Using Google Earth to zone your farm

Using Google Earth to zone your farm is a wonderful tool for planning your farm permaculture zones.  Its simple to use, yet powerful interface, can be mastered in a few steps and provide you with a map you can print or share online.

To start ….

Permaculture zones (0-5) are a great way to divide your farm up into “use” zones.    If you are not familiar with the zones, you can find my take on them here.

Google Earth is a free mapping tool that you can download for your computer or mobile device from here.

Using Google Earth to zone your farm – the steps!

Step 1. Finding your farm
Open Google Earth.  In the search box in the upper left hand corner, type in the address of your farm….then click search and watch it zoom in!  Google Earth will place a red pin and display the address of your search on the image.  You can zoom in and out and change the orientation using the zoom bar tools on the right hand side of the image.   To remove the red pin (which I find annoying) and address you just click the blue X under the search results box on the left hand side.  For now, zoom to a level so you can see the entire outline of your farm in the image.

Step 2. Adding the farm boundaries.
Google Earth has a tool bar that sits at the very top of the image.  You can hover over each of the tools and it will tell you what they are.  Find the Add a polygon tool and click on it.  A box appears in which you describe what feature you are adding.  In this case type ‘Farm Boundaries” in where it says Name (you may be over typing the words ‘untitled polygon’).  Click the box called Style,Color.  This is where you can change the color of your lines.  If you click the color box it will bring up a pallet that allows you to select the line color.  You can also change the line thickness etc.  You can come back and make changes later – so don’t worry if you don’t get it right at first.  I like to use yellow as my boundary lines as it shows up well against the image for my area.  In other drier and sandy areas, red is a better selection.   Change the Area box so it says just ‘Outlined”.

When you are ready to draw the farm boundary lines don’t click ok on the box!   Drag this box away from your farm image….just to the side so you can see the entire outline of your farm.   Click on any corner of your farm boundary on the image.  A small blue box will mark where you have clicked.   Move to the next corner of your farm and click.  A line will now appear between those two points.  Click the next corner and so on until your boundaries are complete.

When you are finished, you can change the color and thickness of the lines.  When you are happy with your boundaries, then click OK on the box in the bottom right corner.

The boundaries you just added is a data layer that is now added to your image and you can see it in the Places box on the left hand side navigation.  You can turn it on and off by clicking the little box next to its name.  If you right click on the name you have some more options.   Get Info brings back the box so you can change the name, color etc.  If you want to do it again, you can delete the old one here too.

Step 3. Adding a zone.
To add a ‘zone’ is almost the same as adding the boundaries.  The difference is you want a shape rather than a series of lines.  It is still a polygon (so we use the same tool), but we set it up to be filled with a color.

So select the Add a polygon tool again.  This time change the name to the zone you are adding like “Zone 5”.  You could also use your own zone names or descriptions.  Select the Style/Color button and change the color of the lines AND the color of the area.  I use a different color for each area.  Make sure the Area option is set for “Filled+Outlined” and set the Opacity to 50%.  That will allow the zone to have a color, but you can still see through it and see features on the image underneath.

Just like before, drag the box to the side then outline the shape of the zone you want to add.  If you have a zone that is spilt  – that is two or more areas that are separate but you want them in the same zone, you can set treat them as separate and just label them Zone 1 (A) and Zone 1 (B) etc and use the same colors and fills.

You will end up with a list of zones for your farm on the left-hand side navigation under the Places category – like this:

Using Google Earth to zone your farm – the final product.

Your final farm plan using the zones with Google Earth may look like this:

You can keep this in your Google Earth program and can turn on and off the zones just by clicking on the little ticks next to the Zones.

Once you are happy with your map, you can print it off, email it of save it as an image using the tools at the top of the image.

The super thing about this tool is that you can add more information as you go.  You can add detailed descriptions in the Zone boxes as well as small images that you have uploaded to the web.    You can even create an interactive tour video of your farm….but now we are talking fun rather than planning 

I hope this has been a useful tutorial for using Google Earth to zone your farm using permaculture zones.