriate location when planning.

This term 'zoning', refers to the areas of use are defined by the amount of visits per day, which is a reflection of the amount of energy needed in one particular area. This will always be related to the 'elements' located in these zones.

'Elements' are landscape features like;

  • Chicken coops
  • Vegetable gardens
  • Fruit trees in a food forest or orchard
  • Water storage tanks
  • Aquaculture ponds
  • Fences/gates
  • Car parking
  • Nursery
  • Horse or cow shed and fencing
  • Duck ponds

The list could go on, depending on your property land size,  your lifestyle activities, and time available to manage and maintain the elements.

From Pattern to Detail

Design from "Pattern to Detail" is a permaculture principle that relates to zoning. We observe, then illustrate the 'pattern' of daily visits/energy use of an area and then illustrate this in a 'zoning map' (below). This image becomes an overlay tool to then locate the landscape elements in the appropriate area of energy use, known as the concept plan (above).

Image: Zoning example for an urban property.

So, what does efficient zoning and placement of elements look like?

You can literally walk along the path to your chicken coop, feed the hens, top up their water containers with the water tank full of rain water - collected via the coop roof.  Once they are taken care of, collect the eggs, grab a few greens growing along the fence-line to drop in the worm farm to keep them content, in exchange for wonderful worm tea, which you can add to the herb garden on your way back to the house.

Fill your harvest basket with fresh herbs, tomatoes and beans for your omelet, a bunch of spinach greens for the smoothie - all within the 5 minute round trip! Legs stretched, deep breaths of fresh air, nutrient dense food ready to prepare and happy animals!

This just one scenario, a common one from a suburban block that has been designed using permaculture strategies and techniques. Of course, the more land, the possibility of more elements. But you need the time to interact and manage them too. Busy people working full-time jobs wont be able to manage acres of abundant food producing plants and animals. It is a lifestyle - and living on the abundance of your land can be a full-time job! An alternative to this is supporting local farmers and small-scale producers to produce the local, seasonal and nutrient rich food for you!

Our 7 Step Design Process

Each step requires a lot of observations, feedback, research and planning...but it is always worth it. Check out the first image below. This is just an introduction and another blog will be written with more detail of our design process.


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