100 hour course incorporating the standard PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate). This is a great place to begin learning about permaculture gardens and design.

Course Code: BHT201
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Study, Learn & Design Permaculture Gardens

Permaculture is an ethical approach to designing land use and community systems, to provide food, ecological habitats and other essentials needed for human survival.

The term 'permaculture' comes from the words 'PERMAnent' and 'agriCULTURE', and implies the permanence of culture. The term was first devised in 1978 by Bill Mollison (an Australian ecologist) and his student David Holmgren.

In comparison to modern farming techniques practised in Western civilisations, the key elements of permaculture are low energy and high diversity inputs. The design of the landscape, whether on a suburban block or a large farm, is based on these elements.   

Take your learning to the next level

Study this course to broaden your understanding of permaculture applications. This fully immersive course is extremely detailed covering a vast amount of ground including what the different growing methods are which underlie permaculture, how it is informed from observation of the science of natural systems, and how this information is used to establish zonal planning. Students get to design and plan their own permaculture system to complete the course. 

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted, marked and returned with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Learn from experts

Developed and taught by a team of leading horticulture and natural gardening experts from the around the world, including:

John Mason - graduate of Burnley College (Victoria), 35 years in the industry, has designed over 2,000 properties, and published over 40 books including Sustainable Agriculture (published by CSIRO-Landlinks)

Dr Valeria Astorga - graduate of Barcelona University, Environmental Scientist and Landscape professional, with 20 years of experience in Spain, Chile and Australia.

Maggi Brown - 20 years as Education Officer for the UK's peak organic body, HDRA; regarded as a leading authority on natural gardening across the UK.

Shane Holborne - graduated in horticulture from the University of Qld, and obtained a Diploma in Permaculture from the Permaculture Institute around 25 years ago.

Comment from a student: "Thank you for your support and help with this course. I have really enjoyed the assignments and I have learned a lot about the principles of permaculture." (Ned, Permaculture Systems)

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Permaculture Principles
    • Permaculture principles and ethics, Principles of Design (Relative location, Multiple Functions, Multiple Elements, Elevational Planning, Biological Resources, Energy Recycling, Natural Selection, Maximise Edges, Diversity); Permaculture Relationships to other Systems, Sustainable Agriculture, Organic Growing, No Dig Gardening, Sheet Composting, Not Till Planting, No Dig Raised Beds, Crop Rotation, Cover Cropping, Composting, Companion Planting, Pest and Disease Prevention, Biological Control
  2. Natural Systems
    • The Ecosystem (Abiotic and Biotic components), Ecological Concepts, Biomass, Climate, Microclimates, Water, Water and Plant Growth, Maximising Plant Water, Arid Landscapes, Irrigation, Swales, Waste Water Treatments, Reed Beds, Aquatic Environments, The Hydrological Cycle, Rainfall, Evaporation, Infiltration, Effective Rain, Soil Environments (Micro organisms, Organic Matter, Soil Degradation and rehabilitation, Erosion, Salinity, Acidification), Managing Wildlife in a Permaculture System, Structure, Structure of a Permaculture System, Stacking, Successions.
  3. Zone and Sector Planning
    • Five Standard Zones, Sectors (sun, Cold, Windy etc), Site selection, Pre planning information, Staged procedure for concept design.
  4. Permaculture Techniques
    • Forests and trees, Trees as energy transducers, Forest types (Fuel, Forage, Shelterbelt, Animal barrier, Structural, Conservation), Establishing a forest, Sector/Zone Analysis, Firebreak, Windbreak, Mandala Gardens, Keyhole beds, Water bodies, Pond design, Pond construction,
  5. Animals in Permaculture
    • Locating animals in a system, Function of animals in Permaculture, Bees, Poultry, Mobile Tractor Systems, Pigs, Grazing animals, Fencing, Water supply, Shelter, Birds, Earthworms, Aquaculture
  6. Plants in Permaculture
    • Vegetable Growing Hints, Soil Management for plants, Organic fertilizers, Animal manures, Liquid feeds, Rock dusts, Legumes (Nitrogen fixing), Mycorrhizae, Mulch, Weed Management, Pest Control, Culture of a large range of plants suited to permaculture, in different environments (including: Asparagus, Black locust, Cassava, Chicory, Dandelion, Endive, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Leek, Mint, Okra, Pigface, Rhubarb, Sweet Potato, Taro, Warrigal Greens, Water Cress, Water Spinach, Yam, Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Citrus, Fig, Loquat, Nashi Pear, Olive, Peach, Pear, Plum, Quince, Avocado, Banana, Carambola, Coconut, Custard Apple, Guava, Mango, Paw Paw, Pepino, Pineapple, Grape, Passionfruit, Kiwi fruit, Strawberry, Raspberry, Currant, Gooseberry, Mulberry, Blueberry, Brambles, Elderberry, Cranberry, Nuts, Fodder Trees, etc)
  7. Appropriate Technologies
    • For example; Solar energy, Wind Energy, Methane, Bio fuel power, Composting Toilets, Energy efficient housing, Living fences (hedges, hedgerows etc), Water recycling (grey water and constructed wetland).
  8. Preparing a Plan
    • Design for natural disasters, Drawing a Plan, Preparing a final design


