100 hour course for PDC graduates or experienced permaculture devotees. Add to your permaculture knowledge and skills. Learn about sustainable land use.

Course Code: BHT301
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
Get started!


Have an advantage over many other permaculture professionals - this course goes way beyond what you learned in a PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate). Doing this course you will:

  • Take your understanding of permaculture to the next level.
  • Learn to Evaluate and Design Permaculture Gardens, plan and estimate work requirements.
  • Understand Patterns, Water management, Earthworks.
  • Adapt permaculture to different climates including Humid Tropics, Dry Climates, Temperate to Cold Climates.
  • Give you a professional advantage as a permaculture designer and consultant.


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 groundwater
    • Pumping from natural supplies (eg. lakes, rivers)
    • Pumps and plumbing supplies
    • Water use: power generation, diesel generators
    • Fish culture: land and water, dams
    • Plant culture
    • Water plants to know and grow
    • Seasonal changes in a pond
    • Sewage treatment: reed beds
    • Problems with water
    • Watering water and conservation
    • Swales and key lines
    • 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 biozone
    • 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 a 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.


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 other's growth and development. The garden or farm may very well change over the years, but it always remains productive, requires little input once established, and is environmentally sound.



You will learn a wide variety of things, through a combination of reading, interacting with tutors, undertaking research and practical tasks, and watching videos. Here are just some of the things you will be doing:

  • Explain the evolution of a Permaculture system which is at least five years old; selected and studied by you.
  • Compare the suitability of three 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 three years, with a series of four overlay drawings.
  • Prepare a "zone and sector" analysis for a proposed Permaculture site.
  • 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.
  • Explain the compatibility of different types of borders for a Permaculture system, using examples, such as:
    • pasture farm land
    • national park
    • residential property
    • market garden
    • industrial sites
    • ocean.
  • Explain the significance of timing in establishing a Permaculture system, including: 
    • the season
    • establishment sequence.
  • Compare different methods of water provision, including collection and storage for a specified Permaculture system.
  • Determine design measures to help minimise water usage, in a specified Permaculture system.
  • Determine design measures to maximise water supply, in a specified Permaculture system.
  • Analyse the adequacy of different specific Permaculture system designs, in terms of: 
    • water requirements 
    • water provision
    • water storage
    • water usage.
  • Describe multiple uses for water systems in an integrated Permaculture system, including:
    •   power generation
    • fish culture
    • water-plant culture
    • sewerage treatment.
  • Explain, using labelled illustrations, the use of different survey equipment, including: 
    • a dumpy level for determining slopes
    • tape measure for triangulating a point
    • a spirit level, line and tape for determining a slope.
  • Survey a site, between one and four thousand square metre in size, that has been selected for a proposed Permaculture system, recording details, including:
    • topography
    • dimensions
    • location of features.
  • Prepare a site plan, to scale, of the site surveyed, including contour lines and the location of all existing features.
  • Distinguish between, using labelled drawings, different types of earthworks, including:
    • banks
    • benching
    • terracing
    • mounds.
  • Explain the factors that affect the excavation of earth for a specified Permaculture system, such as:
    • soil type
    • sub-soil
    • rock
    • site access
    • vegetation
    • in-ground services.
  • Compare two different methods for moving earth for a specific Permaculture development.
  • Compare different methods for the provision of drainage on a site proposed as, or being developed as, a Permaculture system.
  • Explain the different reasons for moving earth in two specified Permaculture designs.
  • Determine the earthworks required for a proposed Permaculture system, including:
    • quantity of earth to move
    • where to relocate earth to
    • method of moving the earth.
  • Determine the factors unique to the design of Permaculture systems in a humid, tropical climate.
  • Evaluate on different Permaculture systems designed for the humid tropics.
  • Determine plant species suited for inclusion in a Permaculture system in the humid tropics.
  • Determine animal species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in the humid tropics.
  • Prepare a Permaculture design for a humid tropical climate, including:
    • a plan
    • a materials list
    • plant and animal varieties lists.
  • Explain the factors unique to the design of a Permaculture system for a dry climate.
  • Evaluate different specified Permaculture systems, designed for dry climates.
  • Determine different plant species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in dry areas.
  • Determine animal species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in dry areas.
  • Prepare a Permaculture design for a dry climate, including:
    • a plan
    • a materials list
    • plant and animal varieties lists.
  • Explain factors unique to the design of Permaculture system design in a temperate to cold climate.
  • Analyse different, specified Permaculture designs for temperate to cold climates.
  • Determine many different plant species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in temperate to cold areas.
  • Determine ten animal species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in temperate to cold areas.
  • - Prepare a Permaculture design for a temperate to cold climate, including:   *a plan  *materials list  *plant and animal varieties lists.
  • Determine the types of materials required for specific Permaculture plans supplied to you.
  • 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.
  • Analyse different Permaculture systems, to determine specific tasks which may need to undertaken over a period of years, until the system reaches maturity.
  • Determine when it is valid to perform work in a specific, mature/established Permaculture system, visited by you.
  • Determine suppliers for all materials, for a specified Permaculture development, in accordance with specific plans supplied to you.
  • Determine the costs of five types of different materials, for a specified Permaculture development, from at least three 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 two different Permaculture systems, visited and investigated by you.
  • Explain 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 three different countries.
  • Prepare a plan for developing a sustainable agricultural system, other than Permaculture, on a specified site, including:
    • Concept site plan
    • Work schedule
    • Cost estimates.


