Learn to Design and Build Sustainable, Resilient and Productive Landscapes, Farms or Gardens

Combine horticulture and permaculture for a truly professional qualification in this field.

This course provides training for people working or wishing to work in farming or horticulture with a particular emphasis on the design, development and management of productive natural garden systems and productive landscapes. Graduates may find employment in either general horticulture, or in areas servicing permaculture or natural gardening (eg. Garden/system design, plant nurseries, teaching, consulting, etc). Half of the course is identical to the Permaculture courses outlined previously, and the other half provides a broad, general foundation in horticultural practices.

The Certificate in Horticulture (Permaculture) is a vocationally oriented and internationally accredited course providing specialised training for employment in permaculture gardening.

Develop an ability to Plan and Create Sustainable Permaculture Landscapes:

  • develop broad general skills in horticultural practices and plant identification
  • develop skills and knowledge in designing a total, virtually self-sustaining permaculture system
  • develop understanding of the patterns of nature
  • develop knowledge and skills in applying the patterns of natural design
  • develop knowledge about the integration of food and animals in a permaculture system
  • develop skills and knowledge in the application of permaculture principles to design a permaculture system

Certificate in Horticulture involves two areas of work:

This is half of the course, involving at least 350 hours.
This has 15 lessons as follows:

1. Introduction to Horticulture

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 on organic growing involving at least 350 hours of study.

Through these specialised stream studies the student will achieve all of the following objectives; and more:

  • Explain weather patterns.
  • Explain contour maps.
  • Explain water within the system and its applications.
  • Explain the importance of forest.
  • Explain the interaction of soils and plant growth.
  • Explain the difference of soil types.
  •  Design a mandala garden.
  • Design a herb spiral.
  • Draw zones 1 to 5 from the home and explain contents.
  • Draw a sector plan.
  • Explain companion planting.
  • Design a water garden and list appropriate species.
  • Design a fruit garden.
  • Explain the integration and management of animals, and identify species of poultry, ducks, fish, bees, sheep, pigs.
  • Explain the role of insects in the ecosystem.
  • Compile a list of species used in aquaculture, their benefits and pond configuration.
  • Explain rotational grazing and methods of fencing.
  • Design for pest management.
  • List the comparative advantages of permaculture.
  • List ways of preventing damage from fire and floods and list fire retardant species.
  • Describe the importance of house design in relation to location, e.g. tropical Queensland or west coast of Tasmania.
  • Explain the advantages of wildlife corridors.
  • Explain the uses of swales and how they are constructed.


Permaculture is an ethical and sustainable approach to providing our human needs. It recognises human requirements such as food, fuel and shelter and attempts to supply them without degrading anything else in the environment such as air, water, animals, plants and soil.

In a broad sense permaculture attempts to establish diverse environments which are productive, stable and resilient in order to provide people with food, shelter, energy, income and to build community in a healthy, balanced  and sustainable and integrated way.  

As such permaculture stresses both a positive approach and an attitude of cooperation, with respect to both the environment and all living things. It embraces the ethic that all life has an intrinsic worth, irrelevant of the use of an organism to us as humans – and uses that as a basis for the three main ethical principles as follows:

  • "Caring for the Earth" i.e. all the living things, animals, plants, land, water and air which make-up the environment

  • "Care for People" - permaculture systems designed to encourage the promotion of self-reliance along with community responsibility.

  • “Sharing Fairly” – follows the above two aims by limiting consumption, reproduction and sharing surplus by redistributing excess (e.g. food, labour, information or money).

Key Elements

Permaculture started out as an innovative idea which identified and incorporated farming, gardening practices and philosophical ideas from many different places around the world. It adopted, adapted and combined these various practices to form what we know as ‘permaculture’ today.

A Permaculture system is made up of land, water, trees, soil, buildings etc. It doesn’t concentrate on the conventional notion of aesthetics like other areas of landscape design. Function is the key concentrating factor in permaculture – aesthetics are given low priority. A permaculture system encourages function over looks; it needs to serve its purpose not to serve a notion of aesthetics.

Key elements of permaculture are low energy and high diversity inputs; principles which are equally relevant to a small home garden or a large commercial farm.

The arrangement and layout will mostly depend on personal preferences, providing the nine key guiding principles are followed:

  • Relative location – all things in a design are connected – by placing individual components in a design in the right position it encourages a desired relationship between them.

  • Multiple functions – a design will have numerous functions (provide shelter, food, energy etc) each function in a design should be considered individually in support of the whole. And each function is supported by many elements.

  • Multiple elements – biological diversity is a key principle of permaculture. The way in which plants are arranged in a system effects the environment i.e. the temperature, frosts, winds, soil fertility and energy.

  • Elevation planning – a permaculture design is 3 dimensional; it considers the width, length and the height of the elements within the system – enabling appropriate placement  to, for example, encourage energy impacts.

  • Biological resources – using only renewable energy sources (e.g. wood grown in wood lots)that are produced and reproduced within the system.

  • Energy recycling – minimising energy use; collect, store and reuse waste energy within the system e.g. produced by animals and plants (i.e. bulk vegetation for compost, animal manures etc. and using plants (e.g. legumes) to store energy (nutrients) in the soil.

  • Natural succession – encouraging new life when as old organisms die.

  • Maximise edges – edges, because they abut other parts of a system (there is two differing components on either side of an edge) have greater diversity and therefore more components of influence than other parts of a system. It is important that edges are well designed to create greater diversity within the system.

  • Diversity – to ensure greater biological diversity a permaculture system is always a polyculture i.e. made up of many and varied components (never a monoculture).

Plants and their Function in a Permaculture System

A principle of permaculture (as discussed above) is diversity. In a permaculture system you should grow a variety of different plants together. This ensures greater biological stability. For example: Using beans in permaculture helps fulfil this important principle because beans have multiple functions – they help improve soil fertility and can also be harvested for food.

The size, shape density and arrangement and diversity of plantings influences:

  •     Temperature (plants make air and soil temperatures cooler in summer and warmer in winter).
  •     Water (soil is less likely to dry out under a tree canopy).
  •     Winds (direction can be changed, strength can be reduced).
  •     Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter creating different environmental effects in winter and in summer
  •     Frost (there is far less chance of frost beside or under the canopy of plants).