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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Build on a PDC with this Advanced Permaculture Course

  • Study permaculture at an advanced level.
  • Build on your existing skills and knowledge - learn more about sustainable systems.
  • Learn about evaluating design strategies for a site.
  • Learn about managing water resources in a Permaculture design.
  • Learn how to design Permaculture systems for different climates.
  • Gain a foundation of knowledge in all aspects of developing, implementing and running, or advising others, on how to run a permaculture system.
  • An excellent follow on course from a PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate).

"Complete this course after Permaculture Systems and you are ready to create a design for a range of situations - as a consultant to others or for your own property."
Adriana Fraser Cert.Hort., Cert.Child Care., Adv.Cert.App.Mgt., Cert 1V Assessment and Training., Adv.Dip.Hort. ACS Tutor

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An advanced course to further develop your skills in Permaculture

  • A course designed for students with prior experience in permaculture, and who wish to study at a more advanced level.
  • The course follows on from Permaculture Systems or for those who have studied Permaculture elsewhere; it is an excellent follow on from the Permaculture Design Certificate.


The Advanced Permaculture Course comprises 10 lessons and should take approximately 100 hours of self-paced study to complete.  The lessons in the course are as follows:

Lesson 1: Evaluating Design Strategies
  •  Introduction.
  • The need for sustainability.
  • Low input farming.
  • Regenerative farming.
  • Biodynamic systems.
  • Organic systems.
  • Conservation farming.
  • Matching enterprise with land capability.
  • Polyculture.
  • Integrated management.
  • Permaculture planning.
  • Observation.
  • Deduction.
  • Reading patterns.
  • Analysis.
  • Mapping overlays.
  • Sectors.
  • Zones.
  • Design strategies and techniques.
  • Undulating edge.
  • Spirals and circles.
  • Zig zag trellis.
  • Temporary shelter.
  • Small scale sun trap.
  • Small scale sun shading.
  • Pathways.
  • Keyhole beds.

Lesson 2: Understanding Patterns
  • Understanding patterns.
  • Know your land: evaluate a site.
  • Weather patterns, soil pH, EC, temperature, water etc.
  • Electromagnetic considerations.
  • Herbicide or pesticide consideration.
  • Land carrying capacity.
  • Assessing land capability.
  • Checklist of sustainability elements.
  • Indication of sustainability.
  • Log books.

Lesson 3: Water
  • Water supply.
  • Water saving measures.
  • Tanks.
  • Dam and pond building.
  • Edges.
  • Construction: concrete, brick, stone.
  • Liners, earth construction.
  • Collecting rainwater.
  • Recycling waste water.
  • Using farm waste water.
  • Town water supply.
  • Well drilling.
  • Pumping subterranean ground water.
  • Pumping from natural supplies (e.g. lakes, rivers).
  • Pumps and plumbing supplies.
  • Water use: power generation, diesel generators.
  • Fish culture: land and water, dams.
  • Water plant culture.
  • Water plants to know and grow.
  • Seasonal changes in a pond.
  • Sewage treatment: reed beds.
  • Problems with water.
  • Wasting water and conservation.
  • Swales and keylines.
  • Keyline design.

Lesson 4: Earthworks
  • Site clearing.
  • Levelling.
  • Drainage.
  • Solving drainage problems.
  • Surveying techniques: triangulation, direct contouring, grid system etc.
  • Levelling terms.
  • Levelling procedure.
  • Levelling a sloping site.
  • Loss of soil fertility.
  • Erosion.
  • Salinity.
  • Sodicity.
  • Soil compaction.
  • Soil acidification.
  • Build-up of dangerous chemicals.
  • Improving soils.
  • Using lime, gypsum or acidic materials.

Lesson 5: Humid Tropics 
  • Climatic systems.
  • Precipitation.
  • Wind.
  • Radiation.
  • The wet tropics.
  • Sources of humus.
  • Mulches.
  • Soil life in the tropics.
  • Barrier plants.
  • Animal barriers.
  • Permaculture systems for the wet tropics.
  • Garden beds.
  • Tropical fruits to grow.

Lesson 6: Dry Climates 
  • Introduction.
  • Water storage and conservation.
  • Dryland gardens.
  • Dryland orchards.
  • Planting on hills.
  • Corridor planting.
  • Overcoming dry soils.
  • Drought tolerant plants.
  • Vegetables.
  • Fruits.
  • Vines.

Lesson 7: Temperate to Cold Climates 
  • Introduction.
  • Characteristics of a temperate bio-zone.
  • Cool temperate garden design.
  • Useful crops for this zone.
  • Crop protection.
  • Soils in a cool temperate area.
  • Growing berries.
  • Orchards.
  • Soil life.
  • Blueberries.
  • Raspberries.
  • Strawberries.
  • Nuts.
  • Herbs.

