Design Elements

A permaculture design is made up of many different elements, each element is designed to perform many functions. Permaculture design is about more than just choosing the right things, it is about how we connect them together; for more information on this process visit our page on design process.

Here is a small example of possible design elements to inspire you.

Water in the landscape



.... are vessels that seek to emulate the swirls of vortices of the mountain stream enabling water to reoxygenate, revitalise and rejuvenate itself to bring it back to its more natural state. The figure of 8 movement is one of the foundation patterns of all life.

Swale Design


... are important water management tools for irrigating the land, mitigating stormwater runoff, and reducing erosion. They consist of a shallow trench dug along the land’s contour, with a berm on the downhill side. A trench along the contour slows the water and spreads it across the contour line, slowing and spreading water reduces erosion and retains more water where it is needed.

Design Methods

Forest Gardens

Sometimes called Food Forests, they are a low-maintenance, sustainable, system based on woodland ecosystems. They incorporate fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables grown in a succession of layers to build a woodland habitat. Their high yields make them worth the longer establishment time.

No Dig

 This short video explains the concepts and reasons for no dig methods. Once a no dig bed has been set up (getting the soil weed free to start can be the hard part) it is self-sustaining and the only maintenance is a top dressing of compost or mulch once a year. Happy no digging.

Design Principles

Guilds are functionally, ideally self-sustaining polyculture systems in which many plants are serving one another en route to a stable co-existence. The garden is mulched, the soil fertilized, the pests controlled, the pollinators attracted, the nutrients accumulated and the cultivators fed all from the plants within the guild that are serving one another. By working with guilds you build a lot more diversity with a lot of function and a much higher yield.


A Seven Layer Guild

Zoning is a way of designing to maximise energy efficiency. Activities are put in different zones, depending on frequency of use, maintenance, visits etc. Zone 0 is the centre of activities, where things that have the highest use and maintence needs are located. As the investment of the time & energy that an activity or structure needs lessens, it is placed further away. Zone 5, the furtherst away, is where you find things that require very little time & effort.


Permaculture Zones

Individual Elements

Herb Spiral

Herb Spirals

A highly productive energy-efficient way to grow food & maximise space, easily accessible from all sides. By having the spiral raised in the center, spiraling down to ground level, different microclimates are created, enabling plants with different needs to be grown in a smaller space.

Chicken Tractors

The chicken tractor (sometimes called an ark) is a movable chicken coop lacking a floor, so there is no need to clean them out. Chicken Tractors give shelter and allow free ranging; giving access to fresh forage such as grass, weeds and bugs, reducing their feed needs. Moved on every couple of days they echo a natural, symbiotic cycle of foraging through which the birds eat down vegetation, deposit fertilizing manure, then go on to a new area. A chicken tractor protects from predators and the hens lay their eggs in a nesting box rather than hiding them in the undergrowth.

Chicken Tractor

Implementing & Maintaining Designs

The implementation stage is where things start to get done; trees and plants go into the ground, ponds and poly-tunnels get built. This is where the challenge really begins, your dreams & goals laid out in the master design are turned into reality. 

A permaculture design is never finished; it is a living eco-system. Seasons and elements change as do climate conditions now. Your needs change alongside your commitments. Permanence is not about everything staying the same. It is about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving and being self-reliant through biodiversity.

Permaculture system management and maintenance is therefore about creating ‘feedback loops’; a constant process of evaluating, reflecting, redefining our goals, observing changes, re-analysing, redesigning, implementing tweaks and continuously learning and revisiting the cycle.

For a full overview please visit our page on Design Process.