Permaculture Systems

An intensive foundation course in permaculture. Learn from highly experienced tutors about the different growing methods which underpin permaculture, natural systems which constitute ecology & zonal planning in permaculture systems.

Course CodeBHT201
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours

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Learn How to Design and Plan Natural Gardens

  • A Comprehensive foundation to work with Permaculture - Covers the standard PDC and a Lot MORE
  • Teaching permaculture since 1993 -learn from our experience backed by resources gathered over decades
  • Uniquely supported by bonus texts (supplementary reading written and published by us to add to your resources)
  • We follow the often "old fashioned" idea that our students come first - if you have an issue, we have an international staff of around 40 academics who will act as fast as they can to help you resolve it.

A permaculture system is a unique landscape where all the plants and animals live in balance in a self sustaining ecosystem. Permaculture has an ethical approach to designing land use and community systems, to provide food, ecological habitats and other essentials needed for human survival. Learning to develop plans for permaculture systems (ie. a unique landscape where plants and animals live in a balanced and self sustaining ecosystem) is a crucial part of the permaculture process.

Permaculture seeks to increase sustainability and biodiversity, lessen input, grow plants that have more than one use and that are actually used rather than just grown. Many plants will perform these functions. Plants that are grown as culinary herbs can have medicinal qualities, trees that bear nuts and fruit feed people and animals, provide windbreaks, animal shelters and alter microclimates. Some provide fodder for animals, fix nitrogen in the soil, provide mulch, are beneficial companions to other plants, improve the soil and attract insects. Others provide wood for fuel and timber for buildings and fences.

Towards permaculture expertise

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. 



“In this intensive and practical course you develop the fundamentals required to implement permaculture principles, and to produce a design for a large or small property.” - Adriana Fraser Cert.Hort., Cert.Child Care, Adv.Cert.App.Mgt., Cert 1V Assessment and Training, Adv.Dip.Hort., ACS Tutor.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Permaculture principles
    • Nature and scope
    • Principles of permaculture
    • Location
    • Functions
    • Elements
    • Elevation planning
    • Biological resources
    • Recycling energy
    • Diversity
    • Natural succession
    • Maximising edges
    • Other concepts and systems that have been incorperated into permaculture
    • Sustainability
    • Organics
    • No dig gardening (from Esther Deans)
    • No till planting
    • Crop rotation
    • Green manure cropping
    • Composting
    • Companion planting
    • Pest and disease prevention and management
  2. Design principles
    • Ecosystems
    • Abiotic components of an ecosystem
    • Biotic components of an ecosystem
    • Ecological concepts and terms
    • Biomass
    • Understanding climate
    • Microclimates
    • Degree days
    • Water in permaculture systems
    • Minimising water needs
    • Arid landscapes
    • Irrigation
    • Using swales
    • Reed beds for waste water treatment
    • Reed bed plant species
    • Hydrological cycle
    • Water - Direct fall onto land surface, intercepted fall, fall onto water bodies
    • Rainfall, Evapouration, Infiltration
    • Effective rainfall
    • Soil Environments - micro organisms, organic matter
    • Types of soil degradation
    • Types of erosion & control
    • Salinity and its control
    • Soil acidification and management of pH
    • Wildlife in a Permaculture system
    • Structure of a Permaculture system
    • Plants and their function in permaculture
    • Guilds and stacking
    • Successions
  3. Zone & sector planning
    • Scope and nature
    • Five standard zones
    • Sectors
    • Landscape profile
    • Site selection
    • Pre planning information; what is needed and how to find it
    • Procedure for concept design ; step by step
    • Recording site and locality details
  4. Permaculture techniques
    • Forsests and trees
    • Trees as energy transducers
    • Types of forests; fuel, food, forage, shelter, barrier, structural, conservation
    • Forest establishment
    • Designing fire or wind break
    • Fire resistant plants
    • Mandala gardens & their construction
    • Keyhole beds
    • Water bodies in a permaculture system
    • Water body design
    • Water containment options
    • Water plants (Three types)
    • Managing water bodies
  5. Animals in Permaculture
    • Location for animals
    • Functions for animals in a permaculture system
    • Bees, poultry, pigs, cattle
    • Grazing animals
    • Types of fencing (post and rail, hedge, wire, barbed wire, electric, banks and rises, gates
    • Animal water supply
    • Shelter for animals - trees, a valley, purpose built shelter
    • Birds
    • Earthworms
    • Aquaculture scope and nature
    • Aquaculture production systems (EP and IP)
    • Aquaculture species
    • Aquaculture management
    • Harvesting fish
  6. Plants in Permaculture
    • Scope and nature of plants for use in permaculture
    • Growing vegetables organically
    • Physical characteristics of a soil
    • How to test and name a soil
    • Chemical characteristics of a soil
    • Soil nutrition
    • Fertilisers
    • Animal manures
    • Liquid plant feeds
    • Rock dusts
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Mycorrhyzae
    • Identifying plant nutrient deficiencies
    • Using mulches
    • Types of mulch
    • Weed management
    • Preventative weed control
    • Other methods of weed control
    • Culture of selected permaculture plants - asparagus, black locust, cassava, chicory, danelion, endive, fennel, garlic, ginger, horseradish, leek, mint, okra, pigface, rhubarb, sweet potato, tarowarrigul greens, water cress, water spinic, yams
    • Culture of selected fruits - apple, apricot, cherry, citrus, fig, loquat, nasi pear, olive, peach, pear, plum, quince
    • Culture of selected tropical fruits - avocado, banana, carambola, coconut, custard apple, guava, mango, paw paw, pepino, pieapple
    • Culture of selected vines - grape, passionfruit, kiwifruit
    • Culture of selected berries
    • Culture of selected nuts
    • Culture of rarer nuts
    • Crop plants which grow in shade
    • Fodder plants
    • Plant pest and disease management for permaculture
    • Plants with insecticidal properties
  7. Appropriate Technologies
    • Scope and nature of appropriate technology
    • Solar energy
    • Wind energy
    • Methane
    • Biofuel power
    • Composting toilets
    • Energy efficient housing
    • Living fences (hedges, hedgerows etc)
    • Water recycling
    • Domestic needs - climate control, space heating, washing and drying clothes, cooking and cook stoves, refrigeration and cooling, hot water supplies, water conservation, electricity and lighting
    • Alternative energy and management
    • Waste disposal: kitchen waste, non composting waste, recycling
    • Biological filtration system
    • Conservation and recycling
    • Types of waste water (liquid waste, grey water, black water)
    • Energy conservation
    • Solar energy
    • Solar greenhouses
  8. Preparing a Plan
    • Scope, nature and methods
    • Designing for natural disasters
    • Drawing a plan
    • Developing the final design

