Advanced Permaculture

Course CodeBHT301
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
Build on your PDC!
Most people who work in permaculture will start out by doing a "Permaculture Design Certificate; commonly known as a PDC. This is a course based upon a curriculum originally set down when permaculture was first conceived in the 1970's. 
  • A PDC gives you a foundation that is common to everyone involved with permaculture, all around the world. Over time you can build upon that foundation and develop specialist skills and knowledge, as needed, and as appropriate to your situation.
  • This course was designed to expand upon and add to that original PDC.
 If you have not yet studied a PDC -see our Permaculture Systems Course (Which is also a PDC!)
If you already have a PDC; this course may be an excellent next step for you.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  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
  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
  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 (eg. 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
    • Wating water and conservation
    • Swales and keylines
    • Keyline design
  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
  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
  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
  7. Temperate to Cold Climates
    • Introduction
    • Characteristics of a temperate biozone
    • 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
  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
  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
  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


  • 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 practiced in various places around the world.

What You Will Do

  • 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 each of the climates above.
  • Determine different animal species suitable for inclusion in a Permaculture system in each of the climates above.
  • Prepare a Permaculture design for each of the climates above.
  • 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.


If we cannot sustain agricultural production, we will eventually see a decline in available food and other supplies. There is no escaping the fact that people need agricultural products to survive: for food, clothing, etc. Science may be able to introduce substitutes (e.g. synthetic fibres) but even the raw materials to make these will generally be limited. As the world’s population increases, the demand for agricultural produce increases accordingly.

Poorly maintained farms produce less in terms of quantity and quality. Profitability decreases mean that surplus money is no longer available for repair and improvements. Farm land can become contaminated with chemical residues, weeds or vermin. The amount of vegetation produced (i.e. the biomass) may reduce, resulting in less production of carbon dioxide, and a greater susceptibility to environmental degradation. We have created a world that relies heavily on technology to produce the food needed to sustain its human population. There is a worldwide dilemma. To abandon modern farming methods could result in worldwide famine, but to continue current practices will almost certainly result in long-term degradation of farmland and, eventually, the inability to sustain even current human population levels, without even considering future increases in the human population.



There are many different ideas about how to be more sustainable. You will find different people promoting different concepts with great vigour and enthusiasm, and in most cases, these concepts will have something valuable to teach you. Many are quite similar in approach, often being just variations of a similar theme. Each approach will have its application; but because it worked for someone else does not necessarily mean it will work for you. Some of these concepts are explained below and will be discussed in more detail later in the course.


Low Input Farming Systems

This approach is based on the idea that a major problem is depletion of resources. If a farmer uses fewer resources (e.g. chemicals, fertiliser, fuel, money, manpower), farm costs will be reduced, there is less chance of damage being caused by waste residues or overworking the land and the world is less likely to run out of the resources needed to sustain farming.


Regenerative Farming Systems

This seeks to create a system that will regenerate itself after each harvest. Techniques such as composting, green manuring and recycling may be used to return nutrients to the soil after each crop. Permaculture is currently perhaps the ultimate regenerative system. A Permaculture system is a carefully designed landscape which contains a wide range of different plants and animals. This landscape can be small (e.g. a home garden), or large (e.g. a farm) and it can be harvested to provide such things as wood (for fuel and building), eggs, fruit, herbs and vegetables, without seriously affecting the environmental balance. In essence, it requires little input once established, and continues to produce and remain sustainable.


Biodynamic Systems

This approach concentrates mobilising biological mechanisms. Organisms such as worms and bacteria in the soil break down organic matter and make nutrients available to pastures or crops. Under the appropriate conditions, nature will help dispose of wastes (e.g. animal manures), and encourage predators to eliminate pests and weeds.


Organic Systems

Traditionally this involves using natural inputs for fertilisers and pest control, and techniques such as composting and crop rotation. In Australia and many other countries, there are schemes which "certify" produce as being organic. These schemes lay down very specific requirements, including products and farming techniques which are permitted, and others which are prohibited. In Australia, you can find out about such schemes through groups such as the Biological Farmers Association (BFA) or the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA). See directory for addresses.


