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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

An excellent foundation course, introducing you to the basic concepts of permaculture and developing a basis for permaculture design

The course explains 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.



ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (UK) and the Alternative Technology Association (Australia).

This course is mentioned on the UNCCD (United Nations convention to Combat Desertification) website.  The UNCCD’s aim is to encourage partnerships to reverse and prevent desertification and land degradation, mitigate the effects of drought and reduce poverty.  The Marketplace provides access to direct solutions for identified needs towards sustainable land management, bringing together different parties to make available their knowledge and skills.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

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A solid introduction to permaculture  - self sustaining ecology


  • Learn more about living in a greener, environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
  • Study the fundamentals in far greater depth than most permaculture courses.
  • Understand the biological systems; and how the different parts of nature interact, before moving on to learn to actually design full blown permaculture systems.
  • Course Duration: 100 hours of self-paced study.  Start at any time and study whenever and wherever you want to.
  • This course is mentioned on the UNCCD (United Nations convention to Combat Desertification) website.  The UNCCD’s aim is to encourage partnerships to reverse and prevent desertification and land degradation, mitigate the effects of drought and reduce poverty.  The Marketplace provides access to direct solutions for identified needs towards sustainable land management, bringing together different parties to make available their knowledge and skills.
If you have the time, this is a more thorough starting point for learning about permaculture. If you have limited time though, you are probably better to start with Permaculture Systems, and fast track your path to a PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate).

To develop the student’s understanding of how to plan and develop a self sustaining, environmentally stable productive garden based on the patterns which occur in nature.


Permaculture means Permanent Agriculture.  As the name reflects Permaculture is a philosophy and a practical approach to developing and designed sustainable human settlements.  Permaculture brings together many different disciplines such as biology, agriculture, plants, animals, humans, ecology, soils, microclimates together to form a unique and visionary approach to many of our current global issues.  Developed by Bill Mollison, permaculture is the way of the future and brings many timely answers to those searching for a better way to live.

There are 5 lessons in this course:

1. Concepts
The basic theory and ethics of Permaculture.

2. The Environment
Ecosystems, the web of life and interactions between living organisms.

3. Soils
Soil management, fertilisers, nitrogen, cultivation, gas and nutrient cycles.

4. Climate and Water
The hydrological cycle, infiltration, microclimates, the Greenhouse Effect, water and plants.

5. Forest Systems
Biomass, how natural systems relate to agricultural systems.

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



  • Discuss the nature and scope of Permaculture.
  • Apply an understanding of environmental systems to considerations given to how a Permaculture system is designed.
  • Describe soils and the impact their characteristics have upon natural and man made environments.
  • Explain the application of this knowledge to Permaculture.
  • Describe characteristics of climate and water, and the impact their characteristics have on natural and man made environments.
  • Explain the application of this knowledge to Permaculture.
  • Describe forest systems and their relevance to Permaculture design.


  • Develop a good understanding of the scientific system of naming plants.
  • Discuss some of the aspects which play a part in permaculture.
  • Describe how permaculture is different to other forms of horticulture and agriculture.
  • Visit an outdoor environment area determine what relationships the living and non‑living things might have with each other.
  • Explain how a permaculture system operates. Considering: Relative location; Multiple functions; Multiple elements; Elevational planning; Biological resources; Energy recycling; Natural succession; Maximise edges-Diversity.
  • Determine some of the characteristics of soil samples collected by you.
  • Explain contour maps and how this information can be used to estimate potential effects on plant growth.
  • Explain the relationship between soils and plant growth.
  • Research different ecosystems such as arid deserts, savannas, mangroves, etc.
  • Explain weather patterns in your local area. Determine why this knowledge may be important to the permaculture practitionist.
  • Explain water within an ecosystem or permaculture garden and its application.
  • Describing the microclimate of arid classification.
  • Describe the differences between the three main types of climate zones such as Tropical, Temperate and Desert and briefly give your views on what major differences would need to be taken in establishing a permaculture system in each climate zone, compared with the other two.
  • Consider the impact of plant communities on each other and to the rest of the ecosystem.
  • Determine the effects of light, rainfall, wind, leaf litter, etc, on the growth of the plants you observed.
  • Explain the importance of trees in a Permaculture system.


Applying Lessons from Nature
A big part of your permaculture education is to understand how plants and animals exist together. This involves learning about many different disciplines; from horticulture and agriculture to ecology, environmental science and climateology.

Areas of land which have been cleared and used by man, whether for farming, housing, or some other purpose, may through good permaculture design, be returned to a more natural condition (although it may be impossible to recreate the original ecosystem as it might have been if left undisturbed).

Some plants will grow well in association with certain species but not with others. When re establishing a natural environment in a previously disturbed area it is important to establish the right combination of plant varieties if the area is to remain stable and have the "self perpetuating" ability which a "real natural environment" has.

In order to revegetate an area successfully this way, it may be necessary to plant taller trees and allow them to establish properly before planting the lower growing plants as well as a vigorous weed control program to give your desired plant species a chance to establish.

Types of Plant Associations
There are many different types of plant associations and many different ways of categorising them. These include categories based on climate, for example warm temperate rainforest, cool temperate rainforest, alpine, arid etc; categories based on broad 'type' characteristics, for example deciduous forests, coniferous forests, wet or dry sclerophyll forests, grasslands etc: and categories based on individual plant genus or species, for example Eucalyptus, Pinus, Acacia, etc.

