Course CodeVSS105
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

,h3>Learn to Use Plants Better in a Permaculture System

Learn more about plants that can be grown for useful purposes; to contribute toward greater self sufficiency and sustainability; providing food, fodder, fuel, construction materials or other benefits.

Consider how selecting appropriate plants and growing them in appropriate ways; you can create better ecological relationships in the garden or landscape, and improve the sustainability as well as productivity of the land over a long period of time.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Permaculture Gardens - Different Garden Systems
  2. Design - Planning techniques and skills
  3. Garden Zones
  4. Design for Natural Pest, Disease and Weed Control
  5. Companion Planting
  6. Appropriate Technology in Permaculture Design
  7. Water Garden
  8. Fruit Garden
  9. Herb and Vegetable Garden
  10. Mandala Garden

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.


  • Understand use, and establishment of, Permaculture gardens
  • Understand basic principles of permaculture design
  • Understand the role and function of zones in permaculture systems
  • Develop knowledge of natural pest, disease, and weed control methods
  • Understand the principles behind companion planting, and its function in permaculture gardens
  • Understand the features of, and applications for appropriate technology in permaculture design
  • Develop knowledge of the use of water gardens in permaculture design
  • Develop knowledge of a range of plants suitable for permaculture systems
  • Develop knowledge of a range of plants suitable for permaculture systems
  • Design a Mandala garden

What You Will Do

  • Describe how you would build a no dig garden approximately 10 X 3 metres in size
  • Create a table or chart which compares Permaculture with other styles of gardening
  • Find a home/house which has the potential to be developed as a permaculture system
  • Collect and list preplanning information relevant to the site.
  • Go into one or several gardens and look closely for pest , disease and weed problems.
  • Note any problems you see, and consider appropriate methods which could be used to control each of these problems.
  • Visit or contact a well stocked nursery (preferably a herb nursery).
  • List all of the companion plants which you are able to find for sale in that nursery
  • Contact companies which supply appropriate technologies, and obtain brochures or other information wherever you can. Read any literature you obtain
  • Research what products are available for building water gardens, and what water plants are available
  • Visit a nursery or obtain catalogues from nurseries which supply tree species which would be suitable for a permaculture set up.
  • Design and build a 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 (presuming that you have the space to do so).

How are Plants Managed in Permaculture?

Here are some of the techniques: 
  • Early intervention – vigilant monitoring of crops.
  • Quarantine and hygiene - is used to minimise the introduction of pests and diseases and their spread - removal of fallen fruit can interrupt the life cycle of certain pests (fruit fly) and prevent spread of fungal disease. Removal of obviously diseased or pest infested plants will prevent further infestations. Removal of weeds, which are susceptible to the same pests as the crop. Growing buffers to prevent spread from nearby properties. Avoiding external inputs that may introduce pests and diseases.
  • Timing of planting eg. late plantings of brassica crops will help avoid infestations of the cabbage moth grub.
  • Pest forecasts - insect life cycles follow a seasonal pattern and (generally) insects develop more rapidly when it is warm and are dormant during winter. The rate at which insects develop is shown through research to be directly related to temperature and is usually also consistent within a species. This knowledge has led to the development (through computer simulation) of pest forecasts. Information relating to this can be obtained through the Dept. of Agriculture (Aust and USA) or DEFRA (UK).
  • Exclusion barriers – such as woven woolen fabrics and nets.
  • Mechanical control – bug vacuums, sticky traps (approved types only), light and sound.
Biological controls
Encourage natural predators that already exist locally ie. lizards, frogs dragonflies, spiders, and birds.
To be effective they need places to shelter and breed (eg. hollow logs), food (insects, nectar, pollen), water, shelter belts, ie. suitable plant species etc.
Many insects are also good predators of pests:
  • Ladybird beetles and their larvae eat aphids
  • Hover flies (Syrphid flies) eat aphids
  • Lacewing will control mites, caterpillars, aphids, thrips, mealy bugs, some scales.
  • Praying mantis eats most other insects, pests or otherwise.
  • Wasps attack many types of insects including caterpillars. Some plants (eg. chamomile, celery, hyssop, tansy, dill, and yarrow) can be planted to attract these wasps.
  • Woolly aphids parasites are attracted by clover (Trifolium sp.)
  • Lacewings which feed on aphis and other insects are attracted by sunflowers.
  • Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) attracts preying mantis and some other predators.
  • Hoverflies are attracted to Buckwheat.
Release of approved insect predators, parasites or pathogens.
This commonly involves the use of diseases which affect the pest or weed (the disease might be spread by an insect) or beneficial
insects which either eat or parasitise the pest. These control agents are sometimes known as antagonistic organisms. Restrictions apply however – some certification bodies for example only allow indigenous species or those that have at least a three year history of release. Bacillus thuringiensis must not be GMO derived.
Organically approved insecticides and fungicides
Chemically synthesised pesticides are disallowed in organic growing because they disrupt biological systems. In certain circumstances however where infestations cannot be controlled through other means, and as a last resort, most certifying bodies allow the use of certain (specified) non-synthetically derived chemical and biological controls. Some (but not all) of these inputs may also be registered for use with government bodies such as Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, Pesticide Safety Directorate UK and the Department of Agriculture USA.
Companion Planting
Companion planting is growing specific combinations of plants together for mutual health benefits and to reduce pest and disease incidences. It can be as simple as inter-cropping (growing another species with the main crop), providing edge plantings or more complex such as growing plants together for mutual benefit. There is no scientific explanation for the effects of companion planting however companion plants are believed to work in several ways:
  • May act as a barrier to the crop
  • May camouflage the crop
  • May confuse insect pests
  • May attract insects away from the main crop
  • Produce exudes from the roots that appear to deter pest attack
  • Produce chemicals that repels pests or masks
  • Controlled watering - in hot weather, too much water on the surface of the ground or the leaves will encourage fungal diseases and some insects. By using drip irrigation (where appropriate) these problems can be decreased.

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).

Check out our eBooks

Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsHome grown produce somehow has a special quality. Some say it tastes better, others believe it is just healthier. And there is no doubt it is cheaper! Watching plants grow from seed to harvest and knowing that the armful of vegies and herbs you have just gathered for the evening meal will be on the table within an hour or two of harvest, can be an exciting and satisfying experience.
Garden Design Part 1This stunning full colour Garden Design ebook is full of useful tips, information and inspiration. It contains around 300 colour illustrations! It is comprised of three parts: Design, How a Garden Functions and Aesthetics (making it look good).
HerbsHerbs are fascinating plants, mystical and romantic. They 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.
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.



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