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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Introduction to Permaculture Course now on Special Offer Plus get six free eBooks into the bargain!

  • 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)

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

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A solid introductory course to permaculture.

  • 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.

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.

Lesson Structure

There are 5 lessons in this course:

Lesson 1. Permaculture Concepts
  • Life Ethics
  • Permaculture Defined
  • Guiding Principles -relative location, multiple functions and elements, elevational planning, energy recycling, etc.
  • Ideas and Techniques from around the world
  • Natural Gardening
  • Organic growing
  • No dig gardening
  • Crop rotation
  • Biological control of pest and disease
  • Integrated pest management
  • Living things vary from place to place
  • Understanding plant names
  • An easier way to identify plants
  • Pronunciation of plant names
Lesson 2. Understanding the Environment is Key to Permaculture Design
  • Introduction
  • Ecology
  • Ecosystems
  • Abiotic Components
  • Biotic Components
  • Ecological concepts
  • The Web of Life
  • Replicating Nature
  • Successions
  • Starting a Permaculture Property
  • Cost, Location, Size
  • Information required
  • Structure of a Permaculture System
  • Choosing a Site
  • Permaculture Design
Lesson 3. Soils in Permaculture
  • The Role of Soil
  • Soil Components -gravel sand, silt, colloids
  • Peds
  • Naming a Soil
  • Soil Management
  • Cycles
  • Fertiliser Application
  • Nitrogen
  • Factors Affecting Nitrogen Release from Organic Sources
  • Microorganism population
  • Heat and chemical treatment
  • pH
  • Soil temperature
  • Cultivation and Cover Crops
  • Drainage and Erosion
  • How to Measure Soil pH
  • How to Measure Organic Content of Soil
  • How to Measure Water Content of Soil
  • Determining Solubility of Soils
  • How to Test the Affect of Lime on Soil
  • Taking Soil Samples for Laboratory Tests
  • Measuring Salinity
  • Colourimetry
Lesson 4. Climate and Water in Permaculture
  • Site Types
  • Degree Days
  • The Hydrological Cycle
  • Infiltration
  • Rainfall
  • Evapouration
  • Effective Rainfall
  • Temperature
  • Frosts
  • Extreme Hazards
  • Permaculture Microclimates
  • The Greenhouse Effect
  • Water and Plant Growth
  • Climatic Influence on Production
  • Frosts
  • Climate Considerations for Fruit and Vegetable Production
  • Climatic Zones
  • Humans and Water
  • Minimising Plant Requirements
  • Household Water
  • Xeriscaping
  • Interpreting Weather Reports and Predictions
  • Precipitation
  • Wind
  • Weather Maps
  • Weather Map Patterns
  • Interrelationships between Climate, Soil and Plants
  • Estimating Water Requirements of Plants
  • Ways to Improve Water Quality, from any Source
  • Water Impurities - sediment, impurities, colour, chemical impurities
  • Water Hardness
  • Alkalinity
  • Corrosion
  • pH
  • Iron
  • Salinity
  • Tastes and Odours in Water
  • Biological Impurities in Water -algae, bacteria
  • Other Water Chemistry Factors -dissolved gasses, nitrogen cycle
  • Fish for Ponds
  • Other Animals in Water
Lesson 5. Forest Systems
  • Biomass
  • Components of Biomass
  • Plant Associations
  • Pinus Monoculture
  • Eucalyptus Association
  • Deciduous Forest
  • Alpine Communities
  • Myrtaceae Plants
  • Australian Legumes
  • Rockeries
  • Rain forest Systems
  • Wind, Light and Rain in Forests
  • Forest Productivity - fuel, food, forage, shelter belt, structural, conservation
  • Establishment of a Forest
  • Creating a Rain forest
  • Maintenance and Upkeep of Forests
  • Plant Application -trees, shrubs, ground covers
  • A review of how to grow a variety of different plants for Permaculture

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 the student 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.

This course can be taken as a standalone course or as part of the Permaculture Design Certificate.

If you are interested in studying for the Permaculture Design Certificate, we have various options.

  1. Study this course along with Permaculture II, Permaculture III and Permaculture IV.
  2. Study the Permaculture Systems course.
  3. Study the Certificate in Horticulture (Permaculture) course.

If you are not sure which route is the best one for you, then please get in touch, our permaculture tutors are more than happy to help with any questions.

And remember, enrol now and receive this course at a discounted price AND receive six free eBooks.


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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.
John MasonMr Mason has worked 45+ years in Writing, Education, Horticulture and Recreation. His experience in both public & private sectors is extensive; particularly across Australia and England.
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.

Check out our eBooks

Scented PlantsScented plants can be either a delight or a curse. For many people, there is nothing more pleasing than a garden filled with fragrance, but for others who suffer allergies, certain plants can make them physically ill; sometimes very seriously.
Trees & Shrubs for Small GardensTurn even the smallest space into a great place. This e-book is an essential guide for any gardener who wants to make the most of a small garden, balcony, verandah or courtyard.
WeedsThis book helps you understand different types of weeds, and how to control them. Many of the more commonly occurring weeds around the world are both illustrated and described.
What to Plant WhereA great guide for choosing the right plant for a particular position in the garden. Thirteen chapters cover: plant selection, establishment, problems, and plants for wet areas. Shade, hedges and screens, dry gardens, coastal areas, small gardens, trees and shrubs, lawns and garden art.