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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Learn more about plant use in Permaculture

  • Learn how plants in a permaculture system relate to each other and to the surrounding environment.
  • Develop knowledge on the selection and placement of different plant varieties within a permaculture design.
  • Understand how to prepare plans for different types of permaculture gardens.

This course is a natural progression from Permaculture 1, but can be taken separately in its own right.

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


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Learn to select and use plants in a Permaculture style planting design

  • Expand your knowledge and understanding of how plants are used in permaculture landscapes.
  • Learn about establishing permaculture gardens.
  • Learn about the principles of permaculture design.
  • Learn and understand about zoning in permaculture systems.
  • Develop your knowledge of natural methods of pest, disease, and weed control.

This course can be taken as part of the learning journey towards the Permaculture Design Certificate, OR it can be taken after completion of the PDC to increase your knowledge of the use of plants in permaculture systems. There is more information on obtaining the PDC lower down this page.


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


There are 10 lessons in this course:

Lesson 1. Permaculture Gardens – Different Garden Systems
  • Function
  • Aesthetics
  • Ways of Growing Plants
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Plant Establishment
  • Growing in Spirals
  • No Dig Beds or Composting Mounds
  • Organic Growing
  • Helping Plant Establishment
  • Trickle or Drip Irrigation
  • Mulching
  • Common Types of Organic Mulch
  • Rules for How to Mulch
  • Problems with Mulching
  • Living Mulch
  • Tree Guards
  • Reduced Cultivation
  • Crop Rotation
  • Establishing Plants on Slopes –Pocket Planting, Slope Serration, Wattling
  • Planting on Arid Sites
  • Direct Seeding
  • Spray Seeding
  • No Till Planting in Lawns
  • Raised Beds
  • Growing in Pots
  • Biodynamics Introduction
  • Biodynamic Principles
  • Developing A Biodynamic Property
  • Biodynamic Preparations and Sprays
  • Soil Degradation
  • Understanding and Managing Erosion
  • Salinity
  • Soil Acidification
  • Soil Compaction
  • Chemical Residues in Soils
  • Improving Damaged Soils
Lesson 2. Design – Planning Techniques and Skills
  • The Design Process
  • Gathering Information and Pre-Planning
  • Planning and Design
  • Drawing the Permaculture Plan
  • Design Procedure – Thirteen Steps
  • How to Represent Different Components on A Drawn Plan
  • Criteria for Choosing the Plants
  • Maintaining Biodiversity in Permaculture
  • Designing for Low Maintenance
  • Plants for Small Places
  • Lime Loving Plants
  • Useful Conifers
  • Nut Producing Conifers
  • Other Edible Parts of Conifers
  • Conifers as A Source of Oils, Resins, Building Timber
  • Cypress and Pines
Lesson 3. Sector Planning
  • Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Sectors
  • Designing and Planting A Firebreak
  • Fire Prone Areas
  • How to Arrange A Firebreak
  • Considerations
  • Fire Resistant Plants
  • Windbreaks, Hedges and Screens
  • Hedges for Different Conditions
  • Plants for Windbreaks
  • Long Narrow Spaces
  • Growing Plants in Shade
  • Plants Suited to Full Shade
  • Frost Hardy Plants
  • Coastal Planting
  • Strategies for Dealing with Salt and Wind
  • Hardy Plants for Inner City Gardens
  • Pollution Resistant Plants
  • Nuts to Grow in Permaculture - Aleurites, Argan, Athertonia, Barringtonia, Fagus, Brabejum, Castanospermum, Gevuina, Coconut, Couepia, Quercus And Many
  • Others
Lesson 4. Design for Natural Pest, Disease and Weed Control
  • Understanding Natural Pest Control
  • Bio Control
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Bio Control
  • Natural Pest Controls with Herb Extracts
  • Other Techniques for Natural Insect Control
  • Understanding Insecticidal Properties of Different Plants
  • Natural Weed Control
  • Weed Control with Cultivation, Mulch Biological Controls, Grazing, Etc.
  • Growing Grain Crops on A Small Scale
  • Hull Less Oats
  • Amaranth and Quinoa
  • Corn
  • Flours
Lesson 5. Complimentary Planting - Companion Planting