Why Permaculture?

There are many different ideas about how to be more sustainable. Permaculture is only one of these; but it is one that encompasses what is good about many of the others.

You will find different people promoting different concepts with great vigour and enthusiasm, and in most cases, these concepts will have something valuable to teach you. Many are quite similar in approach, often being just variations of a similar theme. Each approach will have its application; but because it worked for someone else does not necessarily mean it will work for you. Some of these concepts are explained below and will be discussed in more detail later in the course.

Low Input Farming Systems
This approach is based on the idea that a major problem is depletion of resources. If a farmer uses fewer resources (e.g. chemicals, fertiliser, fuel, money, manpower), farm costs will be reduced, there is less chance of damage being caused by waste residues or overworking the land and the world is less likely to run out of the resources needed to sustain farming. Permaculture is Low input!

Regenerative Farming Systems
This seeks to create a system that will regenerate itself after each harvest. Techniques such as composting, green manuring and recycling may be used to return nutrients to the soil after each crop. Permaculture is currently perhaps the ultimate regenerative system. A Permaculture system is a carefully designed landscape which contains a wide range of different plants and animals. This landscape can be small (e.g. a home garden), or large (e.g. a farm) and it can be harvested to provide such things as wood (for fuel and building), eggs, fruit, herbs and vegetables, without seriously affecting the environmental balance. In essence, it requires little input once established, and continues to produce and remain sustainable.

Biodynamic Systems
This approach concentrates mobilising biological mechanisms. Organisms such as worms and bacteria in the soil break down organic matter and make nutrients available to pastures or crops. Under the appropriate conditions, nature will help dispose of wastes (e.g. animal manures), and encourage predators to eliminate pests and weeds. Permaculture can incorporate biodynamic methods if you choose to do so.

Organic Systems
Traditionally this involves using natural inputs for fertilisers and pest control, and techniques such as composting and crop rotation. In Australia and many other countries, there are schemes which "certify" produce as being organic. These schemes lay down very specific requirements, including products and farming techniques which are permitted, and others which are prohibited. In Australia, you can find out about such schemes through groups such as the Biological Farmers Association (BFA) or the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA). See directory for addresses. All organics is not permaculture; but all permaculture is probably organic.

Conservation Farming
This is based on the idea of conserving resources that already exist on the farm. It may involve such things as identifying and retaining the standard and quality of waterways, creek beds, nature strips, slopes, etc. Permaculture certainly incorporates these ideas

Matching Enterprise with Land Capability
Some sites are so good that you can use them for almost any type of farming enterprise, for any period of time without serious degradation. Other places, however, have poor or unreliable climates or infertile soils and might only be suitable for certain types of enterprises or certain stocking or production rates. If you have a property already, only choose enterprises that are sustainable on your land. This is relevant to permaculture.

Many modern farms practise monoculture, growing only one type of animal or plant. With large populations of the same organism, though, there is greater susceptibility to all sorts of problems. Diseases and pests can build up to large populations. One type of resource (required by that variety) can be totally depleted, while other resources on the farm are under-used. If the market becomes depressed, income can be devastated. A polyculture involves growing a variety of different crops or animals, in order to overcome such problems. This is relevant to permaculture.

Integrated Management
This concept holds that good planning and monitoring the condition of the farm and marketplace will allow the farmer to address problems before they lead to irreversible degradation. Chemical pesticides and artificial fertilisers may still be used, but their use will be better managed.  Soil degradation will be treated as soon as detected. Water quality will be maintained. Ideally, diseases will be controlled before they spread. The mix of products being grown will be adjusted to reflect changes in the marketplace (e.g. battery hens and lot-fed animals may still be produced but the waste products which often damage the environment should be properly treated, and used as a resource rather than being dumped and causing pollution). This is relevant to permaculture.

This approach involves separating plant growth from the soil, and taking greater control of the growth of a crop. This increases your ability to manage both production and the disposal of waste. Hydroponics is not a natural system of cropping, but it can be very environmentally friendly. A lot of produce can be grown in a small area; so despite the high establishment costs, the cost of land is much less allowing farms to operate closer to markets. In the long term, a hydroponic farm uses fewer land resources, fewer pesticides, and is less susceptible to environmental degradation than many other forms of farming. This is not really applicable with Permaculture.


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.

Find Out More about Permaculture -Talk with one of our Horticulturists.
Member of the International Herb Association since 1988

Alternative Technology Association Member

Member of the Permaculture Association

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

Diana Cole

Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development
Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects sinc

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.