Lesson 8: Planning Work 
  • Alternative planning procedures.
  • The planning process.
  • What goes where.
  • Equipping the environmentally friendly garden.
  • Barriers, walls and fencing.
  • Gates.
  • Rubble, brick, and concrete walls.
  • Retaining walls.
  • Trellis.
  • Hedges.
  • Changing an existing farm to be more sustainable.
  • Monitoring and reviewing.
  • Contingencies and seasonal variations.
  • Planning for drought.
  • Excessive water.

Lesson 9: Costing
  • Property costs.
  • Making cost cutting choices.
  • Planning for the cost conscious.
  • Likely costs to establish a garden.
  • Socio economic considerations in farming.
  • Production planning.
  • Economies of scale.
  • Materials.
  • Equipment.
  • Value adding.

Lesson 10: Sustainable Systems 
  • Other sustainable systems.
  • Working with nature rather than against it.
  • Minimising machinery use.
  • Only use what is necessary.
  • Different ways to garden naturally.
  • Organic gardening.
  • No Dig techniques.
  • Biodynamics.
  • Biodynamic preparations.
  • Crop rotation.
  • Bush gardens.
  • Succession planting.
  • Seed saving.
  • Hydroponics.
  • Environmental horticulture.
  • Sustainable agriculture around the world.
  • Integrated pest management.
  • Cultural controls.
  • Biological controls.
  • Physical controls.
  • Chemicals Quarantine.
  • Controlling weeds without chemicals.
  • Animals in sustainable systems.
  • Chickens.
  • Turkeys.
  • Ducks.
  • Geese.
  • Pigs.

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


  • Evaluate appropriate design strategies for a specific development site.
  • Explain the relationship between a Permaculture system and natural patterns occurring in your local area.
  • Develop strategies for the management of water in a Permaculture design.
  • Determine earthworks for the development of a Permaculture system.
  • Design a Permaculture system for the humid tropics.
  • Design a Permaculture system for a dry climate.
  • Design a Permaculture system for a temperate to cold climate.
  • Determine planning strategies for the development of a Permaculture system.
  • Prepare cost estimates for a Permaculture development plan.
  • Explain alternative sustainable systems practised in various places around the world.


  • Explain the evolution of a Permaculture system which is at least five years old.
  • Compare the suitability of different planning procedures, for development of a Permaculture system on a specified site.
  • Develop a permaculture plan on a specified site, by using flow diagrams.
  • Illustrate the progressive development of one view of a Permaculture system, over several years.
  • Explain the relevance of patterns which occur in nature, to Permaculture design.
  • Explain the importance of observation skills in Permaculture planning.
  • Analyse the weather patterns of a site in your locality as a basis for planning a Permaculture system.
  • Compare different methods of water provision, including collection and storage for a specified Permaculture system.
  • Analyse the adequacy of two different specific Permaculture system designs, in terms of: water requirements, water provision, water storage, and water usage.
  • Explain, the use of different survey equipment.
  • Survey a site, that has been selected for a proposed Permaculture system, recording details, including: topography, dimensions, and location of features.
  • Prepare a Permaculture site plan, to scale, of the site surveyed.
  • Distinguish between, using labelled drawings, different types of earthworks, including: banks, benching, terracing, and mounds.
  • Compare different methods for the provision of drainage on a site proposed as, or being developed as a Permaculture system.
  • Determine the factors unique to the design of Permaculture systems in humid tropical climates, dry climates, and cold climates.
  • Determine a large number of different plant species suited for inclusion in a Permaculture system in humid tropical climates, dry climates, and cold climates.
  • Determine different animal species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in humid tropical climates, dry climates, and cold climates.
  • Prepare a Permaculture design for each of the climates: humid tropical, dry, and cold climates.
  • Calculate the quantities of materials, showing necessary calculations, required in a specified permaculture plan.
  • Estimate the work-hours required, showing any necessary calculations, to complete each section of work.
  • Estimate the equipment required, showing any necessary calculations, to complete each section of work.
  • Determine suppliers for all materials, for a specified Permaculture development, in accordance with specific plans supplied to you.
  • Determine the costs of different types of materials, for a specified Permaculture development, from different suppliers.
  • Determine the essential costs for services to establish a specified Permaculture system, such as: labour costs, sub-contracting fees, equipment hire, permits and planning applications, technical reports, legal fees.
  • Compare the costs of establishing different Permaculture systems, which you visit and investigate.
  • Explain different sustainable agricultural or horticultural systems, other than Permaculture.
  • Differentiate Permaculture from other sustainable systems, including: Biodynamics, Organic farming.
  • Compare specified sustainable agricultural or horticultural practices from different countries.


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 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.