  • Interpret the principles, ethics and ecology of permaculture and natural systems
  • Recommend and design elements of permaculture
  • Explain community patterns
  • Interpret permaculture structures
  • Develop business opportunities with permaculture
  • Design Permaculture Systems and reresent the design on a plan.

What You Will Do

  • Differentiate between permaculture and other sustainable systems.
  • Explain the procedures followed in practicing different techniques which are sympathetic to permaculture, including: *No-dig gardening *Companion Planting *Biological control *Sustainable harvesting.
  • Explain the interactions that occur between living and non-living components in five different natural environments, including: *Forest Systems *Aquatic Environments *Soil Environments *Arid Environments.
  • Evaluate three different Permaculture designs against the nine permaculture principles.
  • Distinguish between the five garden zones in a specified permaculture system.
  • Explain sector planning in a specific garden design.
  • Design a mandala garden of fifty square metres, for a specific site.
  • Determine the appropriate use of swales on a sloping site visited by you.
  • Differentiate four distinctly different permaculture systems investigated by you.
  • Explain three different cultural techniques used to minimise the maintenance requirement, in each of two different permaculture systems studied by you.
  • Determine forty different animal breeds, including fifteen different genera, which can provide a useful and sustained harvest from a permaculture system in your locality.
  • Describe the harvest, treatment and use of various products derived from fifteen different types of animals in a permaculture system.
  • Compile a resource collection of twenty different information sources, for different animals suitable for use in permaculture systems.
  • Explain the factors which can affect the success of different types of animals, in a permaculture system, including: *Poultry *Aquatic animals *Domestic farm animals *Insects *Earthworms.
  • Describe the husbandry of one specified type of animal, in a permaculture system visited by you.
  • Determine fifty different species of plants which can provide a useful, sustained harvest from a permaculture system.
  • Describe the harvest, treatment and use of various products derived from twenty different plant genera in a Permaculture system.
  • Compile a resource file of fifty information sources for different plants which can be incorporated into permaculture systems.
  • Explain the factors which can affect the survival of different types of plants, including those used for: *Vegetables *Fruits *Herbs *Fibres *Building materials *Fuel.
  • Explain the husbandry of one specified type of plant, in a permaculture system visited by you.
  • Explain the relevance of appropriate technology to permaculture design.
  • Compare three different waste disposal techniques which may be used for kitchen scraps in a permaculture system.
  • Compare three different waste disposal techniques which may be used for effluent in a permaculture system.
  • Evaluate the suitability of different building techniques in a permaculture system.
  • Explain the application of two different systems of alternative energy in a permaculture system.
  • Compare differences in the impact on a permaculture system, of three alternative technologies designed for the same purpose (e.g. three alternative sources of electricity).
  • Evaluate the use of technology in a house chosen by you.
  • Determine more "appropriate" technologies to replace currently used technologies, in a house evaluated by you.
  • Illustrate on a plan, twenty different components of a design, including: *Plants *Buildings *Landscape features.
  • Transpose a simple permaculture plan to a different scale.
  • Represent an existing site, drawn to scale, on a plan.
  • Describe the stages involved in the process of producing a permaculture design.
  • Prepare a concept plan for a permaculture system surveyed by you, which is between five hundred and one thousand square metres in area.
  • Prepare a detailed design for a permaculture system of between five hundred and one thousand square metres in size, including: *Scale drawings *Materials specifications *Lists of plant and animal varieties.


