Plants for Permaculture (Permaculture II)

Course CodeVSS105
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
Learn about Plants that can be grown in a Permaculture Garden
This course concentrates on the plants in a permaculture system, how they relate to each other and to the surrounding environment; and selection and placement of different varieties within a permaculture design.
Permaculture II complements our other permaculture courses and expands your knowledge and the possibilities for what you might achieve.
Course Content
There are ten lessons in this course as follows:
1. Permaculture Gardens: Comparing different garden systems (eg. Mandala garden, forests, water, spirals).
2. Design -planning techniques and skills.
3. Garden Zones
4. Designing for natural pest, disease and weed control.
5. Companion Planting
6. Appropriate Technology in Permaculture Design
7. Water Gardens
8. Orchard Gardens
9. Herb and Vegetable Gardens
10.Mandala Gardens
This is a huge course with around 80,000 words to read and learn from. This information has been written from experience by John Mason and his team of horticulture and permaculture experts. Learn from our experience!

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Permaculture Gardens –Different Garden Systems
    • Function
    • Aesthetics
    • Ways of growing plants
    • Environmental conditions
    • Plant establishment
    • Growing in spirals
    • No Dig Beds or Composting Mounds
    • Organic Growing
    • Helping Plant Establishment
    • Trickle or Drip Irrigation
    • Mulching
    • Common types of organic mulch
    • Rules for How to mulch
    • Problems with mulching
    • Living mulch
    • Tree guards
    • Reduced cultivation
    • Crop rotation
    • Establishing plants on slopes –pocket planting, slope serration, wattling
    • Planting on arid sites
    • Direct seeding
    • Spray seeding
    • No till planting in lawns
    • Raised beds
    • Growing in pots
    • Biodynamics introduction
    • Biodynamic principles
    • Developing a biodynamic property
    • Biodynamic preparations and sprays
    • Soil degradation
    • Understanding and managing erosion
    • Salinity
    • Soil acidification
    • Soil compaction
    • Chemical residues in soils
    • Improving damaged soils
  2. Design –Planning Techniques and Skills
    • The design process
    • Gathering information and pre planning
    • Planning and design
    • Drawing the permaculture plan
    • Design Procedure – thirteen steps
    • How to represent different components on a drawn plan
    • Criteria for choosing the plants
    • Maintaining biodiversity in permaculture
    • Designing for low maintenance
    • Plants for small places
    • Lime loving plants
    • Useful conifers
    • Nut producing conifers
    • Other edible parts of conifers
    • Conifers as a source of oils, resins, building timber
    • Cypress and Pines
  3. Sector Planning
    • Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    • Sectors
    • Designing and Planting a firebreak
    • Fire prone areas
    • How to arrange a firebreak
    • Considerations
    • Fire resistant plants
    • Windbreaks, hedges and screens
    • Hedges for different conditions
    • Plants for windbreaks
    • Long narrow spaces
    • Growing plants in shade
    • Plants suited to full shade
    • Frost hardy plants
    • Coastal planting
    • Strategies for dealing with salt and wind
    • Hardy plants for inner city gardens
    • Pollution resistant plants
    • Nuts to grow in Permaculture -Aleurites, Argan, Athertonia, Barringtonia, Fagus, Brabejum, Castenospermum, Gevuina, Coconut, Couepia, Quercus and many others
  4. Design for Natural Pest, Disease and Weed Control
    • Understanding natural pest control
    • Bio control
    • Advantages and disadvantages of bio control
    • Natural pest controls with herb extracts
    • Other techniques for natural insect control
    • Understanding insecticidal properties of different plants
    • Natural weed control
    • Weed control with cultivation, mulch biological controls, grazing, etc.
    • Growing grain crops on a small scale
    • Hull less oats
    • Amaranth and Quinoa
    • Corn
    • Flours
  5. Complimentary Planting -Companion Planting
    • How reliable is companion planting
    • Repellent plants
    • Attractant plants
    • Plants that impact on the soil conditions
    • Planting combinations that may be mutually beneficial
    • Combinations sometimes considered undesirable
    • Plants that can improve soil –alfalfa, borage, caraway and others explained.
    • Green manure crops
    • Decoy plants
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Legumes in permaculture
    • Cover crops
    • Grain crops
    • Plants for pets –dogs, cats, poultry
  6. Appropriate Technology in Permaculture Design
    • Energy conservation technology
    • Building biology
    • Environmental impact on buildings
    • Climate
    • Building location
    • Radon
    • Air quality and allergies
    • Temperature and humidity
    • Light
    • EMR and creation of electric fields
    • Solar energy
    • Greenhouses: design and function
    • Passive solar energy collection and active systems
    • Conservation and recycling
    • Kitchen waste management
    • Water saving measures
    • Environmentally friendly gardening
    • Growing Berries
    • Strawberry growing
    • Raspberry cultivation
    • Bramble Berry growing
    • Other berries –gooseberries, mulberry, etc
  7. Water Gardens
    • Planting in wet places
    • Understanding wet areas
    • Overcoming problems
    • Plants suited to bog gardens
    • Why have water in a permaculture garden
    • Designing for wet places
    • Managing water in sun or shade
    • Water life
    • Construction
    • Waterproofing
    • Managing a healthy pond
    • Plants that can damage ponds
    • Plants suitable for water –submerged, floating and bog plants
    • Growing water chestnut
    • Establishing a water garden
    • Creating a pond with a liner
    • Constructing a small dam or pond
    • Waste water treatment with reed beds
  8. Knowing Plants –Tree Crops
    • What zone to grow in
    • Orchard species suited to permaculture
    • Understory plants
    • Leguminous companions
    • Actinorhizal companions
    • Orchards
    • Planning for intercrop species
    • Tropical orchards
    • Dry land orchards
    • Fukuoka System
    • Nut trees
    • Almond
    • Cashew
    • Chestnut
    • Filbert
    • American hazelnut
    • Macadamia
    • Peanut
    • Pecan
    • Pistachio
    • Walnut
    • Harvest, storage and processing of nuts
    • Nut toxins
    • Fruit trees
    • Apples
    • Apricots
    • Peaches and nectarines
    • Citrus
    • Feijoa
    • Pomegranate
    • Olive
    • Plum
  9. Knowing Plants – Vegetables and Herbs
    • Introduction
    • Choosing the right spot
    • Considering the soil
    • Feeding plants
    • Plant when conditions are favourable
    • Cultivation necessities – Mulching, Rotating crops, watering, Pest control
    • Planting to maximize harvest
    • Planting vegetables
    • Disease resistance in vegetables –beans, corn, peas, lettuce, tomatoes.
    • Vegetables to grow in a permaculture system
    • Artichokes
    • Asparagus
    • Beans
    • Beetroot
    • Broccoli
    • Brussel Sprouts
    • Capsicum Eggplant
    • Onions
    • Rhubarb
    • Silver beet Sweet potato
    • Tomato
    • Zucchini
    • Herbs
    • Allium –chives, garlic, shallots etc
    • Angelica
    • Artemisia
    • Balm
    • Basil
    • Calendula
    • Cardamom
    • Chamomile
    • Coriander
    • Lavender
    • Mint
    • Parsley
    • Rosemary
    • Sage
    • Thyme
    • Other herbs
  10. Giving the Garden a Central Focus
    • The mandala garden concept
    • Surfaces
    • Keyhole beds
    • Herb spirals
    • Step by step construction of a mandala garden
    • Centre pond
    • Weed barrier
    • Outside the Mandala
    • Planting out
    • Organic materials – ashes, feathers, hay, leaves, sawdust, prunings, etc.
    • Mulching vegetables and herbs

