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Duration (approx) 1000 hours
Qualification Foundation Diploma

Extensive studies in Permaculture and Permaculture Systems - gain detailed knowledge for professional and career development.

  • Learn about balanced, sustaining and productive garden growing systems.
  • Learn about the fundamentals and principles of permaculture and sustainability.
  • Develop your knowledge to plan, design and manage permaculture systems.
  • Suitable for commercial growers and landscapers, as well as the serious home gardener.
  • Successful graduates of this course will be awarded a Permaculture Design Certificate.
  • The course can be started at any time.
  • Study with the support and guidance of our specialist tutors.

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Develop detailed knowledge of Permaculture and Permaculture Systems.

  • Study the fundamentals and principles of permaculture and sustainability.
  • Understand the interaction of different natural and environmental elements.
  • Study climate, water, soils and much more to understand how to apply this to permaculture.
  • Understand approaches to waste management and recycling (of energy, water etc.)
  • Understand the impact and integration of plants and animals into a permaculture system.
  • Learn about permaculture design principles and planning and managing a balanced system.
  • Suitable for commercial growers and landscapers, as well as the serious home gardener.
  • Successful graduates of this course will be awarded a Permaculture Design Certificate.
  • The course can be started at any time.
  • Study with the support and guidance of our specialist tutors.


Complete seven 100-hour Core Modules, and three 100-hour Elective Module.

The Core Modules are: Permaculture I (Permaculture Foundations) , Permaculture II , Permaculture III , Permaculture IV , Self Sufficiency I , Self Sufficiency II , Organic Agriculture and Farming .

The Elective Module choices are: Alternative Energy , Aquaculture , Aquaponic Farming, Permaculture Systems , Advanced Permaculture


Summaries and lesson listings for the Core Modules are below. Follow the links in the module titles to access further information for each.

Introduction To Permaculture (Permaculture I) VSS104 
This 5 lesson module provides a detailed introduction to Permaculture.  It explains the patterns which occur in nature, such as weather systems, water cycles, topography, soil-plant interactions and forest ecology, and aims to develop the student’s understanding of how a knowledge of these patterns can be used to reproduce balanced, self sustaining and productive garden growing systems.

The 5 lessons are:

  1. Concepts
  2. The Environment
  3. Soils
  4. Climate and Water
  5. Forest Systems

Plants And Permaculture (Permaculture II) VSS105 
This 10 lesson module is concerned with the use of plants in permaculture landscapes. Students will look at different garden systems and consider the differences in climate and soils that will determine the appropriate make up for these. The aim is to understand the way that plants are selected and arranged in order to create a naturally self-sustaining ecosystem, developing a familiarity with some of the plants that may be used. The module includes lessons on specific types of garden – water gardens, fruit gardens, herb and vegetable gardens, and mandala gardens.

The 10 lessons are:

  1. Permaculture Gardens - Different Garden Systems
  2. Design - Planning techniques and skills
  3. Garden Zones
  4. Design for Natural Pest, Disease and Weed Control
  5. Companion Planting
  6. Appropriate Technology in Permaculture Design
  7. Water Garden
  8. Fruit Garden
  9. Herb and Vegetable Garden
  10. Mandala Garden

Animals In Permaculture Systems (Permaculture III) VSS106
Animals are an important component of any permaculture system. They impact upon the stability of the landscape just as much as the plants. They and can provide things to harvest and use, just as much as the plants. This 8 lesson module looks at the impact and maintenance of animals in the permaculture system. 

The 8 lessons are:

  1. Integrating Animals Into A Permaculture System/Garden
  2. Role Of Insects And Other Small Animals
  3. Poultry
  4. Bees
  5. Grazing Animals
  6. Managing Larger Animals in Permaculture
  7. Aquaculture Production Systems
  8. Aquaculture Species to Grow

Permaculture Design And Management (Permaculture IV) VSS107 
This is a 10 lesson module follows on from the Permaculture I, II, and III modules, and brings together the different aspects of permaculture to focus on the design and management of a permaculture system.  The module looks at the roles of buildings in permaculture systems and the building materials which can be used for these, and how they may be integrated into their environment.  Lessons in the module look at aspects such as waste disposal and recycling, using natural watering and irrigation methods, and considering indigenous plant and animal life. Student’s will learn about the aspects of designing and managing a garden, follow which they will complete their studies in the module by undertaking a major design project.