  • How Reliable Is Companion Planting
  • Repellent Plants
  • Attractant Plants
  • Plants That Impact on The Soil Conditions
  • Planting Combinations That May Be Mutually Beneficial
  • Combinations Sometimes Considered Undesirable
  • Plants That Can Improve Soil – Alfalfa, Borage, Caraway and Others Explained
  • Green Manure Crops
  • Decoy Plants
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • Legumes in Permaculture
  • Cover Crops
  • Grain Crops
  • Plants for Pets – Dogs, Cats, Poultry
Lesson 6. Appropriate Technology in Permaculture Design
  • Energy Conservation Technology
  • Building Biology
  • Environmental Impact on Buildings
  • Climate
  • Building Location
  • Radon
  • Air Quality and Allergies
  • Temperature and Humidity
  • Light
  • EMR And Creation of Electric Fields
  • Solar Energy
  • Greenhouses: Design and Function
  • Passive Solar Energy Collection and Active Systems
  • Conservation and Recycling
  • Kitchen Waste Management
  • Water Saving Measures
  • Environmentally Friendly Gardening
  • Growing Berries
  • Strawberry Growing
  • Raspberry Cultivation
  • Bramble Berry Growing
  • Other Berries –Gooseberries, Mulberry, Etc
Lesson 7. Water Gardens
  • Planting in Wet Places
  • Understanding Wet Areas
  • Overcoming Problems
  • Plants Suited to Bog Gardens
  • Why Have Water in A Permaculture Garden
  • Designing for Wet Places
  • Managing Water in Sun or Shade
  • Water Life
  • Construction
  • Waterproofing
  • Managing A Healthy Pond
  • Plants That Can Damage Ponds
  • Plants Suitable for Water – Submerged, Floating and Bog Plants
  • Growing Water Chestnut
  • Establishing A Water Garden
  • Creating A Pond with A Liner
  • Constructing A Small Dam or Pond
  • Waste Water Treatment with Reed Beds
Lesson 8. Knowing Plants –Tree Crops
  • What Zone to Grow In
  • Orchard Species Suited to Permaculture
  • Understory Plants
  • Leguminous Companions
  • Actinorhizal Companions
  • Orchards
  • Planning for Intercrop Species
  • Tropical Orchards
  • Dry Land Orchards
  • Fukuoka System
  • Nut Trees
  • Almond
  • Cashew
  • Chestnut
  • Filbert
  • American Hazelnut
  • Macadamia
  • Peanut
  • Pecan
  • Pistachio
  • Walnut
  • Harvest, Storage and Processing of Nuts
  • Nut Toxins
  • Fruit Trees
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Peaches and Nectarines
  • Citrus
  • Feijoa
  • Pomegranate
  • Olive
  • Plum
Lesson 9. Knowing Plants – Vegetables and Herbs
  • Introduction
  • Choosing the Right Spot
  • Considering the Soil
  • Feeding Plants
  • Plant When Conditions Are Favourable
  • Cultivation Necessities – Mulching, Rotating Crops, Watering, Pest Control
  • Planting to Maximize Harvest
  • Planting Vegetables
  • Disease Resistance in Vegetables – Beans, Corn, Peas, Lettuce, Tomatoes.
  • Vegetables to Grow in A Permaculture System
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Capsicum Eggplant
  • Onions
  • Rhubarb
  • Silver Beet Sweet Potato
  • Tomato
  • Zucchini
  • Herbs
  • Allium –Chives, Garlic, Shallots Etc
  • Angelica
  • Artemisia
  • Balm
  • Basil
  • Calendula
  • Cardamom
  • Chamomile
  • Coriander
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Other Herbs
Lesson 10. Giving the Garden A Central Focus
  • The Mandala Garden Concept
  • Surfaces
  • Keyhole Beds
  • Herb Spirals
  • Step by Step Construction of a Mandala Garden
  • Centre Pond
  • Weed Barrier
  • Outside the Mandala
  • Planting Out
  • Organic Materials – Ashes, Feathers, Hay, Leaves, Sawdust, Pruning’s, Etc.
  • Mulching Vegetables and Herbs

Each lesson culminates 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.


  • 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 upon 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.


If you are interested in obtaining a Permaculture Design Certificate, then Permaculture II can form part of your studies towards this. For further details on how to achieve a PDC, and the different study options which we have available to you, please read the Permaculture Design Certificate article.

Learning about Plants is Core to Permaculture

There are tens of thousands of different plants that can be used in permaculture designs. No one ever learns everything about them all, but to be a good permaculture designer, it is important to become familiar with at least a thousand or more. This course sets you well on the path to doing that.

