Course Curriculum Outline & Overview


The PDC is a tested and proven standardized curriculum offered by permaculture institutes and educational centers around the world. Developed by visionary author/educator/naturalist Bill Mollison, it includes all of the topics in his pioneering work, Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. Note that a physical copy of this textbook is not included in your PDC tuition.

While not required for the course, we think that Bill’s textbook is the best permaculture resource book out there. If you are serious about getting into the content, this book is a good investment. Tagari (the publisher of Bill Mollison’s books) has offered you a 25% discount for not only Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual but also all the books in their store! Items can be shipped anywhere, although they cannot guarantee delivery to addresses in Africa. For more information, and to access your coupon code, see the module titled Bonus Content & Coupon Codes.

Here’s just a quick spin through the curriculum we’ll cover in this course…

Introduction to PermacultureThis section and the next lay the foundation with the core principles on which permaculture is based.

Starting with the mistakes that led to today’s world situation, we’ll look at…
  • How did we (humans) get here, and where are we going?
  • What are the problems – how can we state them in a manageable way, without overwhelm?
  • What are the myths of our current culture, and how do they prevent us from acting?
  • How do we reclaim our story so that we can have a positive impact on our immediate ecosystem, our bioregion, and the planet as a whole?

Concepts and Themes in Design You might call this portion How Does an Ecosystem Work?

Starting with the ecological building blocks that every permaculture design replicates, we’ll look at…
  • Naturally occurring patterns and natural laws, and how to replicate them in human-made designs (and dramatically increase crop yields in the process!).

  • Food webs and sustainable human diets, interdependency and natural connections between species, and the amazing, dynamic stability that’s built into a diverse ecosystem.

  • A new definition for the concept of yield.

  • A holistic understanding of all of the benefits and services a design should strive to provide (in nature, each element serves many functions, not just one!)

Methods of Design Now we start getting into the nitty-gritty tools and techniques for replicating natural, self-sustaining ecosystems!

We’ll talk about…
  • Observing a site and deducing its needs, your options, and your best strategies, from the land itself.

  • Developing a strategic approach to a project, including designing from patterns to details, analyzing the elements of a site and the needs and yields of its systems, and using slope and orientation.

  • Surveying landscapes for property design using both simple and sophisticated tools, designing by map overlays and interpreting seemingly random assortments of information.

  • Finding your microclimate and increasing productivity with intensive garden design strategies including: stacking of space, soil-building, mulch, nutrient cycling, pest control, green manures, worms, compost & companion planting.

  • Building in the human factor: determining work spaces, designating zones and sectors for types of use.

  • Creating a master pattern that incorporates a code of ethics for the relationship between humans and nature.

  • Incorporating guilds of interdependent plants and animals.

  • Establishing and maintaining a balanced, self-perpetuating system.

Pattern Understanding – Circles, spirals, waves, branches…we see certain patterns over and over again in nature and human designs, but why? What purposes do they serve, and which should be used in X situation?

We’ll talk about…
  • Key natural patterns, the purposes they serve, and how and where to apply them.

  • The importance of boundaries as a place of species mingling, challenge and growth, and how to put this to use.

  • The impact of these principles on the human level, in relationships, society, and the economy.

Climatic Factors – These days, when we hear about climate, the first word that probably comes to mind is “change” – but here we’ll be looking at more basic questions.

We’ll talk about…
  • Climate zones and weather patterns, and the workings of precipitation, wind, and radiation.

  • How to identify the impact of climate factors on the project landscape and across the region.

  • How to identify your micro-climate and extend your growing season….

Trees and Their Energy Transactions – You probably know about the roles that trees play as fuel, raw material, and carbon storage, but are you aware of the many other functions they serve in living forests?

We’ll talk about…
  • How they regulate and moderate ecosystems by complex interactions with wind, precipitation, and temperature.

  • How you can sustainably use, propagate, harvest and manage tree systems using such techniques such as coppicing, pollarding, grafting, guild planting, succession planning, and designing shelterbelts and orchards.

