Make a Zone Map

Now that you have assessed the flows on your site, check out your overlays.  You may notice that there are areas that are used more frequently and areas that are not interacted with often.  A zone analysis is a map that divides a property into areas based on their frequency of use. Frequency of use helps to determine management plans for building soil, planting strategies, necessary structures and tools, watering strategies, etc.

A zone map can convey current interactions on the property.  As you develop your design, you may find that zones change over time as your system becomes more complex.  Your zone map will enhance your efficiency so hopefully, you will be able to get more accomplished.

Below are some common guidelines for zones:

Zone 1 – Areas you visit everyday.

Zone 2 – Places  you visit a couple times a week.

Zone 3 – Places you visit once a week.

Zone 4 – Areas you visit less than once a week.

Zone 5 – Places that you hardly ever visit/interact with

Each person’s zone map is unique.  Zone maps may change in different seasons.

zone map

If you live on a small site, zone 1 may be areas that you visit often throughout the day.  On a small site, zone 2 may be places you visit less frequently throughout the day.  In an urban context, you may not have all of the zones on your site.

If you live in an apartment and do not have a car, zone 1 may be the property where your apartment is located.  Zone 2 may be defined as areas that you walk to.  Zone 3 could be a bike ride away.  Zone 4 would be places where you take the bus.  You would need to borrow a car or drive with a friend to places that would be considered zone 5.

The goal is to divide up the property based on frequency of use as a methodology for design. Naturally, we will interact with the areas that we frequent.  A zone map can inform us where to plant tasty berries for frequent harvest or where to place the compost for ease in bringing it outdoors.  You will interact with your landscape more frequently if you pass by the elements that appeal to you often.

The management plan for your landscape changes throughout the zones.  It is most intensive in zone one and decreases in intensity as you progress to zone 5.  You may have different soil building strategies, mulching strategies, and important elements based on frequency of use.

* A zone map should assess how you interact with all spaces on your landscape.  Every spot should be indicated as a specific zone.

On the macroscale, Zones can be considered as you design your life.  I want my food supply to be in zone 1 and a good store for purchasing food to be in zone 3 (a bike ride away) of my macrolandscape.  I like to have my yoga center in zone 2 (an easy walk).  As you look at this concept on the larger scale, think about where you work, where your friends and family live, where you food comes from, and other things that are important to you.  On the microscale, you can create a zone map of your kitchen to help you design the placement of your kitchen supplies or a zone map of your desk to enhance your efficiency.



Assess the flows on your site

Take a minute and write down all of the different things that may move throughout your site.

The first thing that you may consider is your own movements throughout the site.  Where do you go on your site and what do you do there?  Do you have seasonal patterns of movement throughout your space?  Do you have places you visit in different times of the day?  You can make an overlay on your base map to represent this analysis.

Next, you may consider how other people in your household move about the site.  Do you have animals?  What do they do throughout the day?  Are there wild animals that visit your space?  You may want to use a different color to convey this analysis on your overlay.

Another flow to consider is water.  Your rainwater falls throughout the site.  Does it pool?  Do you have wet spaces on site?  Are there spaces that you would like to be wetter?  Sometimes, you need to make an overlay just to convey the information about water onsite since it is such an important resource.

Resources are something that moves throughout a site and can create efficiency or clutter.  What are your resources onsite?  Hopefully, you see many resources to work with.  Some things I think about are compost, tools, potting supplies, nursery plants, etc.  Of course, most of these resources are traveling with a human companion.

I like to remind myself that “a resource is only a resource if it is available for use.”  By assessing the flow of resources throughout your site, you can place them in areas where they are accessible with ease.  In permaculture design, we strive to create designs that are efficient and productive.  This practice helps us have more time for enjoying other things.

How to make a rough working Base Map

It’s time to plan your garden for the coming growing season.  To maximize your plot, I find it helpful to make a base map as your foundation for site analysis.  To do a complete analysis, you will want to survey your property and have accurate measurements.  Here is how to make a rough working base map using google maps.

1) Go to and enter in your address.

2) Zoom in until the boundaries of your property are as big as possible in the map.  Make sure the map contains all of your boundaries.

3) Do a screenshot.  Hit shift, command, 4 (at the same time) and a cursor will appear. Move the cursor to the top left corner of the map.  While continuing to hold down the keys, move your mouse to the bottom right corner of the image that you want shown in your map.  Lift up on the keys when the box contains the scope of your base map and some margins.  Margins are helpful for any information that you may want to write on the document.  Make sure you include the scale in the screen shot (found on the bottom left of the screen).

4) Print this image.

5) Trace the outlines of your property and any features that will not change as you design your landscape, such as your house, large trees, driveway, etc.

6) Make sure to label your map with your address and include a north indicator.

7) If you want to take this a step further, visit to figure out the solar aspect on site throughout the year.

Below is a picture of my screenshot of my house.

Screen shot 2013-02-03 at 10.42.43 AM

This is my “to scale” basemap, created by measuring the exact dimensions of the property.