The 10 lessons are:

  1. Overview of Permaculture
  2. Buildings and Permaculture: The Alternatives
  3. Buildings and Permaculture: Integration into the Environment
  4. Waste Disposal
  5. Recycling
  6. Designing for Natural Disasters
  7. Natural Watering
  8. Indigenous Plants and Animals
  9. Preparing Management and Development Plans
  10. Major Design Project

Self Sufficiency I ASS100 
A 10 lesson module looking at the possibilities in self-sufficiency, health, nutrition, clothing, fruits and vegetable growing, growing herbs, poultry and bees, keeping grazing animals and pigs, earth and mud building, alternative energy, craft and country skills and making decisions in self-sufficiency.

The 10 lessons are:

  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.

Self Sufficiency II ASS101 
Self-sufficiency II has 10 lessons looking at diet and nutrition, how to be a vegetarian, living a well-balanced life, establishing a kitchen garden, biodynamic growing, no dig growing, vegetables, fruit, establishing an orchard, cutting propagation, bottling, jam and jelly making, freezing and drying, harvesting and preserving, producing milk and eggs, poultry, herb growing, storage and harvest, egg and cheese cookery, grain types, and using grains.

The 10 lessons are:

  1. Diet and Nutrition
  2. Establishing a Kitchen Garden
  3. Vegetables
  4. Fruit
  5. Bottling
  6. Freezing and Drying
  7. Producing Milk and Eggs
  8. Growing and Cooking with Herbs
  9. Egg and Cheese Cookery
  10. Grain


Organic Farming BAG305 
Organic Farming looks at a sustainable approach to animal or crop production, adopting processes free from artificial chemicals, and seeking to preserve a natural and healthy environment. A very significant part of organic farming is to create fertile, well- structured soils that support both plant and soil animal life. Organic matter is recycled through the system to provide nutrients for plants and to improve and maintain the condition of the soil. Through 10 lessons, students will gain knowledge of the principles and process involved, understanding key areas such as integrated farm management systems, how to convert to organic farming, and the requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to attain organic certification for produce. 

The 10 lessons are:

  1. Introduction to Organic Farming
  2. Integrated Farm Management Systems
  3. Organic Management Issues
  4. Organic Soil Management and Crop Nutrition
  5. Weed Management
  6. Pest and Disease Management
  7. Livestock Management I
  8. Livestock Management II
  9. Pasture
  10. Crops


Three of the following need to be chosen as electives.

The Elective Modules are summarised, below. Follow the links in the module titles for further information on each.

Alternative Energy VSS102 
This 8 lesson module looks at different methods of generating, storing and using electricity, from hydro and solar to wind generators. The focus of alternative energy is very much on exploiting sustainable and environmentally sound energy production. The module considers our reliance on fossil fuels, as well as the problems with these as energy sources, as well as other greener sources of energy (such a hydro-electric, solar, and wind). Students will learn about energy, about how electricity is generated, and how it is stored. Practical aspects of the module include evaluating a building in order to identify ways that energy consumption can be minimised and planning the conversion of a property to lower and more sustainable forms of energy consumption. 

Aquaculture BAG211 
This 10 lesson module is concerned with the culture and care of freshwater animals for farming. It includes lessons on production systems, feeding, harvesting, and how to set up a freshwater aquaculture venture. Upon completion of the module, students will be conversant with different production systems used in aquaculture, and understand the different methods and approaches to managing a freshwater animal population.

Aquaponics BHT319 
With this 10 lesson module, Aquaponics students will study this intensive form of farming where the two main elements - fish and plants - support each other. Crucial to understanding aquaponics, is the development of the student’s knowledge of plant and animal nutrition and growth. The module covers the essential hardware elements and by the end of the module, students will be conversant with the different options available and will be knowledgeable in the identification and rectification of problems. 