  • How to grow your own fuel and heat your own home without fossil fuels.

Water – While Earth is called “the watery planet,” humans have tended to mismanage our fresh water supply, threatening the availability of our most precious resource. Here you’ll learn about how humans have intervened in regional water systems, and how we can repair them.

We’ll talk about…
  • Using earthworks to capture, conserve and store water, and reducing the water we use in our sewage systems.

  • Purifying contaminated water the way nature does, without the use of toxic chemicals.

  • Principles of water harvesting and conservation, rainwater collection and storage.

  • Uses for greywater (using your wash-water to make plants grow better),

  • Constructed wetland design and other smart water-use ideas you might never think of.

  • Passive water hydration and infiltration.

  • Composting toilets.

Soils – Yes, that’s right – soils in the plural! We have so much to say here – where most people see soil as dirt, permaculturists see it as a living ecosystem in itself.

We’ll talk about…
  • The soil ecosystem – its structure and elements, the role of water, gases, mineral nutrients, and micro-organisms.

  • How to diagnose problems in difficult soils through bioindicators such as plant ailments.

  • How to solve plant ailments through treating the soil.

  • The hidden crisis of global soil erosion, and what we can do about it.

  • The relationship between soil and life on earth.

Earthworking and Earth Resources – One common remedy for runoff and erosion is earthworking: building berms and digging swales.

We’ll talk about…
  • Identifying the many types of earthworks that harvest and store water, and when to use each of them.

  • Planning the project, measuring the slope and pegging the contour, moving the earth, and planting afterward.

  • Using both ancient and modern technologies for surveying, design and implementation.

Dryland Strategies – As erosion steadily sweeps topsoil into the sea and desertification advances across steadily broader regions, dryland tactics will become increasingly necessary!

We’ll talk about…
  • The interactions of precipitation and temperature.

  • Types of deserts.

  • Plants that can succeed under varying desert conditions.

  • The desertification process.

  • How to harvest water in arid lands.

  • How various people are reversing desertification.

Humid Cool to Cold Climates – If you’re planning to practice in the Alberta area, this will be the regional segment for you.

We’ll talk about…
  • Characteristics and soils of cool to cold climates.

  • Special needs of cold-weather homes and home gardens.

  • Construction and uses of greenhouses (“glasshouses”).

  • Characteristics of grasslands and rangelands.

  • The role of wildfire

  • Ways of cycling nutrients and incorporating animals into your system using cool ideas like chicken tractors, pannage systems, pigeon lofts, dairy systems and bees!

Bonus! – This section is our particular area of expertise, as we’ve honed our craft as permaculturists in this ecosystem! And you’ll reap the benefit, with extensive added information from our tried-and-true toolbox.

We’ve added in-depth sections on…
  • Using simple tools to do a solar analysis for placement of gardens, greenhouse and buildings.

  • Designing passive solar greenhouses (Rob’s specialty) and houses.

  • Using appropriate building techniques for our climate.

  • Using low-tech renewable heating solutions, such as Rocket Mass Heaters and others.

  • Building your own solar infrastructure, from solar dehydrators to solar air heaters and water heaters.

  • Using the earth as a storage of cold and heat to minimize your heating and eliminate your cooling needs.

  • Saving thousands of dollars on energy bills with efficient home design, retrofit and renewable energy systems, and other innovative building tricks and tips.

  • Incorporating water-saving methods like passive water hydration and infiltration, rainwater collection, storage and composting toilets.

Strategies of an Alternative Global Nation – Long before we reach the end of the course, you’ll realize that permaculture offers a whole new guiding vision for human society…and agriculture is just one tiny facet of this vision.

We’ve added in-depth sections on…
  • Extended families, village development, and new approaches to political systems on the local, national and international levels.

  • Land trusts and ethical investments.

  • Right livelihood and working groups.

  • Effective aid, and the possibilities of the long-range future.

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