Advanced Permaculture

Study advanced permaculture by distance education. Experienced tutors will take you to the next level in becoming a permaculture professional in sustainable living.

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

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 Take it to the next level with the Advanced Permaculture Design course - the ultimate guide to sustainable living

If you have some prior experience in permaculture, a PDC, or understand various aspects of permaculture this, in depth, academically advanced course will take you to the next level.

It covers sustainable systems, how to determine planning strategies for a site, seasonal patterns, water management, earthworks, considering different climates, and comprehensive planning including preparing costings.
This will give you a sound background in all aspects of developing, implementing and running, or advising others, on how to run a permaculture system.



This course takes you well beyond PDC foundation course. It's intended for:

Graduates of other Permaculture courses.

Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Horticulturists, Ecologists or other professionals who understand aspects of permaculture, but want to take their knowledge to the next level.

“Complete this course after Permaculture Systems and you are ready to create a design for a range of situations - as a consultant to others or for your own property.” - Adriana Fraser Cert.Hort., Cert.Child Care, Adv.Cert.App.Mgt., Cert 1V Assessment and Training, Adv.Dip.Hort., ACS Tutor.

Learn to plan and manage the detailed development of a permaculture system.



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 (eg. lakes, rivers)
    • Pumps and plumbing supplies
    • Water use: power generatyion, deisel generators
    • Fish culture: land and water, dams
    • Water plant cultureWater plants to know and grow
    • Seasonal changes in a pond
    • Sweage treatment: reed beds
    • Problems with water
    • Wating 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 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 fencin
    • 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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, using labelled illustrations, the use of different survey equipment.
  • 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, and 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, 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 fifty plant species suited for inclusion in a Permaculture system in each of the climates above.
  • Determine ten 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 five types of different 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 two different Permaculture systems, which you visit and investigate.
  • Explain three 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.


It is always worth taking the time to plan!
Key elements of Permaculture are low energy and high diversity of plants, animals and microclimates. You want to create hot and cold places, sheltered and open places, places in full sun and other spots that are shaded. This greater diversity of microclimates on a property (large or small), will create an increased capacity to grow different types of animals and plants. 
Design is required to place plants, structures and animals in relation to each other so that their functions and yields are enhanced. Permaculture design skills include observation, deduction, analysis, mapping, pattern reading and experience. 

Observations may be carried out on site with a particular theme in mind, for example, how water interacts with the site. Observations can also be made using instruments or equipment. These observations will involve careful recording of anything and everything which may be connected with the site: all the dynamic processes and interactions that occur. If you have a weed problem you might look at animal propagators or soil and water enrichment. Compile these observations into a list and start by crossing off the improbably or unlikely items. Follow up the remaining items on your list and test each of these.

You might examine the structure and process of a similar landscape to your own, or from nature, to find a design solution. If your land suffers from severe cold winds, you would find a similar site that experiences the same weather feature. This site may have windbreaks, either natural or designed. You may copy these with some modifications. 

Reading Patterns
This is about making connections between your observations and deductions. Patterns exist in time, place and relationships. For example you will be able to read the pattern of the movement of the sun throughout the day. Certain parts of your garden will be in shade at different times of the day. Mists may drifts in and out. Or the wind may pick-up at different times of the afternoon.

This is particularly useful for placing animals into the system. Before introducing one such animal you should list all it yields and needs. Yield might be eggs and meat, or scratching the ground and nibbling on weeds. The animal’s needs must also be considered so that it will require few human inputs.

The first map should be the base plan. This is the map of your land showing boundaries of the property, geographical features (dams, rivers), and man-made features (buildings, roads). The other plans (which can be drawn on overlays) are your site analysis, and your new design. Your site analysis plan is an inventory of your land and includes climate, microclimates, aspects, views, soils, limiting factors, etc. 


Improving A Property

Any property, small or large has the potential to be designed into a more productive and sustainable system, based upon permaculture principles.

This course will show you how to do that in more and better ways than you may have ever considered before.


Graduates who already work in permaculture, agriculture or horticulture will leave this course with increased knowledge and a greater awareness of ways in which 'permaculture concepts' can be applied to sustainable land management, in urban or rural areas, and in any type of climate.

These studies will stimulate you to think wider and deeper about permaculture, and will enhance your opportunities,  as a professional seeking to develop your career or business or as an amateur who wants to explore all aspects os a sustainable lifestyle.


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Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild
Bob James

Horticulturalist, Agriculturalist, Environmental consultant, Businessman and Professional Writer. Over 40 years in industry, Bob has held a wide variety of senior positions in both government and private enterprise. Bob has a Dip. Animal Husb, B.App.Sc.,
Martin Powdrill

25 years working in Telecommunications, IT, Organisational Development, and Energy Conservation & Efficiency, prior to setting up his own Permaculture consulting business. Martin has a Bsc (Hons) Applied Science (Resources Option), MSc Computer Studies, P