A starter course for anyone interested in permaculture. Learn permaculture design fundamentals and techniques and how to apply them in a small garden.

Course Code: SGH26
Fee Code: SG
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 20 hours
Qualification Certificate of Completion
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Learn to create small Permaculture Gardens

Permaculture is a holistic approach to managing land which has borrowed growing techniques from the past and developed other techniques since its inception in the 1970’s. There are lots of different practices that are frequently used to create a permaculture system, and many of those can easily be applied in small gardens.  
With the architecture in many cities around the world shifting towards taller buildings and smaller blocks of land, the desire to create a permaculture garden in a small space is an increasingly common proposition. Fortunately, the theory and practice of permaculture lend themselves well to such propositions. 

Even the smallest of spaces, like a balcony or paved courtyard can become host to a permaculture system with some careful thought. Once established, it will be largely self-sustaining and productive, requiring minimal labour to keep it going.   

  • A solid introductory course
  • Start small and grow your knowledge and garden as far as you want from there.
  • For home gardeners, hobbyists, or even a good professional development course for horticulture, agriculture or other land industry professionals

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

    • Introduction
    • Ethical underpinning
    • Permaculture principles
    • Zones and sectors
    • Central Place Theory
    • Multi owner developments and urban permaculture
    • How to maximise edges
    • Natural Succession
    • Ecology in the garden
    • Designing with systems
    • Start with the soil microbiome
    • Microclimates & Ecosystems
    • Creating microclimates
    • Considerations when creating outdoor rooms
    • How to support biodiversity in Animal life
    • Preparing for and Planting Vegetables
    • Design considerations
    • Topography, structures, sun and wind
    • Formulating ideas
    • Circular Designs
    • Use of Scale
    • Garden Beds
    • Bed preparation
    • Developing an Appropriate Plant Genome
    • What is a Vertical Garden
    • Deciding what to grow
    • Prioritise your criteria
    • Polycultures
    • Interplanting
    • Guilds
    • Companion Planting
    • Beans
    • Onions
    • Growing Grapes
    • Berry Fruit
    • Citrus
    • What is meant by sustainability?
    • Minimising or eliminating inputs
    • Composting
    • Worm Farming
    • Sheet mulching
    • Mulching
    • Repurposing
    • Water recycling
    • U.N. Sustainability Goals and Food Sustainability
    • Food Security Creative Recycling in the Garden
    • Value-adding
    • Protective structures
    • Windbreaks
    • Container Growing
    • Aquaponics
    • Stacking or Layering
    • Raised Beds
    • Mushroom Cultivation
    • Domesticated Animals
    • Snail Farming
    • Micro-greens
    • Minimising and Managing Needs
    • Aquaponics
    • Growing Herbs in Containers
    • Keeping Bees
    • Keeping Chickens in a Small Perrmaculture Space
    • Strategies to Reduce Pest and Disease Problems
    • Using Plants
    • Protecting Plants
    • Pruning
    • Natural Weed Control
    • Natural Non Chemical Pest Control
    • Biological Control of Pests and Diseases
    • Companion Planting Fact or Fiction
    • Introduction
    • Connecting with others
    • Consider Trade with Neighbours
    • Community Gardens
    • Consider Public Land
    • Consider Neighbours Land
    • Getting Local Businesses on board
    • Sharing seeds
    • Thinking long term
    • Spreading the word
    • Building Communities
    • Reducing Waste
  9. Final Assessment

Permaculture makes use of observing and mimicking natural systems, and the patterns and relationships that exist in them. There is a lot that we can learn from nature in how various systems evolve and are interlinked. In any space that houses plants, large or small, there is an intricate web of life.  

Regardless of its size, a space can be divided into zones and sectors. Think of zones as beginning with the house or apartment and radiating outwards. A larger garden may have several zones but a small one may only have one or two with the remainder being part of the wider urban area. Essentially, the things that are most useful should be in the zone closest to the house. If you only have a balcony garden, you could position herbs that you use frequently closest to the balcony door and other plants further away. Sectors are the climatic influences on the space like sunlight, wind, and rain. For example, to make the most of the space you could position plants that can withstand strong winds towards the outside and in the direction from which winds arise.   

Learn to Create and Manage Microclimates

A microclimate is a small pocket within a space where the atmospheric conditions differ to those nearby. It can strongly influence the living organisms within ecosystems. Consider a 2-acre property with treeless areas and other areas shaded by trees. The shaded places are not as exposed to wind, cold or extreme heat. They will remain moist longer after rainfall than the open spaces. Those two types of areas are both in the same climatic area, but there are climatic differences between them in terms of temperature, humidity, light, ventilation, and other things. Those differences influence the plants, animals, and microorganisms that dwell within each area. Dead organic matter may accumulate and decompose at a different rate in each area, and that can affect the biology of each area.

Similarly, the living organisms within an area influence the microclimate. We know that diversity of species is an important factor in any natural ecosystem. When only one species dominates – plant, animal, or other organism – the population eventually reaches such large numbers that the species can run out of “food” and die off. In effect, it crashes and burns. Life is largely eliminated, with little left in that area to replace it. Such an area has no roots to hold the soil together, no organic matter being returned to the soil, and no microorganisms to capture and store chemicals which enrich the soil. The soil can quickly degrade. 

Even small areas can have problems such as soil degradation, erosion, and microclimate change if biodiversity is not maintained. Observing nature on a small scale teaches us that biodiversity is important to maintain the health and stability of ecosystems and microclimates.

Deciding What to Grow

Plants used in permaculture should have more than one use where possible. For example, a tree might provide summer shade, fruits, flowers that attract pollinating insects, and leaf litter for compost. Evergreen trees and shrubs can provide a wind barrier, insulation to buildings, and warmer spots in a garden for crop growing through cooler months. 
When space is limited, look for plants and animals that don’t take up much space but can still thrive and produce in that limited space, or which can make use of vertical space (e.g., growing up a wall or fence). If you have very little space, you might want to limit your plants to those that you really enjoy eating, or perhaps those that taste considerably better when grown at home compared to those available in stores. You could also choose to grow varieties that are expensive to buy in the supermarket or which are difficult to find. 

Learning permaculture is in essence learning to understand nature and work with it, to be productive, ethical and caring toward the society you live in.

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Accredited ACS Global Partner

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

Member of the Permaculture Association

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

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

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