Permaculture Design/Designer's checklist

Designers Checklist for Otago Polytech Permaculture Design Course 2008 compiled by Peta Hudson (Edited version)

Your needs & resources are unique & important considerations, such as time available, physical ability, money, broad goals & dreams. If this step is missed out the design will most likely not work!

Base Plan edit

Draw up a scale plan of everything that is on the land you are working with. This includes all structures, paths, vegetation (record whether it is evergreen or deciduous), power lines & boundary. Leave a good - sized margin for the recording of the sector analysis.

Observe & record edit

Start keeping a journal & keep it going to record the changes & your responses. Ideally best done over a period of time to experience the changes each season brings. The skill of observation is a primary tool of Permaculture design. It enables us to gather info to start to see relationships & correlations between elements & so to develop strategies & evolve site plans. We get in touch with the land & all it offers.

  • Watch for the comings & goings of birds & insects. When are they around? What are they doing? Identify them & find out about their life cycles. This info will aid you greatly to design in good biological balance.
  • Look at the weeds/plants/trees. Wind shearing indicates strong prevailing wind. They can also tell you of soil types & moisture levels. Light levels & microclimates. Plants won’t grow where it doesn’t suit them!
  • Look more closely at the structures you have mapped. What resources do they provide? Water catchment, shelter from wind, thermal mass, light reflection, greywater, kitchen scraps? What microclimates to they provide?
  • Check out the resources you can find within & without the boundaries of your land. List them all. For example lupin bush, gorse & broom provide nutrients & can be cut before flowering & laid as mulch around trees & shrubs or composted in a slow composting system. Rocks, bricks, tin, wood, lawn clippings, branches to prune are all resources.
  • Off site ~ materials from the verges (includes propagation material), organic material from cafés, restaurants, sawmills, gardening business’, organisations for shredded paper, vacant lots, the “tip shop”. People for help in various ways, markets for income

Resources edit

Check out the resources you can find within & without the boundaries of your land. List them all!Off site ~ materials from the verges (includes propagation material), organic material from cafés, restaurants, sawmills, gardening business’, organizations for shredded paper, vacant lots, the “tip shop”.

Sector Analysis edit

Record all the incoming & out going energies affecting the land ~ winds (are they strong & cold bringing rain/ hail or hot & drying?) & what direction they come from & when. How does the sun move from season to season? How water moves on &/or off the land. Which direction would fires/floods come from? How does the surrounding landscape affect your plot? Do you have rain shadows, steep slopes which speed the winds up? Where are the views &/or noise pollution coming from? Are there any existing wildlife corridors? This knowledge enables us to harness, modify or enhance the energies. It also helps us to plan zone placement & the placement of many elements.Elevational planning looks at your site in profile which is useful when assessing slope.

Data Overlay edit

Lay transparent sheets of paper over the base map/sector analysis on which are mapped the info on soils & micro climates you collect. It is a way of building up a picture of your plot. Aerial/topographic/cadastral maps can be useful too especially if you have a large area as they can, at a glance, give options not easily seen from the ground. They do lack detail & conditions may have changed since they were made e.g. pollution.

  • Elevational planning looks at your site in profile which is useful when assessing slope & aspect which affect airflows & can aid the flow of energies including yours.

Micro climates edit

Here’s an exercise you can do to gather info about the various micro climates, go to different areas of the land & close your eyes. Use all your senses. Your skin will pick up subtle temperature changes & air movements. Feel the soil beneath you for moisture, texture, mulch & temperature. Squat as well as stand & move around. Plants can be smaller than you! This info will enable you to use these areas & enhance/modify them if necessary.

Soils edit

Take a spade & go over your plot digging down to the spades depth. This will give you a basic idea of some of the different soil types you will be working with. You need at least 30cm of good topsoil to enable healthy plants to grow. Some deeper rooted plants/trees/shrubs will require more.

Analysis edit

This tool enables you to create the beneficial relationships that are central to good Permaculture design. It leads to a great deal of creation! These relationships echo those you find in Nature. The principles of “co-operation not competition” & “observe & interact” apply here. Take an element that you want in your design. Look at all its needs & what it gives ~ eg. a pond needs: shelter from wind, some sun, a water source/catchment, plants, fish, and aeration. It provides extra humidity & light to the area surrounding it, moisture to the edges, thermal mass (holds heat & radiates it out in the evening), food & beauty. Its needs will be met, if placed in good relationship to other elements & in return their needs will be met by it. Look at other elements that you have or need, in the same way & see how you can place them so that their needs & yields are met by each other. Cycles of energy are enhanced & created this way.

Deductions From Nature edit

Here we look at nature to gain various ideas for strategies. How can we imitate nature? For example native plants on a windy site will have various ways to survive those conditions such as small leaves to reduce moisture loss. We can choose plants with similar characteristics for our windbreaks. Look for differences & ask yourself “why”?

Zone Planning edit

Even on a small section all zones from 0~5 can be included. See “Earth Users Guide to Permaculture Design” editions 1 or 2 by Rosemary Morrow.Zones are about creating & placing areas of activity in good relationship to their needs & yields. Eg zone 1 is traditionally placed as close to the house (zone 0) as possible, as it needs lots of visits to care for & harvest from it. See yourself as a yield of zone 0.

Flow diagrams edit

If the land you are working with is already lived on look at how you move across it. How could this change when your design is implemented? Make the pathways multi – functional. You are a flow of energy in a Permaculture system for example you leave the house with the compost bucket & a basket & on the way back from the compost you can collect the eggs, & pick some herbs/vegetables & maybe grab a few pieces of wood or kindling from the woodpile.

Random Assembly edit

This is a fun way to find some really creative ideas. It breaks up the logical way of thinking!Make two lists of elements & put another list of connecting words(in,on,beside) in between them. Then have fun joining them up randomly!It can take some time to break through the “wanting things to make sense” way of being but some very good relationships, that never would have occurred otherwise, happen.