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Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

Advanced Permaculture Course for a Career in Sustainability

  • Extensive Permaculture and Sustainability Course
  • Go beyond the basoc training offered in most other permaculture certificates (most are 72 hrs -this  is 600-700 hrs)
  • Explore you passion, extend your skills, start a business or seek employment in environmental or sustainable industries.

This course was recently revised to provide even more extensive and solid training for those who want to work in horticulture, especially in the design and care of productive natural garden systems. Graduates may find employment in general horticulture, permaculture design, or natural gardening (eg. in garden/system design, nurseries, teaching, consulting, etc). An excellent starting point for an exciting career in permaculture or sustainable gardening, and the skills you will learn will be valuable for any area of Horticulture too.


The Certificate in Horticulture (Permaculture) involves two areas of work:

  • Core Studies - half of the course, involving around least 350 hours.
  • Stream Studies - stream studies in permaculture and organic growing, involving at least 300 hours of study.

Core Studies

The core units develop fundamental general skills in horticultural practices and plant knowledge. The core units cover the following topics:

1. Introduction to Plants

2. Parts of the Plant

3. Plant Culture - Planting

4. Plant Culture - Pruning

5. Plant Culture - Irrigation and Machinery

6. Soils and Media

7. Soils and Nutrition

8. Seeds and Cuttings

9. Other Techniques

10. ID and Use of Plants - Landscape Application

11. ID and Use of Plants - Problems

12. ID and Use of Plants - Indoor/tropical plants

13. Pests

14. Diseases

15. Weeds

Stream Studies

These involve 300 hours of study, and are made up of the following modules:

  • Permaculture Systems
  • Advanced Permaculture

Plus one (1) of the following electives-

  • Poultry
  • Fruit and nut production
  • Organic Plant Culture
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Water Conservation and Management
  • Plant Ecology
  • OR some other approved module related to Permaculture.


Permaculture Systems

  • Explain the concepts of natural systems of relevance to Permaculture.
  • Determine appropriate cultural techniques to use in a Permaculture system.
  • Explain the incorporation of different animals in a Permaculture system.
  • Determine appropriate plants for inclusion in a Permaculture system.
  • Select appropriate technologies for use in Permaculture systems.
  • Draw concept Permaculture plans to scale.

Advanced Permaculture

  • Evaluate appropriate design strategies for a specific development site.
  • Explain the relationship between a Permaculture system and natural patterns occurring in a 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 practiced in various places around the world.


  • 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 contour maps and how this information can be used to estimate potential effects on plant growth.
  • 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.
  • Describe the differences between the three main types of climate zones (ie: 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.
  • Explain the importance of trees in a permaculture system.
  • Describe how you would build a no dig garden approximately 10 X 3 metres in size.
  • Step by step work through a process of planning changes to a garden to make it into more of a permaculture system.
  • Collect and list pre-planning information relevant to developing home into a permaculture system
  • Write a report explaining the five permaculture zones.
  • Create a table listing 50 different pest, disease and weed problems in one column, and an appropriate natural control method for each one in an adjacent column.
  • Make a list of companion plants. In one column, list the herb or companion plant.
  • Draw a plan for a fruit or vegetable garden which incorporates companion planting.
  • Explain briefly each of the companion planting interrelationships you have included in your plan.
  • Design a small and simple water garden for use in a permaculture system.
  • Design and build an herb spiral.
  • Design a vegetable and herb garden based on permaculture principles which would produce enough food to feed you and your family for the entire year.
  • List as many different central features as you can think of which could be used in a Mandalla garden

