Advanced Permaculture

Course CodeBHT301
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Develop your skills and knowledge in Permaculture

Professional Development for PERMACULTURE

For people with prior experience in permaculture; this course develops further skills. The course follows on from Permaculture Systems or for those who have studied Permaculture elsewhere; it is an excellent follow on from the "Permaculture Design Certificate".  Topics covered include:-

  • Build on your existing skills and knowledge - study Advanced Permaculture with ACS Distance EducationAnalysing different systems.
  • Other sustainable systems (eg. Biodynamics, Organic farming, Integrated Pest Management).
  • Determining appropriate planning strategies for a site.
  • Natural patterns (e.g. seasons).
  • Borders - transition zones.
  • Sustainable water management.
  • Determining earthworks.
  • Designing for different climates.
  • Comprehensive planning including preparing costings.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Evaluating Design Strategies
    • Introduction.
    • The need for sustainability.
    • Low input farming.
    • Regenerative farming.
    • Biodynamic systems.
    • Organic systems.
    • Conservation farming.
    • Matching enterprise with land capability.
    • Polyculture.
    • Integrated management.
    • Permaculture planning.
    • Observation.
    • Deduction.
    • Reading patterns.
    • Analysis.
    • Mapping overlays.
    • Sectors.
    • Zones.
    • Design strategies and techniques.
    • Undulating edge.
    • Spirals and circles.
    • Zig zag trellis.
    • Temporary shelter.
    • Small scale sun trap.
    • Small scale sun shading.
    • Pathways.
    • Keyhole beds.
  2. Understanding Patterns
    • Understanding patterns.
    • Know your land: evaluate a site.
    • Weather patterns, soil pH, EC, temperature, water etc.
    • Electromagnetic considerations.
    • Herbicide or pesticide consideration.
    • Land carrying capacity.
    • Assessing land capability.
    • Checklist of sustainability elements.
    • Indication of sustainability.
    • Log books.
  3. Water
    • Water supply.
    • Water saving measures.
    • Tanks.
    • Dam and pond building.
    • Edges.
    • Construction: concrete, brick, stone.
    • Liners, earth construction.
    • Collecting rainwater.
    • Recycling waste water.
    • Using farm waste water.
    • Town water supply.
    • Well drilling.
    • Pumping subterranean ground water.
    • Pumping from natural supplies (e.g. lakes, rivers).
    • Pumps and plumbing supplies.
    • Water use: power generation, diesel generators.
    • Fish culture: land and water, dams.
    • Water plant culture.
    • Water plants to know and grow.
    • Seasonal changes in a pond.
    • Sewage treatment: reed beds.
    • Problems with water.
    • Wasting water and conservation.
    • Swales and keylines.
    • Keyline design.
  4. Earthworks
    • Site clearing.
    • Levelling.
    • Drainage.
    • Solving drainage problems.
    • Surveying techniques: triangulation, direct contouring, grid system etc.
    • Levelling terms.
    • Levelling procedure.
    • Levelling a sloping site.
    • Loss of soil fertility.
    • Erosion.
    • Salinity.
    • Sodicity.
    • Soil compaction.
    • Soil acidification.
    • Build-up of dangerous chemicals.
    • Improving soils.
    • Using lime, gypsum or acidic materials.
  5. Humid Tropics
    • Climatic systems.
    • Precipitation.
    • Wind.
    • Radiation.
    • The wet tropics.
    • Sources of humus.
    • Mulches.
    • Soil life in the tropics.
    • Barrier plants.
    • Animal barriers.
    • Permaculture systems for the wet tropics.
    • Garden beds.
    • Tropical fruits to grow.
  6. Dry Climates
    • Introduction.
    • Water storage and conservation.
    • Dryland gardens.
    • Dryland orchards.
    • Planting on hills.
    • Corridor planting.
    • Overcoming dry soils.
    • Drought tolerant plants.
    • Vegetables.
    • Fruits.
    • Vines.
  7. Temperate to Cold Climates
    • Introduction.
    • Characteristics of a temperate bio-zone.
    • Cool temperate garden design.
    • Useful crops for this zone.
    • Crop protection.
    • Soils in a cool temperate area.
    • Growing berries.
    • Orchards.
    • Soil life.
    • Blueberries.
    • Raspberries.
    • Strawberries.
    • Nuts.
    • Herbs.
  8. Planning Work
    • Alternative planning procedures.
    • The planning process.
    • What goes where.
    • Equipping the environmentally friendly garden.
    • Barriers, walls and fencing.
    • Gates.
    • Rubble, brick, and concrete walls.
    • Retaining walls.
    • Trellis.
    • Hedges.
    • Changing an existing farm to be more sustainable.
    • Monitoring and reviewing.
    • Contingencies and seasonal variations.
    • Planning for drought.
    • Excessive water.
  9. Costing
    • Property costs.
    • Making cost cutting choices.
    • Planning for the cost conscious.
    • Likely costs to establish a garden.
    • Socio economic considerations in farming.
    • Production planning.
    • Economies of scale.
    • Materials.
    • Equipment.
    • Value adding.
  10. Sustainable Systems
    • Other sustainable systems.
    • Working with nature rather than against it.
    • Minimising machinery use.
    • Only use what is necessary.
    • Different ways to garden naturally.
    • Organic gardening.
    • No Dig techniques.
    • Biodynamics.
    • Biodynamic preparations.
    • Crop rotation.
    • Bush gardens.
    • Succession planting.
    • Seed saving.
    • Hydroponics.
    • Environmental horticulture.
    • Sustainable agriculture around the world.
    • Integrated pest management.
    • Cultural controls.
    • Biological controls.
    • Physical controls.
    • Chemicals Quarantine.
    • Controlling weeds without chemicals.
    • Animals in sustainable systems.
    • Chickens.
    • Turkeys.
    • Ducks.
    • Geese.
    • Pigs.


