Permaculture landscape design takes account of the energies and forces affecting a design site through sector analysis. Prevailing on any site are powerful energies, both potentially beneficial and destructive: wild energies such as wind, sun, fire, water and even wild animal flows and views potentially impact your property.
Once they are accounted for, with proper placement of design components they can be channeled for special uses, encouraged, minimized, blocked or deflected to conserve site energy, aesthetics and resources.
How do you account for site energies?
The key is observation!
In most cases such energies will not be fully appreciated on a single visit to the site. A full year or more of information will be needed, as well as delving into longer time frame data and the memory of long term residents of the area.
The information collected is then represented on a schematic sector diagram of the site. The sector analysis diagram simply shows the direction of flow of these energies into the property.
Simple commonsense then dictates how this sector information influences the configuration and placement of elements within the appropriate zones in the design.
Here I have drawn a sector analysis in the Permaculture Landscape Design of our own 5 acre property.
As in all sector diagrams, this is a conceptual depiction, and shows the house site at the centre as the through point for all wild energies, with the succeeding zones 1 through to 4 radiating out from it.
Zone 5 spans all other zones as it is for wildlife and we wish to encourage native birds into our home garden and all other areas of the property.
The wild energies shown as sectors on our diagram are:
The Sun’s Energy in Permaculture Landscape Design
The sun takes a different path across the sky during winter and summer. Efficient home and site design takes advantage of this seasonal sun movement by capturing winter sun and excluding it in summer.
- Summer sun sector:
As reflected in the sector diagram, here in Perth, Western Australia, in the middle of summer the sun rises 28 degrees south of due east, and sets south of due west. In summer it is also higher in the sky (81 degrees from horizontal in mid summer).
- Winter sun sector:
Similarly, in mid winter in Perth the sun rises 28 degrees north of due east, and also sets north of due west. Its path through the sky is both much lower, and shorter (giving us shorter days), than during summer, being only 34 degrees from the horizon in mid winter.
Wind Energy in Permaculture Landscape Design
Site elements such as hedgerows, fodder systems, buildings and forests can be used as barriers to divert or block damaging winds. Similarly they can be arranged on your site to divert them to where they can benefit the site: towards wind turbines, or across ponds for evaporative summer cooling.
- Hot summer winds
- Cooling summer winds
- Cold winter winds
The Energy of Fire in Permaculture Landscape Design
- Fire danger sector
Like ours, your sector analysis should show the direction of major fire danger to your property.
This will be a function of many things including from what sector direction the hottest summer winds blow, the summer thunderstorm sector (since these are so often accompanied in Australia by lightning and thus fire), and areas within and adjoining your property that have a heavy load of flammable material such as remnant vegetation bushland and ungrazed hobby blocks.
Some site elements such as roads, stone walls, pig runs, dams, and fire retardant plants in wind break arrangements, fodder systems and orchard areas can be arranged on your site as a barrier to the fire danger sector to slow or block fire from important structures such as your home.
Conversely, site components that increase the risk of fire, such as eucalypt woodlots, native vegetation areas, hay lofts and pine trees, should be sited away from central Zone infrastructure, and themselves be shielded from the fire sector by fire retardant barriers.
Wild Animal Energies in Permaculture Landscape Design
Owing to the location of our property on old farming land adjacent to a large national wildlife park it is subject to a lot of native and feral animal flows.
Apart from the presence of kangaroos in plague proportions, there is also a herd some 100 strong of feral goats that locals informed us habitually visited our site, making the entire perimeter a wild animal sector.
Because of the destructive impact of these on the survival of trees, our first task has been to exclude them from the property. We have built high dog fencing around the whole farm boundary as a barrier to also keep domestic dogs from neighbouring hobby farms out.
Other wild animal energies that will influence our design are predatory feral foxes, eagles and crows. Predator proofing strategies will be necessary such as siting a floating island in our dam for our geese, and roofing our poultry pen.
We are also envisioning siting a pigeon tower away from the house, but adjacent to the orchard (on the boundary of Zones 2 and 3) to attract large birds of prey, and so utilize their energies to repel wild parrots from our fruits and nuts.
There are a lot of small native birds in the area which we will be encouraging by planting dense and prickly shrubs and trees in Zone 5 to provide them with shelter and nesting sites, so that we can harness their insect eating behaviors to control pests in all our Zones.
Aesthetics in Permaculture Landscape Design
Aesthetic enjoyment of your property is an important objective for sustainable living.
- Wanted views out
- Unwanted views out
- Unwanted views in
Water Energy in Permaculture Landscape Design
Catchments both within and beyond your property divert water through your site as storm watersheds, permanent creeks and swamplands. Capturing the energy of water to increase water storage on your site both in the form of plants and animals, soil and in dams is an important goal of your design as it is a direct determinant of potential property yield. High storages represent an energy storage in the form of gravity, that can be used to gravity feed water to site elements without energy inputs.
Site all Design Components to Manage Incoming Energies
The basic energy conserving rule in Permaculture landscape design is to place every element in your system so that serves more than one function, and have more than one element in place to serve each important function (e.g fire protection, water collection).
So with this in mind, you can use your sector/zone diagram to plan your site’s Permaculture Landscape Design.
For example, you’ll want to facilitate the capture of winter sun and cooling summer breeze energies into your home (Zone 0) and home garden (Zone 1).
So site elements such as tall evergreen trees and large sheds planned for Zones 2 or 3 will need to be sited so that they do not block the winter sun sector from Zone 0 and 1.
The winter sun sector, instead, would be more ideally suited a deciduous home fruit orchard because it allows in winter sun and provides summer shade, while being of low flammability.
Hedgerows and windbreaks (that might also function as food or fuel for animals and you) can be placed so that they divert cooling summer breezes toward your house, but block damaging hot summer and cold winter winds.
Placement of a small structure such as a poultry shed would be bordering Zone 1, away from the fire sector, adjacent to the annual garden (for easy use of manure and the tilling, fertilizing and weeding work they do for you), backing onto a forage area, and form part of a windbreak system.
In fact, there should be no site element that is not placed in accord with zone and sector considerations to conserve site energies.