Conservation Farming

This is based on the idea of conserving resources that already exist on the farm. It may involve such things as identifying and retaining the standard and quality of waterways, creek beds, nature strips, slopes, etc.



This approach involves separating plant growth from the soil, and taking greater control of the growth of a crop. This increases your ability to manage both production and the disposal of waste. Hydroponics is not a natural system of cropping, but it can be very environmentally friendly. A lot of produce can be grown in a small area; so despite the high establishment costs, the cost of land is much less allowing farms to operate closer to markets. In the long term, a hydroponic farm uses fewer land resources, fewer pesticides, and is less susceptible to environmental degradation than many other forms of farming.


Matching Enterprise with Land Capability

Some sites are so good that you can use them for almost any type of farming enterprise, for any period of time without serious degradation. Other places, however, have poor or unreliable climates or infertile soils and might only be suitable for certain types of enterprises or certain stocking or production rates. If you have a property already, only choose enterprises that are sustainable on your land.


Genetic Improvement

This principle involves breeding or selecting animal or plant varieties which have desirable genetic characteristics. If a particular disease becomes a problem, you select a variety that has reduced susceptibility. If the land is threatened with degradation in a particular way, you should change to varieties that do not pose that problem.



Many modern farms practise monoculture, growing only one type of animal or plant. With large populations of the same organism, though, there is greater susceptibility to all sorts of problems. Diseases and pests can build up to large populations. One type of resource (required by that variety) can be totally depleted, while other resources on the farm are under-used. If the market becomes depressed, income can be devastated. A polyculture involves growing a variety of different crops or animals, in order to overcome such problems.


Integrated Management

This concept holds that good planning and monitoring the condition of the farm and marketplace will allow the farmer to address problems before they lead to irreversible degradation. Chemical pesticides and artificial fertilisers may still be used, but their use will be better managed. Soil degradation will be treated as soon as detected. Water quality will be maintained. Ideally, diseases will be controlled before they spread. The mix of products being grown will be adjusted to reflect changes in the marketplace (e.g. battery hens and lot-fed animals may still be produced but the waste products which often damage the environment should be properly treated, and used as a resource rather than being dumped and causing pollution).


The term “Permaculture” is derived from the idea of “permanent agriculture


In its strictest sense Permaculture is a polyculture system of agriculture based on perennial or self‑perpetuating plant and animal species which are useful to man. In a broader context, Permaculture is a philosophy which encompasses the design and establishment of environments which are harmonious, highly productive and stable. These environments provide food, shelter, and energy, as well as supportive social and economic infrastructures, in a sustainable manner.

In comparison to modern farming techniques practised in most modern 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. It also takes ethical issues into consideration.