  • Evaluate appropriate design strategies for a specific development site.
  • Explain the relationship between a Permaculture system and natural patterns occurring in your local area.
  • Develop strategies for the management of water in a Permaculture design.
  • Determine earthworks for the development of a Permaculture system.
  • Design a Permaculture system for the humid tropics.
  • Design a Permaculture system for a dry climate.
  • Design a Permaculture system for a temperate to cold climate.
  • Determine planning strategies for the development of a Permaculture system.
  • Prepare cost estimates for a Permaculture development plan.
  • Explain alternative sustainable systems practiced in various places around the world.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the evolution of a Permaculture system which is at least five years old.
  • Compare the suitability of different planning procedures, for development of a Permaculture system on a specified site.
  • Develop a permaculture plan on a specified site, by using flow diagrams.
  • Illustrate the progressive development of one view of a Permaculture system, over several years.
  • Explain the relevance of patterns which occur in nature, to Permaculture design.
  • Explain the importance of observation skills in Permaculture planning.
  • Analyse the weather patterns of a site in your locality as a basis for planning a Permaculture system.
  • Compare different methods of water provision, including collection and storage for a specified Permaculture system.
  • Analyse the adequacy of two different specific Permaculture system designs, in terms of: water requirements, water provision, water storage, and water usage.
  • Explain, the use of different survey equipment.
  • Survey a site, that has been selected for a proposed Permaculture system, recording details, including: topography, dimensions, and location of features.
  • Prepare a Permaculture site plan, to scale, of the site surveyed,
    • Distinguish between, using labelled drawings, different types of earthworks, including: banks, benching, terracing, and mounds.
  • Compare different methods for the provision of drainage on a site proposed as, or being developed as a Permaculture system.
  • Determine the factors unique to the design of Permaculture systems in humid tropical climates, dry climates, and cold climates.
  • Determine a large number of different plant species suited for inclusion in a Permaculture system in each of the climates above.
  • Determine different animal species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in each of the climates above.
  • Prepare a Permaculture design for each of the climates above.
  • Calculate the quantities of materials, showing necessary calculations, required in a specified permaculture plan.
  • Estimate the work-hours required, showing any necessary calculations, to complete each section of work.
  • Estimate the equipment required, showing any necessary calculations, to complete each section of work.
  • Determine suppliers for all materials, for a specified Permaculture development, in accordance with specific plans supplied to you.
  • Determine the costs of different types of materials, for a specified Permaculture development, from different suppliers.
  • Determine the essential costs for services to establish a specified Permaculture system, such as: labour costs, sub-contracting fees, equipment hire, permits and planning applications, technical reports, legal fees.
  • Compare the costs of establishing different Permaculture systems, which you visit and investigate.
  • Explain different sustainable agricultural or horticultural systems, other than permaculture.
  • Differentiate Permaculture from other sustainable systems, including: Biodynamics, Organic farming.
  • Compare specified sustainable agricultural or horticultural practices from different countries.

Permaculture Unites Sustainable Ideas

Many of the ideas found in permaculture have been practiced somewhere in the world in the past, but never all together. Permaculture has changed that by bringing together knowledge, understanding, and practices from all over the world, to create a coherent international approach to sustainable land management.

A permaculture system is a unique landscape where all the plants and animals live in balance in a self-sustaining ecosystem. It commonly involves developing a garden or farm where the plants and animals are put together in such a way that they support each others growth and development. Once established, the resulting garden or farm will be productive, self sustaining and environmentally sound requiring a reduced amount of input.

