Qualification -Certificate In Horticulture (Permaculture)

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

Study, Learn and Work in Permaculture -Design, Consulting, Education

The course is divided into two main areas, consisting of:

1 The CORE UNITS common to all streams of the Certificate in Horticulture:
(ie. Introduction to plants, Plant Culture, Soils & nutrition, Pests, diseases and weeds and Introductory propagation). These studies provide you with an important broad based understanding of Horticulture which greatly improves your ability to design effective Permaculture systems.
These studies also broaden the employment prospects of graduates enabling them to seek employment in areas such as nurseries, landscaping and garden management. It will give you a neiche that will be valuable for consulting in areas that require natural garden systems and permaculture too.

You will be studying Permaculture Systems, Advanced Permaculture and a relevant elective such as Organic plant culture or Poultry.

Enrolment fees do not include exam fees


  • 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 preplanning 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 your locality.
  • 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 or a conservation body in your locality 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.

 If you want a change, to get your hands dirty and try something new; gain a solid training in Permaculture Design and practices! 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.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Qualification -Certificate In Horticulture (Permaculture).
 Foundation Certificate in Horticultural Studies VHT002A
Stream ModulesStudied after the core modules, stream modules cover more specific or niche subjects.
 Permaculture I VSS104
 Permaculture III (Animals in Permaculture) VSS106
 Permaculture IV -Property Management VSS107
 Plants for Permaculture (Permaculture II) VSS105

Note that each module in the Qualification -Certificate In Horticulture (Permaculture) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Plants are the Backbone of Developing a Permaculture System
Tall plants do many things. They create shade, slow the wind, catch the rain, provide homes for animals, stop soil from eroding, and lots more. Smaller plants may seem less significant, but they are every bit as important. A permaculturist needs to also be a horticulturist and plantsman; to be able to identify lots of different plants, select appropriate ones to include in their designs, locate them alongside other compatible species, and treat them in a way that optimises their establishment, sustainability and usefulness.
There are many different methods and techniques that have been used by mankind, for cultivation of plants, and most of these are valid in the context in which they have been used. 
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:
  1. An intimate knowledge of the possible techniques that might be used to grow plants.
  2. An in-depth knowledge of the plant cultivars you want to grow.
  3. 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.)
Whenever You Plant, also Mulch
Mulch is valuable in a permaculture garden; it conserves moisture by preventing evaporation from the soil surface and thereby protects the soil and plants from drying out. In summer it helps to reduce soil temperatures and reduces the need for watering; an important consideration today with prolonged dry periods and drought seemingly on the increase.
Mulch minimises temperature fluctuation in roots. Plants that are cold tolerant have adapted to grow quite happily in very cold conditions, however, rapid changes in temperature i.e. sudden heavy frost and a subsequent quick thaw, are most damaging, even to cold tolerant plants. In cold climates (where the soil freezes in winter), plant desiccation is a major problem; water becomes unavailable to the plant once the ground freezes. Plants should therefore be well watered just before the ground freezes, and heavily mulched. Soil temperature in this situation can actually be higher than air temperature; mulch helps prevent rapid, damaging soil temperature changes, helps to protect plants from extremely cold air, cold drying winds, and unexpected warm sunny days that tend to contribute to splitting of frozen plants. 
In milder climates, that may have surface frosts (but the soil does not freeze) an organic mulch (straw, hay, compost etc.) cover during winter, is not helpful in protecting plants from frost damage, and may actually contribute to it. Winter sun is more prevalent in milder climates hence the soil will be warmed more often during winter, then in cold climates. 
Heat is absorbed into the ground during the day and radiated at night; mulch prevents the winter sun from warming the soil and therefore the incidence of frost accumulating on top of the mulch during a cold snap, is more likely than on bare ground.  In mild climates to maximise heat storage during the day, mulch should be pushed away from the roots of susceptible plants however this is not so important for hardier plants.
Note: mulch can also reduce soil temperature and restrict aerobic soil processes.
Mulches have many other benefits to plant establishment, and ultimately plant growth, including: 
  • Mulch deters weed growth.
  • Mulching with organic material will ultimately add  nutrients to the soil as the mulch decomposes. This can also improve soil structure, as earthworms carry organic materials deeper into the soil.
  • Mulch insulates, buffering sudden changes in soil temperature that may damage plant roots.
  • Mulch protects soil from erosion by wind and water.
How to Manage Fruit Trees in a Permaculture Garden
To maintain healthy fruit trees adopt sound cultural practices to encourage vigorous growth which will help to minimise risk.
  • Plant varieties of trees that are botanically unrelated to create biodiversity
  • Plant disease resistant species; many older ‘non-hybrid’ varieties have natural resistance to pests and diseases which has been lost in many modern cultivars which are bred for yield increases.
  • Some disease can reinfect a new tree when you replant a position where an old and potentially diseased plant died. – to reduce disease problems in old orchards, do not replace trees with those from the same plant family.
  • Soil cultivation should be kept to a minimum (and should be avoided on steep slopes) but is a way of disrupting the life-cycle of soil pests and diseases. Take care to cultivate at the correct time and soil moisture.
  • Vary harvest time – choose cultivars that are harvested at a different time to the prevalent pest’s peak period. Select harvest time to avoid the crops most vulnerable pest period. 
  • Spacing is important in crop protection. Close spacing affects the growth of the tree, can help beneficial species spread but can also cause fungal disease through reduced air movement. 
  • Prune trees of dead or diseased material to discourage disease spread and to encourage vigorous, healthy new growth.
  • Orchard hygiene - remove fallen fruit, remove old fruit still on the trees and avoid mummified fruit which spreads fungal disease. Use poultry to clean-up under trees. 
  • Keep orchard borders clean and mown to reduce pest migration and weed introduction. 
  • Use naturally occurring biological controls (approved for use in organic orchards) ie.  naturally occurring cultured organisms e.g. Bacillus thuringiensis 
  • Encourage, maintain or conserve naturally occurring predators by planting a mix of desirable plants to border (or within) the orchard. For example parasitic wasps are attracted to plants in the Apiacaea family - apples are sometimes under-planted this way to discourage codling moth. 
  • Use mechanical controls such as traps; corrugated cardboard bands placed around the trunks of trees (for codling moths), bird netting or paper bags to exclude birds, bats or flying foxes (in some regions), approved sticky traps etc. 
  • Grow resistant varieties. Grafting is often used to grow fruit trees on rootstocks which resist soil inhabiting pests and diseases, or poor soil conditions that reduce the vigour of the plant making it more susceptible to pests and diseases.
  • Plant chives or garlic in a circle around the butt, under your fruit trees. This is believed to be a long term treatment, with strong evidence to support its effectiveness, particularly under peaches where it controls peach leaf curl.
  • Allow poultry to roam ('free range') beneath your fruit trees to help control pests, and to add valuable manures to the soil.

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