PDC: Zone 1

How often have you seen a garden being choked out by weeds, teeming with overripe produce because it sits 100 yards away from the house? How about the chore of hiking down to this far away garden to catch up on the weeding, harvesting, and watering of the forgotten seedlings? I stress chore because it can sure feel like one when you are lacking the proper design. Gardening should never be a chore, it should be one of life’s pleasant activities that we look forward to. In permaculture we use zones to make our lives easier, and the smaller intensively cultivated food gardens belong in zone 1.

Zone 1 falls directly outside the doorstep of your home/Zone 0 and extends about 50 yards out.

The purpose of Zone 1 is to:

  • Create humus from “waste”
  • Turn greywater into biomass
  • Diminish your dependency on machines
  • Preserve rare and heirloom plant varieties
  • Create a stable environment with higher yields
  • Provide a habitat with niches for predators

In Zone 1, sheet mulching is used to build garden beds, which will reduce the overall water consumption and weeding. All of the garden beds should be mulched finely and be connected by winding, multipurpose paths. Herb spirals can be constructed for culinary and medicinal purposes. An area for trellising and vertical climbing crops, maybe along the side of a fence or even a water harvesting container, would be an excellent addition. Tall plants with higher light requirements should be placed in narrow beds, while broader beds can be used for fruits and veggies that take longer to ripen. Along the winding paths of Zone 1, beds filled with edible, perennial leaves (called clipping beds) will thrive best and serve as a nice snack as you walk into your home.

The goal for Zone 1 is to build permanence by allowing it to perpetuate itself with biennials, perennials, and self-seeding plants. We want to create abundance through dense plantings of different species. With proper design, “human functions” can be carried out by plants and animals.

Goals are easily reached with a proper plan. The key is to start with a small area of your lawn and get it right before moving on. Begin your plans with permanent structures such as composting toilets, water harvesting systems, worm bins, small ponds, and solar dehydrators. Connect these structures and garden beds with beautiful circular or spiral paths that mimic natural patterns. Remember, a diversity of functions will guarantee a healthy and happy Zone 1 ecosystem.

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