What is commonly referred to as the tenth Permaculture design principle is “Edge Effect” which is the use of edge and natural patterns for best effect. Use of this principle can increase productivity, efficiency and diversity within a system.
Edge effect works in one way because of a greater diversity of life in the region where the edges of two ecosystems overlap, such as land/water, or forest/grassland. At the edge of two overlapping ecosystems, you can find species from both of these ecosystems, as well as unique species that aren’t found in either ecosystem but are specially adapted to the conditions of the transition zone between the two edges.
Examples of Edge Effect in nature
Thick growth at the edge of a woods. These edges are an energy trap as they get the most sunlight for the woods and the most shade for the open field, it also captures what the wind energy pushes along. This results in some of the best places to forage for food like raspberries, blackberries, apples, plums. As every hunter knows this can be a great place to hunt because deer stand right outside of the woods and feed along the edge for the abundance and quick cover.
Edges of ponds. This is where you will see the most pond activity as well as an increased land activity as the two worlds collide, each supplying some benefit to the other. Using edges for fishing along shore and even in open water is a common practice for fisherman because this where life congregates.
We also see this along edge in man made structures. Ever notice how a variety of weeds will grow along the edge of a sidewalk. Again the edge forms an energy traps of sorts. It traps seeds being blown by the wind, the cement provides both a thermal mass for heat and a water shed for the surrounding soil and protection from foot traffic.
Types of Edge
Any change in anything can cause an edge. It can be a physical barrier that separates one ecosystem from another ecosystem. Such as a pond, boulders or even placed structures like pavers or a sidewalk. A change in elevation, temperature, soil type, moisture or energy can all create an effective edge. It can be something as small as planter box on a deck to something as large as the Grand Canyon.
Incorporating Edge Into Your Homestead Design
Pathways Raised beds
boxes and planters
Edges of Buildings
Green Edge – Hedge rows, Green walls
Making the most edge you can
No straight lines in nature
Uneven planting in beds
Using the Edge Effect in the layout of your homestead can make the most of your growing space by increasing productivity and even adding an element of natural beauty to your garden.