A Permaculture system can be developed on virtually any type of site, though the plants selected and used will be restricted by the site's suitability to the needs of the varieties used. Establishing a permaculture system requires a reasonable amount of pre-planning and designing. Factors such as climate, land form, soils, existing vegetation and water availability need to be considered. Observing patterns in the natural environment can give clues to matters which may become a problem later, or which may be beneficial.

Traditional societies have used patterns to effectively understand and interact with their landscape. Much traditional knowledge was recorded in the form of patterns including carvings, weavings, stone and earth paintings, etc. Included in these records were cyclic phenomena such as tides, weather, harvest seasons, phases of the moon, and stars.

Appropriate patterning in the design process can aid the attainment of a sustainable yield. Good designers try to fit all their components into a functional form, to follow the rules of flow and order, and to utilize most efficiently the space available. The spiral (lesson 1) is a great example of applying pattern. All the basic culinary herbs can be planted. They are all accessible, there are various aspects and good drainage, and the spiral can be watered with one sprinkler. The design also provides for dry sites for oil-rich herbs and moist or shady sites for green foliage herbs.

Another example is a mulch-pit surrounded by a planting shelf and spill bank. The plants eventually shade the central mulch-pit to prevent evaporation. A series of such gardens reduces the path space and land area needed for home gardens, or orchards of banana and coconut.

Close observation shows you where some mammals burrow and reptiles bask, where chimpanzees live, where herbivores forage for fruit and seeds, and where birds live ithin the tree branches. When designing with nature we can create landscapes that operate like healthy natural systems, where energy is conserved, wastes are recycle and resources used wisely.

Some useful advice:

  • When designing gardens and ponds try to minimise waste space by using spiral, keyhole, and least-path systems, and clumped plantings.
  • Use edge effects, especially in relation to intercrop and in the construction of plant guilds, and pond production in variable climates.
  • Use correct patterns to direct energies on site, and to lay out the whole site for zone, sector, slope, and orientation benefits. This saves energy.

A well designed permaculture farm will fulfill the following criteria:

  • Upon maturity it forms a balanced, self-sustaining ecosystem where the relationships between the different plants and animals do not compete strongly to the detriment on each other. The farm does not change a great deal from year to year, but it does nonetheless still continue to change.
  • It replenishes itself. The plants and animals in the farm feed each other, with perhaps only minimal feed (e.g. natural fertilisers) needing to be introduced from the outside.
  • Minimal, if any, work is required to maintain the farm once it is established. Weeds, diseases and pests are minimal due to companion planting and other natural effects which parts of the ecosystem have on each other.
  • It is productive. Food or other useful produce can be harvested from the farm on an ongoing basis.
  • It makes intensive land use. A lot is achieved from a small area. A common design format used is the Mandala Garden, based on a series of circles within each other, with very few pathways and easy, efficient watering.
  • There is a diverse variety of plant types used. This spreads cropping over the whole year so that there is no time when a lot is being taken out of the system. This also means that the nutrients extracted (which are different for each different type of plant or animal) are evened out (i.e. one plant takes more iron, while the plant next to it takes less iron, so iron does not get depleted because all of the plants have a high demand for iron). The diversity of species acts as a buffer, one to another.
  • It can adapt to different slopes, soil types and other microclimates.
  • It develops through an evolutionary process changing rapidly at first but then more gradually over a long period but perhaps never becoming totally stable. The biggest challenge for the designer is to foresee these ongoing long-term changes.


ACS Distance Education is a member of the Permaculture Association (UK) and The Alternative Technology Association (Australia).

Career Opportunities

Study alone can never guarantee career success; but a good education is an important starting point.

Success in a career depends upon many things. An education in permaculture is an important starting point, but the people who are most successful in permaculture don't ever stop learning.

Use this course as a way of adding to your knowledge and understanding, and an opportunity to explore more ideas and possibilities for creating sustainable and productive landscapes.

Graduates from this course may find opportunities to use what they learn here in all sorts of situations, including:

  • Designing and/or building new Permaculture Gardens
  • Converting old gardens to permaculture
  • Creating Permaculture landscapes in public parks, schools, commercial landscapes or waste land
  • Converting Farms toward Permaculture
  • Teaching Permaculture
  • Promoting Permaculture in the Media - print media, broadcast media, on the internet
  • Applying permaculture principles in work as a landscaper, nurseryman, gardener, farmer, planner, engineer, architect, property manager, etc

Any job that involves land management has scope to apply what you learn in this course, and by applying what you learn here, you have an opportunity to not only make your career better, but also to contribute toward a more sustainable local and global environment,


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