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This site has not been updated since 2014 and is being maintained as an archive for now. As time allows we'll be weeding out the dated material and presenting the many useful articles in a new format. We'd appreciate any feedback on what you find most useful on this site via our contact page.

What will I learn on a Permaculture Design Course?

What does a typical Permaculture Design Course cover?

The curriculum covers a wide variety of subjects. Below is a typical course schedule. This course will not make you an expert in any of the individual subjects covered, although in many cases we go into considerable depth. The point of the course is to introduce you to the relationships and synergies among the disciplines that Permaculture connects. In a sense, Permaculture creates an ecology made up of the many tools and concepts used to design sustainable communities.  You will learn what these tools are and how to decide which to use, and when. The course will show you how these subjects connect. Then, after the course, you can go into whatever depth you desire in your areas of interest.

The order of topics in a course may change due to the presence of guest instructors, and emphasis on certain subjects may shift due to the needs and focus of the participants, such as urban or rural residents, city planners, farmers, and so on.


Day 1: Foundations of Permaculture Course overview and logistics; Permaculture defined; observation skills; ethics and the basis of ecological design; Permaculture principles, indicators of sustainability, and how to use them.

Day 2: Design for Pattern Literacy: 
Designing from patterns to details; natural patterns as a design tool; the Permaculture design process; methods of design; the Zone and Sector System.

Day 3: Thinking Like a Watershed: the water cycle: Catching and storage water; designing tanks, cisterns, and other water storages. Roof-top water catchments

Day 4: The Path to Water Wisdom: 
Ponds, swales, and keyline design; water in the Permaculture landscape; greywater and blackwater system design; aquaculture.

Day 5: Soil: The Living Skin of the Earth: 
Soil structure and composition; soil ecology and nutrient flow; creating healthy soil; analyzing your soil; compost, nutrient teas, and mulches; cover crops and green manures; strategies for your own soil conditions.

Day 6: A Revolution Disguised as Gardening: 
How ecosystems work; the home garden; plants of many functions; polycultures; integrating animals and insects into the garden; pest management; wildlife habitat

Day 7: Food Forests, Guilds, and Ecosystems: 
Trees and their many roles; designing plant communities; the orchard; food forest design; hedgerows, windbreaks, and shelterbelts; biomimicry.

Day 8: The Built Environment: 
The functions of shelter; methods of green and natural building; designing shelter for climate and culture; living roofs; site selection; designing for disaster.

Day 9: Energy and Tools for Working Wisely: 
Population, energy use, and Peak Oil; renewable energy strategies; appropriate technologies for heating and cooling, transportation, cooking, and construction.

Day 10: Ecovillages, Community, and Thinking Globally: Community dynamics; intentional communities, co-housing, and group decision-making processes; city repair; ecovillages. Designing for urban, suburban, or rural situations. Tropical, dryland, and temperate strategy review.

Day 11: Green Economics and Right Livelihood: 
Money, finance, and local currency networks; Permaculture in education; green business guilds and networks; building social capital. Design project preparation.

Day 12: Putting it Together: The Design Project
- Group design project presentations. Where to from here?

From Toby Hemenway’s synopsis


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