A big part of permaculture design is concerned with selecting appropriate plants, and arranging them in a way which will create a naturally self-sustaining ecosystem. This course focuses on expanding your knowledge of plants you might use in permaculture; and how to best use them.

Objectives in any landscape are concerned with both function and aesthetics. In some gardens the aesthetics can be paramount; but for the permaculture system, function is more important than anything else.

1. Function

Functional design criteria are concerned with the purpose which the design is intended to serve. The designer attempts to make the site serve very practical purposes such as:

  • Provide accessibility throughout the site.
  • Provide a safe and comfortable place (e.g. protection from extreme weather, security, etc.).
  • Provide a supply of produce (e.g. fruit, vegetables, wood, eggs, etc.).
  • Provide an appropriate place to do certain things (e.g. work, play, relax, entertain, etc.).
2. Aesthetics

Aesthetic criteria are concerned with the ‘beauty’ ‘mood’ or ‘feeling’ it creates.

Permaculture design is an area of landscape development which is all about functional criteria, and usually much less about aesthetics.

Two main principles:

  • Natural growing is paramount to permaculture. The system depends upon nature to create a balance and sustain that balance with minimal input from man.
  • Function is of prime importance; aesthetics is of little importance. The system must function in accordance with the aims of the design.

There are many different systems of natural gardening and farming which have been, and are practiced throughout the world, with varying degrees of success. Permaculture can borrow and adapt concepts and techniques from these different systems, and for that reason if no other these systems are valuable to study and be aware of.

Ways of Growing Plants

There are many different methods and techniques for cultivation of plants. Just because a method works well for one type of plant in a particular locality, does not mean it will necessarily work well for other types of plants; or in different localities.

Learning to grow plants is an immensely complicated business.

Anyone can have a degree of success with very little knowledge - but more success requires three things:

  • An intimate knowledge of the possible techniques that might be used to grow plants.
  • An in-depth knowledge of the plant cultivars you want to grow.
  • An ability to match the plant you want to grow, with an appropriate technique, in the context of the situational conditions you are trying to grow it under.
Environmental Conditions

Situational conditions vary from place to place and time to time. These are the all of the things that have an impact upon the performance of a plant where it is growing, such as:

  • Temperature range (day and night, throughout the year)
  • Wind
  • Sunlight/shade
  • Humidity
  • Soil fertility
  • Soil structure
  • Soil water
  • Animals that interact with the plants, soil
  • Adjacent plants (causing shade, root competition, wind protection, etc.)

A permaculture system is continually changing. Every plant you introduce or remove will change it further. If a system is to be developed and sustained properly; you do need to build a strong plant knowledge.


  • Anyone designing or developing landscapes to be more sustainable and productive.
  • Graduates or students from Permaculture, Horticulture, Agriculture or Urban Planning.
  • Land owners, home gardeners, farmers, community activists.
  • Anyone else with a passion for self-sufficiency and sustainability.


Study to learn more about sustainability and naturally balanced systems. Learn about growing plants within a permaculture design. You can enrol on the Permaculture II (Plants and Permaculture) course at any time. The course is studied by distance learning, and includes practical research elements to provide a greater depth to your learning.

Students are supported in their studies by our highly knowledgeable tutors. At the end of each lesson in the course there is an assignment which is to be completed and submitted to your tutor for assessment. This will be marked by your tutor and returned to you with observations and suggestions for any additional reading or study that may be required.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about studying permaculture with ACS, then please get in touch with our specialist Permaculture tutors today. They will be happy to answer your questions and discuss the different aspects of the courses we have available.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

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.
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

Getting Work in HorticultureExplore what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse this industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.
Commercial HydroponicsThe Commercial Hydroponics ebook is ideal for students, professional horticulturalists and those who want to build a strong foundation knowledge in hydroponics. The commercial hydroponics ebook explains how to set up a commercial hydroponics system, including growing techniques and equipment that you will need. The topics covered in this book include an introduction to hydroponics, site considerations, alternatives, plant nutrition, nutrient film technique culture, rockwool culture, aggregate culture, other techniques, hydroponics equipment, greenhouse operation, plant culture in hydroponics, Vegetable crops, berry and other fruit crops, flower crops, other crops, managing a commercial hydroponic farm and a troubleshooting guide.
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