A Permaculture system can be developed on virtually any type of site, though the plants selected and used will be restricted by the site's suitability to the needs of the varieties used. Establishing a Permaculture system requires a reasonable amount of pre-planning and designing. Factors such as climate, landform, soils, existing vegetation and water availability need to be considered. Observing patterns in the natural environment can give clues to matters which may become a problem later, or which may be beneficial.

Traditional societies have used patterns to effectively understand and interact with their landscape. Much traditional knowledge was recorded in the form of patterns including carvings, weavings, stone and earth paintings, etc. Included in these records were cyclic phenomena such as tides, weather, harvest seasons, phases of the moon, and stars.

Appropriate patterning in the design process can aid the attainment of a sustainable yield. Good designers try to fit all their components into a functional form, to follow the rules of flow and order, and to utilize most efficiently the space available. The spiral (lesson 1) is a great example of applying pattern. All the basic culinary herbs can be planted. They are all accessible, there are various aspects and good drainage, and the spiral can be watered with one sprinkler. The design also provides for dry sites for oil-rich herbs and moist or shady sites for green foliage herbs.

Another example is a mulch-pit surrounded by a planting shelf and spill bank. The plants eventually shade the central mulch-pit to prevent evaporation. A series of such gardens reduces the path space and land area needed for home gardens, or orchards of banana and coconut.

Close observation shows you where some mammals burrow and reptiles bask, where chimpanzees live, where herbivores forage for fruit and seeds, and where birds live within the tree branches. When designing with nature we can create landscapes that operate like healthy natural systems, where energy is conserved, wastes are recycle and resources used wisely.

Some useful advice:
  • When designing gardens and ponds try to minimise waste space by using spiral, keyhole, and least-path systems, and clumped plantings.
  • Use edge effects, especially in relation to intercrop and in the construction of plant guilds, and pond production in variable climates.
  • Use correct patterns to direct energies on site, and to lay out the whole site for zone, sector, slope, and orientation benefits. This saves energy.

A well designed Permaculture farm will fulfil the following criteria:
  • Upon maturity it forms a balanced, self-sustaining ecosystem where the relationships between the different plants and animals do not compete strongly to the detriment on each other. The farm does not change a great deal from year to year, but it does nonetheless still continue to change.
  • It replenishes itself. The plants and animals in the farm feed each other, with perhaps only minimal feed (e.g. natural fertilisers) needing to be introduced from the outside.
  • Minimal, if any, work is required to maintain the farm once it is established. Weeds, diseases and pests are minimal due to companion planting and other natural effects which parts of the ecosystem have on each other.
  • It is productive. Food or other useful produce can be harvested from the farm on an ongoing basis.
  • It is intensive land use. A lot is achieved from a small area. A common design format used is the Mandala Garden, based on a series of circles within each other, with very few pathways and easy, efficient watering.
  • There is a diverse variety of plant types used. This spreads cropping over the whole year so that there is no time when a lot is being taken out of the system. This also means that the nutrients extracted (which are different for each different type of plant or animal) are evened out (i.e. one plant takes more iron, while the plant next to it takes less iron, so iron does not get depleted because all of the plants have a high demand for iron). The diversity of species acts as a buffer, one to another.
  • It can adapt to different slopes, soil types and other microclimates.
  • It develops through an evolutionary process changing rapidly at first but then more gradually over a long period but perhaps never becoming totally stable. The biggest challenge for the designer is to foresee these ongoing long-term changes.


ACS offer three different pathways to achieving a PDC. To be awarded a PDC students need to complete the courses and exams in one of the following pathways:


Permaculture I (Introduction to Permaculture) VSS104
Permaculture II (Plants and Permaculture) VSS105
Permaculture III (Animals in Permaculture Systems) VSS106
Permaculture IV (Permaculture Design and Management) VSS107


Permaculture Systems Course BHT201


Certificate In Horticulture (Permaculture) VHT002

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


You can start the course at any time.

It is studied by distance learning, so you can study at any time and where you choose to. 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.


  • Studying Advanced Permaculture will increase your knowledge of Permaculture concepts and a greater awareness of how these can be widely applied in agriculture, horticulture and other specialties.
  • Apply your knowledge of Permaculture in different areas - rural, or urban - and in different climates.
  • Use what you have learned to enhance your career or business opportunities in sustainability and Permaculture.

If you have any questions - get in touch with our Permaculture tutors today, or phone us on (UK) 01384 442752 or (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

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.,
John Mason (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Nurseryman, Landscaper, Garden Writer, Parks Manager and Consultant. Over 45 years experience; working in Australia and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 100 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
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

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.
Growing and Knowing NutsDiscover the many different varieties of nuts that you many not have ever heard of. Learn unique ways of using nuts and cooking with nuts.
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.
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