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.

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, and 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, and Arid Environments.
  • Evaluate different Permaculture designs against the nine Permaculture principles.
  • Distinguish between different garden zones in a Permaculture system.
  • Explain sector planning in a specific garden design.
  • Design a mandala garden for a specific site.
  • Determine the appropriate use of swales on a sloping site.
  • Investigate distinctly different Permaculture systems.
  • Explain three different cultural techniques used to minimise the maintenance requirement, in Permaculture systems you study.
  • Determine different animal breeds, 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 different types of animals in a Permaculture system.
  • 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 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, and 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 (your choose the house).
  • Determine more "appropriate" technologies to replace currently used technologies, in a house you evaluate.
  • Illustrate on a plan, twenty different components of a design, including: plants, buildings, and 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.

This course overlaps with our Permaculture I - IV courses.
 If you do this, do not do Permaculture I, II, III or IV as well (Permaculture Systems contains parts from the others). This course has been designed to satisfy the Permaculture Design Certificate curriculum..

Flexible Study
Choose how you study, where you study, what you study, how much you study, and when you study.
  • Work at your own pace –you choose the intensity of study
  • Start, pause or restart according to changing demands of work, family or lifestyle.
  • Mix and match modules so you only study what you want or need to learn -We allow you to construct your own “tailor made” certificates
  • Options in assignments allow you to focus on things with greater interest to you.
  • Study electronically (online or using a CD); or using printed notes.
  • Use (or don’t use) supplementary services for extra learning want –unlimited access to tutors,  an online student room, social media, bookstore, etc
  • Orientation video and student Manual at the start of your course will provide a clear guide to how you can study and get all sorts of support no matter where you live.
Why Distance Education is Better
Classroom based education today is in crisis. Funding is under pressure, teachers are often stressed and increasingly, text books that were the back bone of courses in the past are becoming unavailable as electronic publishing impacts on the print media industry.

These pressures (and others) have resulted in the quality of classroom education diminishing. At the same time, technological advances have been allowing distance education to get better and better every year.

ACS started in 1979, and by 1982 was using computer technology to write and print courses. We have developed our school alongside a global technological revolution; adopting and applying new technologies to distance education as those technologies have emerged. Our experience has taught us how to deliver education in the most effective way, using modern technology; and allowed us to build a reputation that sets our graduates apart in the global marketplace.

  • Too many courses today are stuck in the past; giving graduates qualifications (often accredited), but leaving them with out of date skills and often unemployed.
  • Too many students commence courses with their sights on a job that exists when they start studying, but not recognising the fact that industries are changing so fast that by the time they finish their studies, their job prospects may be completely different (The job they started out chasing might not even exist by the time they finish studying). 
Fantastic Opportunities
This fast changing world of ours can be unsettling for some. We all prefer to set our sights on a long term goal, and achieve it. The reality is that the ability to live in this way is diminishing every year that passes.

You have two choices in your education –

  • One is to ignore the changes under way in our world and hope that studying something that has worked in the past, will work for you in the future.
  • The other is to recognise that that there will be unforeseen opportunities in the future, and then prepare yourself as best you can to capitalise on those opportunities.

Graduate Outcomes

  • Being prepared to capitalise on future opportunities in your field of study.
  • Awareness of the subject and the industry
  • Understanding of how to use what is learnt in real life situations
  • Ability to communicate with greater confidence and accuracy
  • Capacity to solve problems related to this subject

This course is likely to be of value to people who have a keen interest in permaculture. It will also appeal to anyone with a general interest in natural growing systems. People who take this course are most likely those working in or aspiring to work in:

Permaculture design
Natural garden design
Garden design
Nature & wildlife

The course will also be of value to people wishing to start a permaculture design business.


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Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture
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.,