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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Study Permaculture Systems by distance learning

If you have always dreamed of living the permaculture lifestyle, then why not get started with this 100 hour distance learning course?

Designed to satisfy the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) curriculum, this course provides a solid foundation for designing permaculture gardens.

This course was developed to encompass, but go beyond the curriculum of the Permaculture Design Certificate, as set down by the Permaculture Institute.

Requirements: complete all assignments to a level that satisfies your tutor, and sit and pass one exam. (Exam fees are not included in the course price). Read the article on study pathways to a Permaculture Design Certificate

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Become a Permaculture Expert with this intensive distance learning course

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture involves developing a garden or farm where the plants and animals are put together in such a way that they support each other's 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.

  • Learn to develop plans for permaculture systems (i.e. a unique landscape where plants and animals live in a balanced and self-sustaining ecosystem).
  • Become an expert in sustainable and productive landscape design.
  • Tutors in this course hold an authentic PDC.
  • ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (UK), The Institute of Horticulture (UK), and the Alternative Technology Association (Australia).

Course Structure and Lesson Content

The course comprises 8 lessons as detailed, below.

Lesson 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 incorporated into permaculture
  • Sustainability
  • Organics
  • No dig gardening
  • No till planting
  • Crop rotation
  • Green manure cropping
  • Composting
  • Companion planting
  • Pest and disease prevention and management
Lesson 2. Natural Systems
  • 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, Evaporation, 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
Lesson 3. Zone and 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
Lesson 4. Permaculture Techniques
  • Forests 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
  • Managing water bodies
Lesson 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
Lesson 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, dandelion, 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, pineapple
  • Culture of selected vines - grape, passion fruit, 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 8. Preparing a Plan
  • Scope, nature and methods
  • Designing for natural disasters
  • Drawing a plan
  • Developing the final design

Course Aims

  • Explain the principles of permaculture.
  • Explain the concepts of natural systems.
  • Explain permaculture techniques involving zones and sector planning.
  • Explain a range of permaculture techniques: (forest plantings, mandala gardens, ponds etc.).
  • Explain the significance of different animals in a permaculture system.
  • Select plants appropriate for inclusion in a permaculture system, to supply a useful and sustained harvest; explain their husbandry.
  • Select appropriate technologies for use in permaculture systems.
  • Draw permaculture designs (plans) to scale.

What You Will Do

  • Differentiate between permaculture and other sustainable systems.
  • Explain the procedures followed in practising 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 (you 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.

Study for a Sustainable Future

You can start the Permaculture Systems 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.

Do you have any questions?

Please get in touch with our specialist Permaculture Tutors today. They will be happy to answer your questions and explain about studying Permaculture with ACS.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Dr Lynette Morgan (Horticulture)Lyn worked with Rivendell Mushroom Farm between 1986 and 88; and then as a research assistant and technician for a few years while undertaking university studies. In 1991 she graduated from Massey University with a Bachelor of Horticultural Science (Hons) which covered broad horticultural sciences, as well as nursery vegetable and fruit production. Throughout the 90's she worked in both the nursery industry and horticultural crop production, before establishing her own business "Suntec" which has built an exceptional international reputation providing consulting services; particularly in hydroponic crop production. Dr Morgan has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production, and a keen appreciation of the global scene. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
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.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

Check out our eBooks

Food PreservingA great supplement for students of nutrition, self sufficiency or even horticulture, the Food Preserving ebook is a great introduction into all things preserving.
Cucumbers Pumpkins Marrows and other CucurbitsThe Cucumbers Pumpkins Marrows and other Cucurbits ebook will provide you with a guide in everything that you will need to know about these very useful plants. Learn more about the different and sometimes unusual varieties that are available of these plants. This is the complete guide to this plant family as each section will provide you with the ideal growing conditions, culture, planting, pest and disease problems, harvest, varieties and some great ways to eat the fruit.
CitrusThe Citrus ebook will provide you with some unique and practical insights into growing and getting to know more about citrus plants. The ebook covers getting to know more about the citrus plants, including botany and taxonomy of the plant, cultivating citrus plants, getting the most out of your citrus plants by ensuring that your plants are healthy, citrus propagation and many of the different citrus cultivars. Once you know how to grow healthy citrus plants and are getting a bumper harvest, we have also included some recipes for making the most of your delicious, homegrown fruit.
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.