Design is required to place plants, structures and animals in relation to each other so that their functions and yields are enhanced. Permaculture design skills include observation, deduction, analysis, mapping, pattern reading and experience.
There are literally thousands of different useful plants that can be grown in a permaculture system.
Your success in developing the system will of course depend on many different things; but ultimately, it involves choosing what plants and animals to incorporate into the system, and where to locate them in relation to each other.  
The best designers will know more different plants (and animals); and understand a lot about each one and how it might interact with everything around it (the soil, other plants and animals, etc).
If you want to advance your permaculture knowlewdsge; you need to advance your knowledge of useful plaqnts.
Consider Nuts
Everyone knows about the common nuts (eg. almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, etc); but there are many hundreds of different nut producing plants. Some may only be significant in one country or region; but this doesn't mean it cannot be useful in permaculture systems elsewhere.
Nuts are grown, harvested and eaten by man, but also fed to domesticated animals. They can also be used as timber trees, or for building materials.
The term nut can mean different things to different people.  In its broadest context a nut is an edible kernel that is encased inside a hard shell, coat or fruit.
Here are just some of the hundreds of nuts you may not have even considered:
Aleurites moluccana (Candlenut)
Family: Euphorbiaceae
A flowering tree to 10-20m tall with grey to blackish bark, spreading branches and white flowers; it is in the spurge family; this plant is native to South East Asia and naturalised in Australia where it grows in rainforests as large tree with a spreading crown. It has large, hairy/downy leaves and produces clumps of brown fruit up to 5cm long known as candlenuts during the summer months. Care should be taken when eating the nuts raw as they can be poisonous and induce vomiting. However, others have reported eating the raw nuts without any ill-effects. Roasting will destroy the toxins which are contained in the nut oil. The roast nuts are reportedly very tasty and have a high energy and therefore, nutritional value. Given the high oil content of these nuts they tend to burn with a flame and produce a lot of smoke which gave rise to the name candlenut by early Australia settlers.
The nuts have also been used to tenderise meat and are used as a paste in Indonesian cooking.  Due to the relatively high cyanide content of nuts from some trees they should be eaten in moderation to avoid stomach cramps or vomiting. Cropping form a variety of trees will also minimise this risk.
Argan (Argania spinosa)
Family: Sapotaceae
 An evergreen tree from 5 to 10m tall from Morocco and Mediterranean; growing on a wide range of soils in low rainfall areas. Drought resistant.  Long lived. Kernels are a source of edible “Argan oil” which was used in the past as an alternative to olive oil; as well as for lamps and soap making. Also used as a stock feed.
Atherton Oak (Athertonia diversifolia) 
Family: Proteaceae
Small tropical rainforest tree indigenous to far north Queensland e.g.  the South - East Tablelands, Mt Lewis and lowland Daintree. Although unrelated the young leaves of the Atherton oak resemble those of the English oak.  Mature leaves are variable with lobed or entire leaves that are 12-20cm long and around 5-8 cm wide.  
Fruits are lens shaped and about 3cm long they ripen from Nov to Feb. Fruits have a blue skin with rather dry white flesh surrounding a hard shell. The edible kernel is inside the dry shell; it can be eaten raw or roasted. The nuts can be used in cakes, biscuits and desserts as a delicious additive. 
Barringtonia (Barringtonia species)
Family: Barringtoniaceae
These are trees native to areas from East Africa through Asia and Australia into the Pacific.
Many have edible kernels in the fruits that are eaten by natives; but many also contain saponins, which have been utilised as fish poisons. Even if eaten raw by natives; you should be cautious about eating without some preparation to remove toxins. Some have the common name Cut Nut.
B. butonica from Pacific islands. Seeds and fruits are eaten raw by natives.
B. careya  is indigenous to Australia. It produces a large edible kernel.
B. excelsa is indigenous to India and the Moluccas and produces an edible fruit
B. edulis is indigenous to Fiji. It’s fruit is eaten by Fijians both raw and cooked.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) 
Family: Fagaceae
Deciduous tree to 30 metres tall. Likes an alkaline soil. May respond to adding lime each year while establishing. 
Propagated by seed or grafting. Grafted trees can bear within 4 years, seed grown trees can take much longer. 
Nuts fall from the tree in autumn. Collect and dry quickly before they spoil. Or are taken by animals. Production from a single tree can become significant after 20 to 25 years. Kernels are high in protein. Oil is extracted and sold commercially in Germany. Taste is like chestnuts.
Brabejum (Brabejum stellatifolium)
Family: Proteaceae
Tree or shrub from the Proteaceae family, related to macadamia. Sometimes to 8metres tall from Cape region of South Africa. Common name is Wild Almond. Nuts need to be well soaked to remove toxins before it becomes edible. Kernels have at times been roasted and ground to be used as a coffee substitute.