  • Outline how to plan and prepare garden zones in relation to animals. Provide step-by-step instructions and accompanying photographs or drawings.
  • Contact your state department of Agriculture and obtain leaflets relating to poultry which you are particularly interested in keeping.
  • Contact your state department of Agriculture and obtain leaflets (and any other publications) relating to bee keeping.
  • In no less than 500 words explain the importance of bees to horticulture and the permaculture garden.
  • Develop a 5 year plan for developing a one hectare permaculture farm utilising plants, animals and fish (aquaculture). Use drawings and diagrams where needed to assist in this report.
  • Select three different aquatic animals which would be appropriate to grow in a permaculture system. For each one in turn, explain how you would incorporate it into a permaculture system.
  • Go to nurseries and agricultural supply companies and inquire about environmentally safe pesticides. Write a report on these products.
  • Observe the construction process of a building or structure that involves some type of earthworks (eg, roads, dams, etc).
  • Take a photograph of your home or residence. Discuss your residence in relation to designing with consideration to the environment (eg. does it efficiently utilize sun and shade, is it energy efficient).
  • Describe the importance of house design in relation to location, eg. tropical region of Queensland or west coast of Tasmania.
  • Contact the local council or health department and inquire about allowable use of waste material in your area. Consider asking about grey water, septic tanks, use of effluent and animal wastes, etc. Write a report to 250 words on the task.
  • Contact and obtain information on composting toilets from a manufacturer. Compile this information and use it as a personal reference.
  • Contact a supplier of windmills and find out all that you can about the use of these devices for supplying water (ie. pumping from a river, lake, dam, ground water etc). Discover the alternatives available, the costs involved, the applications, operation etc.
  • Contact the National Parks and Wildlife department and obtain as much information as possible on wildlife corridors, conservation, etc. Contact your local council department and inquire about their wildlife corridors, etc. Are they similar or drastically different? Can you think of a reason why there may be a difference?
  • For a month period, write down all tasks performed by yourself and anyone who enters your permaculture garden. Submit this work schedule plus a brief report on how it may be possible to improve the time efficiency in the garden.
  • Write a report on where you think 'alternative' permaculture is heading in terms of main-stream acceptance.

DURATION: 650 - 700 hours

Graduates may find employment in either general horticulture fields, offering a Permaculture perspective to the industry. Or areas servicing Permaculture or natural gradening systems Eg Natural garden design, plant nuseries, teaching, and consulting to inspire the use of Permaculture and nautral gardening systems.



ACS was founded by John Mason in 1979 as Australian Horticultural Correspondence School.

Right from these very early times, we've always believed that the best education only comes when the student is learning from the experience of a whole range of industry experts (rather than just a single teacher).

Every ACS course is a work in progress, continually evolving, with new information being added and old information being updated by our team of internationally renowned professional horticulturists.

Over the decades more than 100 horticulture experts from across the world have contributed to these courses, bringing their individual knowledge and experiences from as wide afield as England and Spain to Australia and America.

While may colleges and universities focus on providing courses that relate only to the country where they are based, ACS has always strived to make it's courses relevant to all parts of the world; any climate, economic or cultural situation. This has been achieved by involving a large number of professionals in the course development.

When it comes to tutoring, marking papers and mentoring students, the team approach is just as strong as with our writing. ACS students have the ability to obtain advice and support from staff across the world, with horticulture tutors located in the UK, Australia (both the north and south) and New Zealand.

The ACS team approach and global focus to both course content and student support, ensures our graduates have a unique and "real world" skills set. This unique approach is highly regarded by our colleagues in horticulture.

Contributors to ACS Courses over the years have included:

John Mason -former parks director (Melton, Essendon and Heidelberg), Landscape Designer (Playgrounds and recreation Association of Victoria), Nurseryman, President Australian Institute of Horticulture (Victoria), Committee International Year of the Child (Australia), Author ove over 40 books, Editor Garden Guide Magazine, Editor Your Backyard Magazine.

Maggi Brown - Education officer, Henry Doubleday Research Association (UK), gold medal winner Chelsea Flower Show, Garden consultant.

Adriana Fraser - Horticultural Consultant, TAFE Lecturer, Project Manager - Parks and Gardens, Horticultural writer. 

