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PERMACULTURE: Planting In Zones

By Diane Kennedy for Let’s Talk Plants! April 2023.

Zone One is the area around your house where you visit several times a day. Wix stock photo.

Planting in Zones

Permaculture design arranges types of plants in zones. You’ve probably looked up your USDA or Sunset growing zones to see what plants will do well where you live. With permaculture zones, the emphasis is on appropriate placement of plants.

Zone One is the area around your house where you visit several times a day. This area often is the path out your front door to your car. In this area plant those plants that require a lot of attention, and those you want to look at a lot. Your favorite flowers go here, as well as herbs you commonly use for dinner and small fruit like strawberries. If you don’t grab those berries while they are ripe, you know something else will.

Zone two. Wix stock photo.

Zone Two is an area that you go to several times a week. A vegetable garden may go in this zone, or a meditation area.

Citrus trees may be in Zone Three. Wix stock photo.

Zone Three you visit several times a month. Citrus trees may fit into this category.

Apple trees are in Zone Four. Wix stock photo.

Zone Four you visit several times a year. Here are fruit trees that produce one crop a year, or pathways through areas where blooms appear at certain months of the year only.

Zone Five is the native area and wildlife corridor. Wix stock photo.

Zone Five is always your native area. Here there grows a mixture of native plants – not just wild plants – thrive. Zone Five is for observation about how nature works. This sounds a little far-out, but just watching can give you insights on how plants work together, natural phenomena, and the role of birds and insects. Zone Five also provides a wildlife corridor where animals and insects can move through a safety net of shrubs. As San Diego has been classified as an ‘epicenter of extinction’ it is vital that every backyard provides even a small habitat of native plants.

These Zones can be adapted for use whether arranging pots on your balcony, planting a small backyard, or designing many acres.

Zone Zero is you! Wix stock photo.

Zone Zero was added to these original zones and it refers to you, and whoever lives at that property. Your health, your happiness, and the value of your time is all part of permaculture. The healthier you are the less your negative imprint on the world in the form of medicines taken and passed out into the watershed, of how active you are in your garden, and how much you enjoy your property because you are feeling well. Begin your design from the indoors, by using your windows as picture frames. Place benches, pathways, and trees where they will be celebrated from where you sit having a meal or resting. Be sure that you have the privacy to move around in and out of your house without being watched by neighbors or passers-by.

Arranging plants and other garden features in zones of use allows you the opportunity to save time and effort and get the most out of your design.


Diane Kennedy.

Diane Kennedy has certificates in Permaculture Design, Irrigation, QWEL, and an AA in Landscape Architecture.

She has been designing, consulting, writing and lecturing about permaculture since 2011.

She and her daughter, Miranda, own and operate Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture, a food forest through which they give educational classes. They both volunteer with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy’s Native Plant Restoration Team.


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