What is a permaculture system?

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 others 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.

Permaculture Magazine (UK) Information Site & Earth Repair Catalogue




This course introduces the basic concepts of Permaculture, and develops a basis for permaculture design by explaining the patterns which occur in nature, such as weather systems, water cycles, topography, soil-plant interactions and forest ecology, and how a knowledge of these patterns can be used to reproduce balanced and productive garden growing systems. This course comprises five lessons as follows:
1. Concepts: Permaculture philosophy, natural systems and key practices (eg. no dig gardening, biological control, plant naming, seed (sources, hybridisation, storage, etc).
2. The Environment: Ecology, ecosystems and permaculture design concepts.
3. Soils: structure, nutrition, erosion, natural fertilizers, soil plant relationships.
4. Climate & Water: Climatic factors, estimating plant water requirements, water quality, improving drainage, site planning.
5. Forest Systems: Plant associations, mycorrhiza, tree interactions (with wind, light, rain, etc), forest types in permaculture, creating a rainforest.

Fee Code: S1
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This course is a natural progression from Permaculture 1, but can taken separately in it's own right. It concentrates on the plants in a permaculture system, how they relate to each other and to the surrounding environment; and selection and placement of different varieties within a permaculture design. This course deals with preparing plans for different types of permaculture gardens, and it's duration is approximately 100 hours. There are ten lessons:
1. Permaculture Gardens: Comparing different garden systems (eg. Mandala garden, forests, water, spirals).
2. Design -planning techniques and skills.
3. Garden Zones
4. Designing for natural pest, disease and weed control.
5. Companion Planting
6. Appropriate Technology in Permaculture Design
7. Water Gardens
8. Fruit Gardens
9. Herb Gardens
10.Mandala Gardens

Fee Code: S2
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As with Permaculture II, this course is a natural progression from the earlier Permaculture units, but can also be taken separately in it's own right. It concentrates on the animals in a permaculture system, how they relate to each other, how they relate to surrounding environments, and selection and management of different types of animals in a permaculture design.
There are six lessons taking about 60 hours to complete, as follows:
1. Integrating Animals into a Garden
2. Role of Insects and Other Animals
3. Animal Husbandry: Poultry & Bees
4. Animal Husbandry: Pigs, Goats, Cattle, etc.
5. Aquaculture Production Systems
6. Aquaculture: Trout, Barramundi, Crayfish, etc.

Fee Code: S1
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Learn to design and manage a comprehensive permaculture system. There are ten lessons taking about 100 hours to complete, as follows:
1. Overview of Permaculture: Advantages of permaculture, review of different systems.
2. Buildings & Permaculture: The alternatives (e.g. houses, sheds, greenhouses).
3. Buildings and Permaculture : Integration into the environment.
4. Waste Disposal -Effluent systems, animal waste, manure, weeds, etc.
5. Recycling -Timber, prunings, mulching, composting, etc.
6. Designing for natural disasters -Fire, storms, floods, etc.
7. Natural Watering -Swales, windmills, etc.
8. Indigenous plants and animals -Problems, advantages, wildlife, conservation, etc.
9. Preparing management & development plans.
10.Major design project -production of a full scale permaculture design.

Fee Code: S3
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This course develops your ability to prepare plans for permaculture systems.
Areas of study include:
concepts of natural systems
permaculture techniques
animal management in permaculture
plant selection & culture
appropriate technology applications
drawing plans.
Several plans will be prepared by the student, including one major design.
This is an ideal starting point for anyone who already has professional
training in a related field such as agriculture or horticulture.

Fee Code: S3
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For people with prior experience in permaculture; this course develops further skills. It covers:
Analysing different systems
Other sustainable systems (eg. Biodynamics, Organic farming, Integrated Pest Management, etc)
Determining appropriate planning strategies for a site.
Natural patterns (eg. seasons)
Borders -transition zones
Sustainable water management
Determining earthworks
Designing for different climates
Comprehensive planning including preparing costings
PREREQUISITE: Another permaculture course (eg. Permaculture Systems, or the Permaculture Institute Certificate)

Fee Code: S3
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This course provides training for people working or wishing to work in horticulture with a particular emphasis on the design, development and management of productive natural garden systems. Graduates may find employment in either general horticulture, or in areas servicing permaculture or natural gardening (eg. Garden/system design, plant nurseries, teaching, consulting, etc). Half of the course is identical to the Permaculture courses outlined previously, and the other half provides a broad, general foundation in horticultural practices.

This course has been compiled with permission from the Permaculture Institute and graduates of
permaculture courses from that institute will be given credits towards this course.
Full credit will be given for any applicants registered as Permaculture Design Course
Graduates (ie. exemption from the equivalent of 72 hrs of study).
Upon completeing the course the Tutor (who is a Permaculture Institiute Graduate) will award you with a Permaculture Design Certificate in addition to anything awarded by ACS. 

The course is divided into two main areas, consisting of:

1/ The CORE UNITS common to all streams of the Certificate in Horticulture:
(ie. Introduction to plants, Plant Culture, Soils & nutrition, Pests, diseases and weeds and Introductory propagation). These studies provide you with an important broad based understanding of horticulture which greatly improves your ability to design effective permaculture systems.
These studies also broaden the employment prospects of graduates enabling them to seek employment in areas such as nurseries, landscaping and garden management.

This comprises the units Permaculture I, II, III & IV as outlined earlier.

