Design Elements

Design Elements

Permaculture design is about more than just choosing the right design options & elements. It is about how the elements are connected together; their relationship with each other and with the landscape around them. An intelligent, conscious design.

Always ‘green’, always ‘Eco’, but way beyond ‘Organic’.


Each design is unique to it’s location – here are just a few ideas of what can be incorporated.

In nature every ecosystem incorporates many different elements, with each element performing many functions. Every function is also fed by many different elements. The whole is always greater than the sum of it’s parts; a synergy in which everything works in wonderful symbiotic relationship. There is no waste, everything serves a purpose and functions to it’s maximum ability. When we design our systems using these same principles we create our own piece of the natural world. An ecosystem that is good not only for the soil and wildlife but one which also serves our needs.

Water in the Landscape

Whether you are seeking to introduce water into your landscape or manage existing water there are many options available; here are just two.

Design Element

Flow forms

…. are vessels that seek to emulate the swirls of vortices of the mountain stream. Enabling water to reoxygenate, revitalise and rejuvenate itself. This then brings it back to its more natural state.

The figure of 8 movement is one of the foundation patterns of all life. As water travels in this pattern it draws in air. The air molecules are then broken apart by this movement, giving off negative ions.

Negative ions create positive vibes. They are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin. Helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.

Design Options & Elements

Natural Drainage - Rain Garden

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape that collects rain water from a roof, driveway or street and allows it to soak into the ground rather than run off and erode the soil. A rain garden will also prevent a larger area from being waterlogged and boggy.

They are constructed very much on the same principle as a swale (see below) but are used where the slope is not as steep. Planted with edible and deep-rooted perennials they are a useful and beautiful way of preventing water waste through runoff from your property.

Rain gardens allow 30% more water to soak into the ground but because they drain within 12-48 hours, they prevent the breeding of mosquitoes unlike a pond.


On steep slopes and embankments wind and water, especially heavy rainfall, dislodges soil particles which are then carried away down the slope by the flowing water.

This steady and gradual loss of soil (erosion) creates runoff, which forms soggy pools at slope bases and pollutes ground water with sediment. Erosion can be that severe that it can even take vegetation with it. The top of the slope is left dry and bare, with not enough soil to retain moisture. The land is then unable to support growth.

Swales are important water management tools for irrigating the land, mitigating stormwater runoff, and reducing erosion. Consisting of a shallow trench dug along the land’s contour, they have a berm on the downhill side. The trench along the contour slows the water and spreads it across the contour line. Because the water is now slower and spread out erosion is reduced. And more water is retained where it is needed.

Have a look at our Recommended Books

Forest Gardens

Sometimes called Food Forests, they are not actually forests but 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 Methods

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.

For more information on Permaculture see What is Permaculture, Permaculture Ethics and Permaculture 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.




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.
With Zone 5, being the furtherst away, it is where you find things that require very little time & effort.

If you have any questions or would like further information please

Find out how we can help you to achieve your dream edible landscape 

Specific Purpose Design Elements

Chicken Tractor

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 the chickens access to fresh forage such as grass, weeds and bugs and 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. Depositing fertilizing manure, then move 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

Herb Spiral

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. By placing the lowest section toward the north it can be shielded from the sun for a large part of the day. Thereby creating an environment for shade loving plants.

Learning Tree Permaculture is a member of the Permaculture Association
The Permaculture Association works to radically and positively change the way we live in the UK and actively supports a worldwide movement.

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