Biophilic Landscaping  BHT343

This course focuses on how to design "people friendly" landscapes. There are eight lessons:

  1. Relationship between Outdoor Environments and Human Well-being
  2. Design Considerations
  3. Patterns and Principles in Urban Design
  4. Components of the Landscape
  5. Providing Services to People
  6. Affecting the Individual
  7. Affecting Environmental and Climate Conditions
  8. Assessing and Analysing Existing Landscapes

Permaculture Systems BHT201 
A permaculture system is a unique landscape where all the plants and animals live in a balanced and self-sustaining ecosystem. This course overlaps and reinforces studies from Permaculture I, II, and III.

Through 8 lessons, students will learn about the principles of permaculture. Understanding natural systems and the elements of a permaculture system – animals, plants, environment – will enable students to develop plans for permaculture systems. Included within the module is a lesson on relevant technologies, including solar and wind energy, bio fuels, water recycling, and more.

The 8 lessons are:

  1. Permaculture Systems
  2. Natural Systems
  3. Zone and Sector Planning
  4. Permaculture Techniques
  5. Animals in Permaculture
  6. Plants in Permaculture
  7. Appropriate Technologies
  8. Preparing a Plan

Advanced Permaculture BHT301 
This 10 lesson module follows on from Permaculture Systems (BHT201). It focusses on designs of permaculture systems, the strategies for planning and managing a permaculture system. Students will look at the approaches to design, taking into account the local environment. They will look at the use of survey equipment, the drawing of plans, and the costing of planned work based upon their plans.

The 10 lessons are:

  1. Evaluating Design Strategies
  2. Understanding Patterns
  3. Water
  4. Earthworks
  5. Humid Tropics
  6. Dry Climates
  7. Temperate to Cold Climates
  8. Planning Work
  9. Costing
  10. Sustainable Systems

This course overlaps and reinforces studies from Permaculture I, II, and III.


Other electives may be acceptable - If you want more choices, you may discuss the possibilities that exist at that time you need them - after completing the core modules.



Requires an understanding of how Nature Works

Consider Mulch ....

There are lots of conflicting factors to understand: 

Mulch insulates keeping root zone cooler in summer and warmer in winter, coarse mulch absorbs water better, but fine mulch like sawdust can repel water if bone dry, but if a little moist it absorbs and soaks up water, mulch can smother weeds if thick enough, but certain weeds will grow through even thick mulch; mulch can increase or reduce reflection of light - but that may depend on what type of mulch; stone mulches are a better heat bank than organic mulch; but as organic mulches decompose, heat is generated by the decomposition process. If decomposition is fast, more heat is generated, but nitrogen is temporarily absorbed by decomposing bacteria, which can leave plants nitrogen deficient. Eventually decomposition of mulch increases nutrients into soil.

Light weight mulches may blow or wash away; but some mulches are less likely to move. Mulch can also be used to minimise erosion.  Some mulches compact, others don't (eg. wood shavings might be laid down 30cm thick but after a month or so be 20cm thick).

Some mulches attract pests (eg. sugar cane attracts ants, woods may attract termites) others may inhibit pests - snakes & snails might avoid crawling on wood shavings)

Most people misuse mulch, commonly by:

  • Not getting the thickness right
  • Not topping it up often enough
  • Putting plastic under it

Type of mulch, thickness & other aspects depend upon climate, microclimate

30cm thickness is commonly about right in most situations and climates.




You can start the course at any time.

It is studied by distance learning, so you can study in the comfort of your own home. But this doesn't mean you are all alone in your studies.  Our highly qualified and friendly tutors are there to help you every step of the way.  If you have any questions at all, they are always happy to help.

Each lesson includes set tasks, and is completed with an assignment which the student submits to their course tutor.  The tutor will mark the assignment and return this to the student with comments and suggestions for further reading.


The Foundation Diploma In Permaculture requires approximately 1000 hours of study. It is made up of ten 100-hour modules.

