Further your permaculture studies with this online course. For people with prior experience and training in permaculture who want to understand design principles associated with this industry.

Course Code: VSS107
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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  • Learn to manage land in a way that serves multiple goals; being both productive and environmentally sensitive
  • Explore possibilities for long term sustainability and sustained productivity
  • Consider how choices which are made during planning a site can significantly impact upon ecosystem stability and production levels into the future.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Overview of Permaculture – Definition of Permaculture, understanding plant names, environmentally safe pesticides, zones, sectors and cycles in Permaculture design
  2. Buildings and Permaculture : The alternatives – Indoor/outdoor buildings, storage facilities, building materials
  3. Buildings and Permaculture : Integration into the Environment – Essential elements for houses in different zones, energy conservation, alternative energy sources
  4. Waste Disposal – Liquid waste, grey water, blackwater, waste disposal and recycling, nitrogen in waste
  5. Recycling – Composting, waste water recycling, conservation and recycling, council recycling
  6. Designing for Natural Disasters – Fire, flood, cyclone, tsunami, biotecture
  7. Natural Watering – Water efficient gardens, mosquitoes, windmills
  8. Indigenous Plants and Animals – Wildlife management, birds in the garden, suitable native plants
  9. Preparing Management and Development Plans – Planning and managing a garden, Permaculture design, work schedules
  10. Major Design Project – A in depth design project for both your own residence and another property


  • Review the principles and major aspects of permaculture systems knowledge of the alternative materials and features available for buildings in permaculture systems
  • Understand the role of buildings in the permaculture environment
  • Develop knowledge of the range and function of waste disposal methods suitable for permaculture systems
  • Understand the role of recycling in modern society
  • Develop knowledge of how to design for natural disasters
  • Develop knowledge of water efficient irrigation techniques
  • Understand the role of indigenous plants and animals in permaculture systems
  • Develop skills in preparing management and development plans

What You Will Do

  • Go to nurseries and agricultural supply companies and inquire about environmentally safe pesticides
  • Observe the construction process of a building or structure that involves some type of earthworks 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
  • Compile a short table on the various composting toilets available
  • Contact the local council or health department and inquire about recycling methods available for residents of your shire.
  • 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).

How Can Weeds Be Controlled?

Weeds don’t have to be a problem. There are lots of ways to control them.
The most important thing is timing. Plan and control weed problems before they get out of hand, and you will save yourself a great deal of money, time, and of course heartache.

It is always best to remove weeds when they are young. Never let them flower and set seed. Most weed seeds can persist in the soil for long periods – in some cases, years, so prevention is definitely better than cure.

Mulching can be very effective, killing weeds by cutting out the light, and providing a physical barrier that is difficult for a weed to grow through. This is a technique often used in permaculture; but one that can be a lot more complicated than just throwing something on top of the ground!
A mulch may be organic (in which case it can eventually decompose), or inorganic (which may be much more permanent). Organic mulches such as straw, wood shavings or chips, pea straw, grass clippings or fallen leaves; will improve the soil fertility and structure as they decompose; but if you want to control weeds, they need to be thick, and be topped up with fresh mulch as they break down. Some organic materials work better than others, and that may depend on the physical and chemical properties of the material used.
Mulching may not stop persistent weeds though, such as couch grass and ivy.
Mulch can also be a source of weeds. Beware of ‘free’ mulch! If it has not been properly composted, you may find yourself with a worse weed problem than you started with.
These are usually made of a closely woven fabric that prevents most weeds from growing through, but still allows water to penetrate. They are not suitable for long term garden beds, but can be useful for growing annuals and vegetables.
Some trees with dense foliage or foliage right to the ground will shade out weeds. Weed control might not be complete, but it can be very effective if you plant the appropriate plants. Useful species may include Eucalypts,  Ash, Maple, Citrus, Figs, Mangoes, Willows and Conifers. Spreading, dense groundcovers such as Juniper conferta, prostrate Grevilleas and native Violets out compete most weeds for light, space, water and nutrients. Other plants drop lots of leaves, creating their own mulch. Examples of these are Pine Trees, Casuarinas, Eucalypts, Melaleucas, Leptospermums and Acacias. A dense planting of comfrey or lemon grass may be used around a vegetable patch to prevent the entry of spreading weeds.
Large sheets of clear plastic are spread over the surface of the ground in warm weather. The sun's rays will cause the ground under the plastic to heat up enough to kill many types of weeds and soil diseases. After a couple of weeks or more the plastic can be removed and the area planted. Solarisation is an ideal method of ground clearing prior to planting a vegetable garden, or annuals in a border, and is relatively cheap. The best results are achieved in hot, sunny and dry weather.
Hand weeding is very effective for small areas, especially when the weeds are growing up through other garden plants.
Cultivation with a hoe or rotary hoe is useful for killing annual weeds. In some cases where weeds have a vigorous root system, cultivation alone may not be enough, and the weeds may have to be physically removed by hand. It is advisable not to water the soil directly after cultivating, as hot sunlight will kill exposed weed roots.
In some cases cultivating can worsen a weed problem by chopping up and spreading underground parts such as roots, rhizomes or bulbs. Many weeds are adapted to invade cultivated or otherwise disturbed ground. Some weed seeds require light to germinate, and cultivation can bring these to the surface so mulching may be required as well.
Some weeds are almost impossible to control by hand, for example, couch, kikuyu and wandering jew, or weeds with bulbs or corms (eg. oxalis, watsonia).
This involves cutting the tops off the weeds on a regular basis, ideally before any seed heads develop. Any cut foliage should be allowed to fall back on the beds and this will help to return nutrients to the soil. If the weeds are long in growth when cut, then they may act as a mulch, preventing other weeds from germinating and growing. The weeds should be cut close to the ground to effectively control them, and an ideal machine to use would be a brushcutter or whipper snipper. 
By raising soil pH you can discourage the growth of some weeds, such as Sorrel (Rumex sp.). Adding organic matter to the soil will also gradually cause sorrel growth to slow down.
 Some types of animals can be useful for keeping weeds from getting out of hand, particularly on larger properties (eg. Sheep, Goats, Llamas, Rabbits) 
The range of herbicides available for the unlicensed property manager is relatively limited, and will vary from place to place. Some that are banned in one country may be available elsewhere. If you do use chemical weedicides, be sure to read the label carefully, and follow any safety instructions precisely.
Some are dangerous to humans, pets and wildlife; and others can cause other problems (eg. The Romans used salt as a weedicide over 2,000 years ago. It was effective then, but ground they treated is in places, still unable to grow things 2,000 years later!)
Some of the herbicides you might find may be Glyphosate (Round Up, Zero), 2,4-D, Dicamba and MCPA.
Glyphosate is non-selective and non-persistent (it will kill all plants that it comes into contact with and it is not residual in the soil), and can be used to control most garden weeds. It must be applied carefully as even small amounts of spray drift will harm nearby plants. It works most effectively while the plant is actively growing.
Selective herbicides containing Dicamba, MCPA or 2,4-D are useful for targeting specific types of weeds – read the labels to see which brands will control your weed problem. 
Weeds can spoil the look of a lawn.
The best way to keep weeds out of lawns is to keep the grass growing vigorously and lushly. Fertilise and water the lawn regularly throughout the growing season. Mow frequently but don’t mow it short as this weakens the grass and makes it easier for weeds to invade the lawn.
Use a selective herbicide which targets the type of weeds you want to get rid of, ie. broad-leaved weeds, bindii, winter grass, etc.
Sulphate of ammonia can be used to control clovers and broad-leaved weeds. 
After a period of time, many paved areas will start growing weeds between the cracks. You can prevent this by maintaining the paving in good condition. Periodically replace chipped or damaged mortar and sweep the area regularly, to prevent silt filling in the cracks.
As well as treating pavement weeds with chemical herbicides, you can also use non-iodised salt (cooking salt). After you have made sure the run-off won’t wash into your garden beds, simply dissolve the salt in water and pour on the weeds. The weeds will be dead within three or four days.
It can be very difficult to use herbicides in garden beds – even small amounts of spray drift can harm or even kill nearby plants. Rather than spraying, use a weeding wand filled with herbicide and simply dab the weeds with the wick.
Once you have cleared the area of weeds, cover with mulch to prevent more weeds colonising the soil.