Examples of Plant Associations:

Pinus Monoculture
Pine trees (e.g. Pinus radiata) have a toxic chemical in their needles which discourages the growth of most other plants. When a pine plantation is young, other plant types may grow alongside the pines, but as they mature, most of the nearby plants will die, leaving a forest with very little growing other than the pines.

Eucalyptus Association
A eucalypt forest (or woodland) usually contains three types of plants:
  • The Eucalypts (These are normally the tallest plants, and are called the "upper storey").
  • Medium to tall plants (smaller than eucalypts) such as wattles.
    (These are called the "middle storey").
  • Low shrubs and ground covers (called the "Lower storey").

This three layer concept is common in permaculture designs, although the plants chosen are generally more productive. It is referred to as "stacking' in permaculture articles.  The stacking will enhance the key principle 'relative location'.


Deciduous Forest
This type of forest is more common in the northern hemisphere. It may be created as a self perpetuating environment however in some situations, though it may not have originally occurred naturally there (e.g. Australia). Examples of possible situations are in gardens associated with European style buildings or in zoos or wildlife parks where animals deriving from such deciduous plant communities are kept. Often the deciduous species will also grow readily in association with evergreen species. In their natural environments this could be with coniferous species (conifers), or in Australia with Eucalypts. In some areas of Australia, particularly moist cool areas, deciduous species have become naturalised, often displacing native vegetation.

Generally for deciduous forests the upper storey is made up of deciduous trees such as Ash, Maple, Birch, Oaks or Elms. The lower plants may be deciduous or evergreen shrubs.

In permaculture, various fruit trees with deciduous habits can be utilised to increase productivity for the land. The above mentioned deciduous trees are not common in permaculture gardens.

Alpine Communities
These consist of plants adapted to either short or long term periods of cold and snow. In many cases these communities are found in high mountainous, often windswept areas. Examples of plant associations that may occur within this broad category are alpine grasslands where the predominant vegetation is low growing grasses, bulbs, herbs and annual flowers, or alpine moss fields consisting predominantly as the name implies of mosses.

Depending on the location of the site, alpine plants may need to be considered. Plants that exhibit multiple functions should be considered in the design.

Legumes are those plants belonging to the plant families Mimosaceae, Fabaceae and Caesalpiniaceae. These families are well represented in Australia. Most plants in these families have small nodules on their roots containing bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form suitable for use by the plant. This gives such plants the ability to enrich soils with nitrogen rather than impoverishing them. Legumes can be useful in this way in preparing soils for other plants or can be planted in conjunction with other species.
These legumes trees are used for stacking in permaculture designs. Forming the upper level, they provide a more protected understorey environment plus provide nitrogen into the soil.
If you are interested in obtaining a Permaculture Design Certificate, then Permaculture I can make up your first step.  There are three ways in which you can obtain a PDC with ACS.
Pathway 1 - Complete Permaculture I, II, III and IV.




Pathway 2 Complete the Permaculture Systems Course


Pathway 3 Complete Certificate in Horticulture (Permaculture)


ACS Distance Education is a member of the Permaculture Association (UK) and The Alternative Technology Association (Australia)

If you are not sure which option is the best one for you, then why not speak to one of our permaculture tutors.  You can contact them on 0800 328 4723 or 0800 328 4723 or click here to contact a tutor.  

Student Testimonials
"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 course.

"This course was a valuable learning experience. My workplace is slowly changing to a 'greener' approach to managing every aspect of their parks, flowerbeds & trees. I'm trying to learn and find new ways to go 'greener' in the landscape as are many other individuals working in municipalities in Ontario. Your course provided me with a basic foundation to start and I'm looking forward to the rest of the Permaculture course. Feedback was very specific and easy to follow."
 Bernice Radtke, Permaculture I course.




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Meet some of our academics

Maggi BrownMaggi 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 across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
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.
Bob James B.Sc.,M.Env.Mgt.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., Grad.Dip.Mgt, PDC, M.Enviro.Mgt.

Check out our eBooks

PoultryPoultry are entertaining as pets and life sustaining as a commercial product! Whether you are seeking a book as a beginner poultry keeper or if you are embarking on a new career in poultry production or management, this book is for you. Easy to read, easy to understand and packed with easy to implement practical advice. Know how to care for the health and wellbeing of poultry and make production a commercially viable enterprise.
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.
HerbsLearn to identify and grow dozens of commonly grown herbs. Explore how to use them. Herbs have a rich history dating back centuries. Used by monks, apothecaries and ‘witches’ in the past, herbs are undergoing a revival in interest. They are easy to grow, scented, culinary and medicinal plants. In a formal herb garden or peppered throughout the garden, herbs rarely fail! Find out how they are used as medicines, for cooking, perfumes and more.
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsThe Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs ebook is ideal for students, professionals and home gardening enthusiasts alike. Fruit, Vegetable and Herbs provides an overview in techniques to produce food in the garden. Topics covered within this course include 1/ Food from the garden, 2/ Deciding what to grow, 3/ Successful growing, 4/ Fruits, 4-1/ Deciduous fruit trees, 4-2/ Citrus fruits, 4-3/ Tropical fruits, 4-4/ Berries, 4-5/ Nuts, 4-6/ Vine crops, 4-7/ Using produce, 5/ Vegetables, 6/ Mushrooms, 7/ Special growing techniques