Creating a Zone 5 in your Permaculture Design

Wild plants and animals have inspired writers, artists, musicians and nature lovers for many centuries. Creating a wildlife garden that mimics nature is not a new idea. In the eighteenth century gardener Richard Payne Knight rebelled against the prevailing standard of establishing formal gardens and created beautiful wild gardens.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
John Muir

There is nothing more satisfying than creating a wildlife garden. A wildlife sanctuary for small animals in the garden is not a new concept. Even in the smallest corners, a “wild area” can be introduced in all permaculture designs. These areas are called zone 5. The smallest of spaces, can be turned into a conservation area which will be a safe haven for animals, birds and insects. To create such areas you must establish places for wild food, water, habitat and a safe space for animals and insects to raise their young.

An excellent example of an urban zone 5 in Berlin – Germany. Sidewalks and unused council land is planted with wild flowers that attract bees, butterflies and bugs that help pollinate the surrounding gardens. Information is offered so the passerby knows that this “messy” garden is intentional. 

Birds play an important role in the entire ecosystem. They transfer seeds and fertilize the land and control the insect population. Rudolf Steiner, the father of Biodynamic Agriculture, believed that when birds produce vibrations by flapping their wings and birdsong, there is a powerful effect on flowering and fruiting of plants.

When planning a Zone 5, attract birds by adding an element of water through ponds, or water vases. Leave clay pots in hidden areas to attract nesting animals and birds and keep the cats away! Birds bring music and colour as well as a sense of peace and beauty to your permaculture garden.

Water is the life force, so it is important to place it into your wilderness. Dragonflies will feed. lay eggs and frogs will spawn without danger. Add submerged, floating and marginal plants. This gives fish and frogs places to hide. Rocks around the boarder create landing pads for butterflies and places for lizards to sunbake. if you only have a small garden space create a mini water element.

water ponds
Ponds as a life source for animals, birds and insects.

The secret is an ecologically balanced habitat. Large seeded flowers such as sunflowers will create food for birds. Plant flowers and herbs such as marigold, lavender, marjoram, sage, chives and thyme, which give fragrant flowers and attract insects. One of my personal favourites is bush basil. I let it grow wild and it is always attracts bees.

It is preferable to plant native species in your Zone 5 yet non-native species definitely play an important role when local conditions do not allow the healthy growth of native species, such as aggressive urban environments. Some non-native species don’t have problems with hard surfaces, drought and salty soil. Particularly in urban areas, environmental conditions are nothing like those of the original habitat.

Many ancient cultures have protectors of smaller beings. Kwan Yin is the goddess of compassion, the most revered deity in the Chinese pantheon. Kwan Yin’s strength, like silk, is a disguise of delicacy. She is often depicted riding a dolphin, a unique sight of female wild strength. Kwan Yin, originally a princess, was a Buddhist “bodhisattva”. She earned the right to enter Nirvana, the place of liberated souls, but decided to remain on earth, helping the little ones.

Encourage children to create a zone 5 and be the carers. Read mmore about how kids make great designers.

Deer at Ecocentro IPECWe are proud to say that after years of reforestation and zone 5 building at Ecocentro IPEC we have native deers returning to the area. The area may seem messy to the eye, but that’s how animals like it.  And as Bill Mollison said “people must see these forests and wilderness as the greatest educational system that we have on the planet’.