To pass the course –

  1. Pass all assignments on the ten 100-hour modules. There will be an assignment at the end of each lesson to submit to your tutor for marking and feedback.
  2. Pass ten examinations – one on each module. These are usually taken at the end of the module and can be arranged at a time and location to suit you.


At ACS we provide you with more than just a set of course notes.

Your 'learning package' includes:

  • Course notes.
  • Self-assessment quizzes.
  • Assignment feedback.
  • You can interact one on one with a professional tutor with decades of experience - just email, phone or log on to chat to connect with them.
  • Depending upon your course, your studies may involve independent research, interviews, practical exercises, assessments, Problem Based Learning projects, and more.


"[The course was] inspirational, motivational and to add to my knowledge in general Horticulture so can add this to my CV for potential jobs and also improve work for my self-employment as a professional gardener/consultant."
Yoke, Permaculture Systems Course


You can enrol on our courses today - simply go to the "It's easy to enrol ..." box at the top right-hand side of this page, select your payment plan and your learning method.

Or contact us -

Please get in touch with our specialist Permaculture tutors today; they will be happy to discuss your study aims and answer any of your questions about our courses.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Towergate Insurance welcomes Professional Liability insurance applications from ACS graduates across all disciplines. Click here for more details.

Meet some of our academics

Bob James (Environmental)Bob has a unique set of qualifications and experience having worked in applied biological and environmental sciences for more than 50 years. He holds a string of tertiary qualifications in animal, plant and environmental sciences; including a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked as a tutor with ACS since 1995. Bob has worked as a teacher, research scientist and consultant for both government and private enterprise undertaking jobs ranging from environmental surveys to waste disposal.
Marie Beerman B.Sc.,M.Hort.Marie has been involved in horticulture since 2003. She completed a Masters degree in Horticulture at Hannover University in Germany in 2007, and has worked with ACS since 2011 She has co-authored of several ebooks including one on Roses and has a very sound knowledge and experience with horticultural science and research ranging from plant taxonomy and plant breeding to pest, disease and soil management.,
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Adriana Fraser (general)Writer, teacher, consultant, horticulturist and sustainable living expert for over 30 years. ACS tutor since the mid 90's, Adriana has written regularly for a range of publications (including Australia's national Grass Roots Magazine) since the early 1980's and continues to be actively involved as a contributor to Home Grown magazine and other publications. Adriana has a Cert.Child Care., Adv.Cert.App.Mgt., Cert in Assessment and Training., Cert.Hort., Adv.Dip.Hort.

Check out our eBooks

Aquaponics eBookThe Aquaponics ebook will give you a great understanding of how to start your own aquaponics production. This 65 page ebook provides you with enough information to start your own home production and even manage issues as they arise. This is a great way to become more self-sufficient and produce a sustainable food source for your own household. Aquaponic farming allows individual families to grow a much wider range of produce, in a much smaller space. They can provide the protein needed for their diet (from fish), as well as the vegetables and fruit they need. Aquaponic systems can be as small as a few cubic meters; or as large as many acres. They are an ideal way of improving productivity on a hobby farm; can be used by restaurants to produce the freshest produce on site, or established inside buildings, in big cities, for urban farming.
Fish for Freshwater Aquaculture and AquaponicsChoosing the most suitable fish for any fish farm or aquaponics system is a very important decision. Some fish species are easier to grow, some are more profitable to grow, and some suit a particular approach to fish culture better than others. Whether operating on a large or small scale; making the right choice of fish type can be the most critical decision, and this is the book to help you make that decision. Suitable for amateurs and professionals, a great overview for students or anyone new to aquaculture; inspiring and revealing for farmers who are thinking of stocking a dam, through to home owners considering re-purposing a swimming pool.
Bees, Beekeeping and HoneyBees play a vital role in pollination of crops, it’s important to improve diversity of bee populations and ensure there are enough of them to withstand any future threats. Learn about bees and how to keep them; learn about maintaining their health and the production and use of honey.
Organic GardeningFor decades farmers have relied upon chemicals to control pests and diseases in order to produce saleable crops. In the ornamental, vegetable and fruit gardens reliance on chemical controls has also been the mainstay for many gardeners.