Permaculture Design helps Ecosystem Conservation

There are lots of different ways of managing land. Most are focused on a "single purpose". Examples might be: farming where the primary aim id to grow produce; or conservation, where the primary aim may be to protect natural ecosystems from change. Permaculture is different in one simple respect: it does not make any one purpose dominant over other purposes. Production and conservation are both equally important.

Ecosystems are important on many different levels. They are responsible for nutrient cycling and production of food and fresh water, as well as many other things. In fact, these ecosystems are imperative in the wellbeing and prosperity of mankind. Healthy ecosystems have greater biodiversity, but agriculture and urbanisation have reduced biodiversity in many regions around the world. Permaculture recognises that the consequences of degraded, or fragmented habitats can have far reaching and long term impacts upon human well being.

Ecosystem conservation involves better planning, managing and rehabilitating areas under threat so as to avoid further losses and to sustain existing biodiversity. This is usually done through the establishment of natural reserves. Reserves should be representative of the different types of habitat found within a region such as mountain, hillside, plains, coastal, and offshore islands. Ecosystem management is also applicable to areas outside of reserves e.g. by establishing programs to eradicate invasive plants or control over-grazing by livestock. Ecosystem management not only involves removal of feral animals but also the reestablishment of native species.  Revegetation is also undertaken.  
Part of the establishment of ecosystem conservation programs involves developing an understanding of how ecosystems might change over time in the wake of increasing environmental pressure. Predictive modelling can help to gain insight into how organisms respond to change and the interactive relationships between biotic and abiotic components. Those working in ecosystem conservation and management specialise in interpreting and applying ecological science to help develop adaptive management programs of species, communities and ecosystems in a world which is continually evolving.


In many countries there are initiatives to establish sanctuaries as part of ecosystem conservation. Sanctuaries may be public or private and they are designated areas of high value habitat. Schemes associated with sanctuary establishment are usually voluntary and are implemented to encourage landowners to provide wildlife habitats on their land. Landowners who partake in these schemes must be committed to conservation management. Sanctuaries provide habitats for the protection of endangered species. Sanctuaries need not only be habitats to preserve species. Many are used for multiple purposes. For example, sanctuary landowners can also be involved in farming and grazing, horticultural enterprises, wine production, or electricity production. Another possibility is ecotourism. Properties may be used to provide guided tours, nature walks, and even bed and breakfast. Sanctuaries on public land can also serve to provide education through seminars, talks, and presentations. They may also combine recreational activities like picnic areas, boating lakes and bird watching hides with biodiversity conservation.


Your knowledge of permaculture will grow and your understanding of land planning and management in the context of permaculture will deepen.

This course will raise your awareness of what is possible when permaculture principles and sustainable land management practices are applied on any piece of land, small or large, urban or rural.

This course is a study program for people who already understand permaculture and are seeking to deepen their understanding and improve their ability to design and build effective permaculture systems.


Member of the Future Farmers Network

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Alternative Technology Association Member

Accredited ACS Global Partner

Member of the Permaculture Association

Member of Study Gold Coast

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Bob James (Horticulturist)

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 Maste

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 sinc

Maggi Brown

Maggi 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 w

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