Subsistence (self-sufficient) farming was common until the technological revolution arrived. Developments in machinery and chemicals allowed us to clear and cultivate land faster, feed plants and animals quicker (and grow them faster) and kill pests or diseases quickly. These newfound abilities seemed like a godsend to mankind and throughout the 20th century we used them to their fullest, generally with little regard to any unforeseen repercussions. We now have a world where the environment is in decline and there often seems to be too few resources to fulfill the needs of everyone.

Learn to Design a Productive Landscape that Fits with Zones and Sectors

These are the principle design methods developed by permaculturalists for using the information gathered from observations and site-specific system analysis to design sustainable and highly productive landscapes.

Sectors: Are related to the movement of the wind, sun and water (or what are referred to as the “wild energies”). These energies are generated outside of the system. They also pass through the system. Sectors outline the compass directions from which we can expect these energy flows.

A sector analysis involves identifying the type and direction of external factors or wild energies, such as wind, rain, the movement of the sun, and bush fires, that affect your entire property. These can be taken into account in your design in order to minimise or maximise their impact. For example, planting fire retardant plant species to reduce the impact of fires on your land or siting greenhouses or garden beds to capture sunlight. We use sector analysis to plan the regulation of these energies to our advantage, by placing our zones in a beneficial manner.

Zones: Refers to the method used for dividing up the space and placing the various enterprises on the site to minimise inputs and achieve resource recycling, high yields and low maintenance. The placement of components (plants, animals and structures) in the zones depends on their yields, functions and maintenance requirements. The idea is to place components so that space, available nutrients and energies are used efficiently.

In an ideal situation the zones are visualised as a series of concentric circles. The most visited zones are the innermost zones. These zones are those that require the most input in terms of time and energy, so they are located closest to the home or farm for ease of management. Examples of different zones are:

    These zones are conceptualised. Every site is different and the zones are designated according to your needs and the land’s natural characteristics. For example, you would not remove indigenous forest to make way for an exotic orchard. The natural bushland must be incorporated into wildlife corridors. The idea is to develop the nearest area (zone) first and expand outward to the perimeter.

    For any selected component to be “well placed” in a system, both the zone and sector energies must be optimal. For example, a pine tree might be placed in zone 4, as it is visited irregularly, but would be placed in the sector away from fire danger and towards a cold wind, as it burns readily but functionally it has good wind break capacity. The nuts from the tree provide good forage for animals in the system and may provide them shelter. Firewood may also be gathered. Hence, a correctly placed tree will serve several different functions in the system.

    Site design needs to take into account not just the shape and structure of a site but also the effects of the environment on its intended inhabitants. Permaculture is subject to the values of energy conservation, self-reliance and harmonious human occupancy, all coupled with consideration of long-term biosocial factors.


    This course will give you the foundation to apply permaculture principles to the way you live and work; whether that be on your own property (no matter how small or large); or in a professional capacity.

    Some graduates utilize what they learn to become more self sufficient with their needs for food, energy or anything else. Others use it to supplement skills they already have, working in farming, horticulture or some other area of land management.

    Many who have completed the PDC (which is incorporated into this course), have gone on to start a part time (and sometimes full time) business as a permaculture consultant, designer or even teacher.

    This course is a great starting point. Your learning does not stop here though. Beyond this course, some will continue to grow their knowledge formally (through further study); while others pursue further learning informally.


    Member of the Future Farmers Network

    Member of the International Herb Association since 1988

    UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

    Alternative Technology Association Member

    Accredited ACS Global Partner

    Member of the Permaculture Association

    Member of Study Gold Coast

    Recognised since 1999 by IARC

    Course Contributors

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

    Maggi Brown

    Maggi is the classic UK "plantswoman". She can identify thousands of plants, and maintains her own homes and gardens in the Cotswolds (England), and near Beziers (in Southern France). Maggi is regarded as a leading organics expert across the UK, having w

    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

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