Moreton Bay Chestnut (Castanospermum australe)
Family: Fabiaceae
A rainforest tree from 8 to 20 metres tall from Queensland and NSW. Large dark green leaves are produced in leaflets up to 12cm long and clumps of yellow and red flowers are borne in spring and summer. It is called ‘Moreton Bay Chestnut’ due to the chestnut taste of the seeds, and the ‘Black Bean’ due to the long brown 20cm pods which later turn black when they have fallen to the ground. Foliage can be toxic to livestock.
The seeds contain significant quantities of toxic alkaloids that need removing before they are edible. They were consumed by Aboriginals following much preparation involving cracking them, soaking in water, grinding down and forming into cakes, and then roasting. The processes of soaking and roasting both remove toxins. Nevertheless, the seeds of this plant are rarely used in modern bush tucker.
Chilean Nut (Gevuina avellana)
Family: Proteaceae 
Attractive evergreen tree. Shiny leaves, red flowers, produces small nuts in autumn, that look like Macadamias but taste more like hazelnuts. 
Sometimes called the “cold climate macadamia”; liking a cool temperate climate and tolerating to minus 10 degrees Celsius. Mostly cultivated in South America, for not only nutritious nuts but also timber and cut flowers. 
Will grow in semi shade; but cropping is heavier if grown in full sun.  Prefers a soil between 4.5 and 6.5; not alkaline; keep roots moist, maintain a good layer of organic mulch over the soil, but provide adequate drainage as well. Harvest late autumn into winter as nuts start to fall.
Trees take up to 7 years to produce a good harvest. Fruits change from red to black as they mature. The nuts can take up to a year to become ripe; forming a smooth shell around the kernel. Once ripe, it can be picked and treated much the same as macadamias; however the shell is easier to remove than a macadamia shell.
Chilean Coconut (Jubaea spectabilis)
Family:  Palmae
Palm up to 12metres tall. Takes up to 15 years for a seedling to produce fruit.
Produces bunches of yellow, stringy fruits which each contain a small coconut like fruit (around 2.5cm diameter) inside. Crack and eat fruits fresh. Taste is similar to coconut.
Store nuts cool and damp to maintain taste.
There is only one species of Jubaea (J.chilensis). It has a large grey trunk to 25m tall x 1.3m broad and a massed head of dull green, stiff feather leaves. It bears orange-yellow fruits. It adapts to cold and dry conditions but will need frequent watering until fully established. Seed germinates slowly taking up to 16 months.
Guarana (Paullinia cupana)
Family  Sapindaceae
Also called Brazilian Cocoa .Spreading or climbing shrub from the Amazon to 12 m tall. Needs a moist warm environment. Propagate from seed or cuttings. 
Fruit is small and bright red, used as a medicinal plant; in energy drinks. 
Contains up to 3 times more caffeine than coffee.
Has been used as a medicinal plant and a stimulant. The stimulant properties of Guarana are retained best if you keep the whole nuts until ready for use and then prepare for drinking, similar to how you prepare coffee. 
Hausa Groundnut (Kerstingiella geocarpa) 
Family : Fabaceae
Similar to the peanut, but cultivated in drier climates, particularly tropical West Africa. Fruits form under the soil. Nuts contain 21% protein. Propagates easily from seed (Seed germinates within a day of planting.
Seeds are removed from fruits after harvest. Native peoples sometimes mix seeds with wood ash and storing this way can preserve nuts for up to 2 years.
Oak (Quercus species)
Family:  Fagaceae
In many parts acorns are considered as food for animals and not humans; , but some native peoples have used acorns as a significant food source. Native Americans gathered and stored acorns. The nuts were then ground to a meal and used for making pastry and bread. 
Origin: Widespread in northern hemisphere; around 600 species.
Appearance: deciduous and evergreen trees, and sometimes shrubs. Some species can live 1000 to 1500 years. Many deciduous species have attractive autumn foliage, leaves are variable amongst species, male flowers are yellow catkins borne in spring, female catkins are inconspicuous, rounded acorn nuts are held in cup-shaped husks.
Culture: Prefer a deep and moist but well-drained soil, open position in full sun, tolerate part shade, mulch young trees with well-rotted manure in spring. Prune for shape.
Propagation: named cultivars are commonly grafted on seedlings; seed needs stratification (period in cold) to induce germination and must be planted within two months.
Health: Hardy and half-hardy species; caterpillars and chafer grubs may attack leaves, gall wasps may cause galls on leaves, stems, roots and buds. Known diseases include a range of fungi which can cause dieback and canker, bracket fungi may grow on trunks and branches, powdery mildew may affect leaves and stems, and honey fungus can kill trees.
Uses: shade tree, feature tree, autumn foliage, windbreak, screen, hedge, large garden tree, food source for animals and occasional food source for humans.
Bitter tasting chemicals in the nuts should normally be removed. Do this by spreading acorns, 1 to 2cm thick over a porous cloth and washing hot water through. Repeat the wash at least twice until bitterness is removed. Nuts can then be dried in an oven and ground into a meal for use in baking.

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