The zones in a permaculture design end at zone 5. This is where nature is left alone. We do not go in to this zone. We do not cultivate it or harvest from it. We let mother nature rule.
But wait a second… If permaculture is supposed to be a way for us to mimic nature in a way that benefits our human needs, what good is it to have an area we are not harvesting from or using it as a place for our livestock to forage, etc.
Nature is beautiful and complex without humans having to get involved trying to improve it. Let’s think about some things that would benefit us.
I am sure you can think of some wildlife you would rather to not be around your gardens and livestock that will live in this natural habitat. Raccoon, Opossum, Fox and many others come to mind.
But nature is balanced. The yin comes with the yang – the good, with the bad. Rather than focusing on what creatures could negatively impact your cultivated areas, consider the beneficial ones.
We do not keep beehives (not for a lack of interest or desire, just not to that point yet). Despite that, we still have an abundance of bees – happily buzzing around and pollinating our garden and trees. If it were not for the undisturbed zone 5, we may very well not have them.
Over three years ago we saw bats flying around. If you have ever been bitten by a horsefly, or even a mosquito, the sight of bats should make you smile. We wanted to encourage them to live on the property so we purchased a bat house and mounted it as directed. So far, they have not moved in. Yet they are still flying around.
They are more happy in their natural zone 5 habitat than they are with a man-made bat condominium.
These are just some of the benefits available to you by leaving an area unaltered by human hands.
You do not need several acres of woodland to have a zone 5. You can implement this plan very easily. Scale may increase your diversity, but simply having an area for natural wildlife and vegetation is more important.
If you live in an urban area with only a small yard, you can still make this work. Pick a corner in your yard – perhaps 10 feet by 10 feet – and let it go wild. Stop mowing it.
If that is just a little too simple for you – then find a small tree that is natural to your area. Plant it and let the area around it grow naturally.
The best thing about zone 5 is that you do not have to do anything. Of course, this is also the hardest thing. If you can manage it, it will be worthwhile