Iain Harrison -Garden Manager Fibremakers, Garden Consultant, Lecturer Swinburn TAFE

Katie Freeth - Manager Commonwealth War Graves (France), Horticultural Consultant (France & UK), Board member Institute of Horticulture, and International Federation Parks & Recreation Administration

Tony Bundock -Horticulture Businessman, Consultant, Head of Horticulture Dept. TAFE

Jim Davis -Horticulture Businessman, Lecturer TAFE (NSW), Principal VCAH Burnley College

Dr Lyn Morgan -author and internationally renowned hydroponics consultant (New Zealand)

Dr Valeria Astorga -horticultural consultant, lecturer (Spain, Peru, Australia)

Alison Bundock -Editor (Kangaroo Press; Southern Cross University), Technical Writer (APM), Consultant

Rosemary Davies -Horticultural concultant, journalist, media personality (Victoria)

What is Permaculture?
In its strictest sense, permaculture is a system of production based on perennial, or self perpetuating, plant and animal species which are useful to people. In a broader context, permaculture is a philosophy which encompasses the establishment of environments which are highly productive and stable, and which provide food, shelter, energy, etc., as well as supportive social and economic infrastructures. In comparison to modern farming techniques practised in Western civilisations, the key elements of permaculture are low energy and high diversity inputs. The design of the landscape, whether on a suburban block or a large farm, is based on these elements.
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, land form, 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.
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 none the less still continue to change.
  • It replenishes itself. The plants and animals in the farm feed each other, with perhaps only minimal feed (eg. 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". (ie. one plant takes more iron, while the plant next to it takes less iron, so iron doesn't get depleted because all of the plants have a high demand for iron). The diversity of species act 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 gradually over a long period perhaps never becoming totally stable. The biggest challenge for the designer is to foresee these ongoing long term changes.
Structure of a Permaculture System
  • Large trees dominate the system. The trees used will affect everything else they create shade, reduce temperature fluctuations below (create insulation), reduce light intensities below; reduce water loss from the ground surface, act as a wind barrier, etc.
  • In any system, there should also be areas without large trees.
  • The "edge" between a treed and non-treed area will have a different environment to the areas with and without trees. These "edges" provide conditions for growing things which won't grow fully in the open or in the treed area. The north edge of a treed area (in the southern hemisphere) is sunny but sheltered while the south edge is cold but still sheltered more than in the open. "Edges' are an example of microclimates, small areas within a larger site that have special conditions which favour certain species which will grow well elsewhere (see also the section on Corridor Planting in Managing Plants 11 Chapter for more information on "Edge" effects).
  • Pioneer plants are used initially in a permaculture system to provide vegetation and aid the development of other plants which take much longer to establish. For example, many legumes grow fast and fix nitrogen (raise nitrogen levels in the soil) and thus increase nutrients available to nut trees growing beside them. Over time the nuts will become firmly established and the legumes will die out. Pioneer plants are frequently short lived (but not always).
The concept of Permaculture was originally developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, Australia.

Meet some of our academics

Bob James Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry. He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked a Grounds Manager at a major university; and a manager in a municipal parks department. Over recent years he has been helping younger horticulturists as a writer, teacher and consultant; and in that capacity, brings a diverse and unique set of experiences to benefit our students.
Diana Cole Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects since the 1980's. She has worked full time in horticulture since 2001, as a nursery manager, landscape and garden consultant, and a horticultural teacher (both with ACS and in the classroom with a local college where she lives in England).
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 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 the classic UK "plantswoman". She can identify thousands of plants, and maintains her own homes and gardens in the Cotswolds (England), and near Beziers (in Southern France). Maggi is regarded as a leading organics expert across the UK, having worked for 20 years as Education Officer at the "Garden Organic" (formerly HDRA). Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS, Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .

Check out our eBooks

Food PreservingThe Food Preserving ebook covers everything you need to know on preserving a wide range of food. Make the most of your bumper fruit and vegetable crop and learn to preserve them to eat at a later time in the year.
Landscaping with Australian PlantsDiscover more about Landscaping with Australian Plants with this ebook, add a different design element in your garden by using beautiful and highly practical Australian Native plants. Attract wildlife, save water by using plants that are suitable for your area. Perfect for passionate gardeners, students and gardening professionals.
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.
Sustainable Agricultureby John Mason (Printed Book) published by Landlinks Press (imprint of CSIRO Publishing).