Fee Code: CT plus exam fees
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P.O. Box 1, Tyalgum, NSW, 2484. PH. (066) 793 442
The institute is a parent body to permaculture world wide. It's certificate is the basic qualification for people to practice as a permaculture designer, or to teach permaculture, within permaculture communities across the globe.

For mail order permaculture & organic supplies (sprays, tools, seeds etc). Catalogues available from 52 Crystal Waters, MS 16, Maleny, Qld, 4552.13.


Become more self sufficient.
Reduce your dependence on money and processed products.
Move towards a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle.


Ten lessons develop your understanding of self sufficiency, food and nutrition, and making the right decisions about changes in lifestyle; as well as showing you how to do a whole range of practical things such as mud brick building, making crafts, growing fruit, vegetables, herbs, and other crops; raising poultry, sheep & goats, extending the life of clothing, conserving energy, recycling, simple home medical care and first aid, and lots more.
1. Understanding the possibilities
2. Health, Nutrition and Clothing
3. Horticulture - Fruit and Vegetables
4. Horticulture - Herbs
5. Animal Husbandry - Poultry and Bees
6. Animal Husbandry - Grazing Animals & Pigs
7. Building - Earth & Mud Buildings
8. Appropriate Technology/Alternative energy
9. Craft & Country Skills
10. Making Decisions - Small Scale Production, How To Make Decisions.

Fee Code: S2

-Craft and Self Sufficiency for Down to Earth People. Available from Newsagencies: Look for articles by staff of this school in Grass Roots.


Learn to be self sufficient with your food. You learn about nutrition and how to balance your diet, as well as how to produce, process, store and use all types of food; including berries, nuts, milk, cheese, eggs, bread making, preserves, & dried foods. Cookery, freezing, drying, bottling, making bread, planning a vegetable garden to give produce all year round; and lots more are covered over 10 lessons.

Fee Code: S2


If you've thought of building a mud brick building, this course can be an excellent starting point. It's very practical, with some hands on work to get you started; helping you begin experimenting and planning ongoing projects, whether they are a modest garden wall, or more complex buildings. Learn to test soil suitability for mud building, how to make a quality brick & how to test its strength. The course takes you step by step through the building process, showing how to plan a building, sorting through permits and other legalities, doing the site works & foundations, different construction techniques,laying bricks, frames & roofs, installing services, wall finishes and more.

Fee Code: S1


Learn to become less reliant on the electricity and gas companies and save money through alternative energy sources. There are eight lessons:
1. Problems & Energy Sources 2. Understanding Energy
3. Generating Electricity 4. Electricity Storage and Use
5. Non Electric Systems 6. Energy Consumption
7. Energy Conservation 8. Converting to New Systems
Duration: 100 hours
Fee Code: S1

Other courses often studied by those interested in self sufficiency include Herbs, Permaculture, Aquaculture, Healthy Buildings, Home Vegetables and Fruit Growing.



In its strictest sense, Permaculture is a system of agriculture based on perennial, or self-perpetuating, plant and animal species which are useful to man. In a broader context, permaculture is a philosophy which encompasses the establishment of environments which are highly productive and stable, and which provide food, shelter, energy etc., as well as supportive social and economic infrastructures. 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 permaculture landscape, whether on a suburban block or a large farm, is based on these elements.

This is a concept practiced widely in both permaculture, and sustainable farming more broadly. We can make better use of limited water resources by first understanding the way rainwater runs across a slope, and then reshaping the land to control the water flow; both where it goes and the speed of flow. Yes, speed does matter, when water flows fast over a hard soil, it doesn't soak in, but when it flows slower, it will soak in further.

These considerations are the foundation for sustainable farming practices which go under different names in different places.

SWALES - This is an old concept practiced in many parts of the world, promoted strongly by permaculture practitioners. It involves contouring of the land.

KEYLINE Design - This is a concept developed by the Yeomans family (in Australia) incorporating the natural contours of the land in order to plan the positioning of dams, tree lines and irrigation layout.

Designing a keyline system for any property requires good initial planning. A contour map is essential in order to best understand the rise and fall, and flow of the land. The leading proponents of keyline design recommend the use of orthophoto maps (aerial photomaps which are available from keyline consultants) because of their increased contour detail.

Planning should, if possible, be undertaken before the land is acquired as this will enable the viability to be assessed before substantial investment has been made. All land can be improved through the use of keyline design although obviously some parcels of land will be better suited for productivity purposes.

Three fundamental concepts that must be understood are keypoints, keylines and keyline cultivation patterns.

Keypoint- This refers to a position located along the centreline at the base of the steepest part of a primary valley.

Keyline- This is a line that runs through the keypoint and extends to where the contours of the valley start to become the sides of the ridge.

Keyline cultivation patterns- The basic rules of thumb is that cultivation on ridges (above the keylines) should be parallel to and above the contour lines. Cultivation below the keylines should also be parallel, but below the contour lines. This means that water runoff above the keylines is directed towards the more gradual slopes for slower dispersal into the soil, and below the keylines it will be directed towards the greater slope for quicker dispersal, and hence will not result in swampy and therefore possible saline conditions.

The use of keyline cultivation is extremely beneficial for effective flood irrigation practices. It allows for inexpensive flood irrigation of undulating land as well as fast flood irrigation of flat areas.

This is a crucial point because generally with flood irrigation, the water tends to lie for greater periods in flats while the water is being coaxed to cover the entire area. This means that important aerobic microbial organisms are deprived of oxygen in these lower areas, also contributing to the poor quality of the land in low areas.

(An extract from the book "Sustainable Farming" by John Mason, published by Kangaroo Press, 1997)