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Throughout this course, you will explore ways to grow plants that can be harvested to use in various ways; as food, but also for crafts, fuel, fodder, building materials and other purposes.
In the context of permaculture, you will explore more sustainable ways of growing plants, where the amount of maintenance required to keep the plants growing is minimised as much as possible.
Many people would like the chance to grow their own fruit and vegetables but are turned off by the fact that time and chemicals are usually essential. With proper planning and variety selection, you can reduce the effort necessary to obtain home grown produce and reduce chemical use at the same time.

What you grow can effect maintenance requirements. There are varieties more disease resistant which means there will be less need to spray chemicals. This saves both time and the use of expensive chemicals.

Before any vegetables can be grown, you must first construct your garden suitable for culture in a way that is labour saving, hygienic and efficient.

Tips for Easier and More Sustainable Vegetable Growing
Choose a suitable site for what you are growing. Consider that vegetables usually need maximum sunlight, protection from extremes of cold, hot, wet or dry. Good drainage and easy access are important.. A site in full sun on a gentle north-easterly slope is the ideal, though very few actually have this. There is always room and a suitable location in everyone's property.

Soil fertility is of the upper most importance. It must be fertile, well drained, high in organic matter and high in soil microbe activity.
If you are prepared to work hard initially to work the soil up, it will save a lot of time later.
If your soil is clayey, you have the options to :

  • make a raised vege patch surrounded by sleepers or other material then filled with premium grade
      organic soil,
  • cultivate gypsum throughout the soil, or add another soil breaker, then add plenty of organic compost.
  • make a raised no-dig vegetable patch using compost and mulch.

If your soil is naturally sandy, your options may be:

  • add plenty of compost and other matter,
  • add material such as compost that increases the soil's ability to hold moisture,
  • buy in good quality organic soil.

As can be seen the need for compost and organic matter is high as this can reduce the need for fertilizers and regular watering. Additives to soil and composts to speed the processes and improve the soil, provided some compost already exists in the soil, include Humilac Activator, Forest, Herbal Compost Accelerator.

If the soil is low in nutrition or low in organic matter you will need to fertilize it. Start by applying a complete fertilizer that contains all the major and minor nutrients. If you do not use a complete fertilizer your plants may suffer from nutritional deficiencies. As your plants grow during the season you may still need to apply fertilizer depending on the crops grown.

A pH reading will provide you with much information as to the health of the soil. The reading can indicate the availability of nutrients to your vegetables. The optimum range is generally regarded as between 6.0 and 7.0 though plants can survive outside that range. Some plants even prefer outside that range. Should your soil pH be low (ie. acidic) then you can add garden lime or dolomite to bring the pH up. If your soil is high (ie. alkaline) you can use flowers of sulphur or aluminium sulphate
to bring the pH down.

Edge the vegetable area to reduce invasion by pests or weeds. This can be by using sleepers, concrete blocks or any similar material, or simply by making a trench in between where you walk and where the plants grow (this later option does require more care though).

Reduce the incidence of weeds throughout the vege patch, liberally cover the entire surface with a mulch. Bark is not suitable. Sugar cane mulch, straw, hay, decomposed sawdust are all good alternatives.

The depth, and width, of a vegetable area is important. If it is too wide it will be difficult to harvest your vegetables and you may possibly trample some in the process. The best width should allow you to be able to reach all plants from one or the other side (ie. about 1 m).

As pests such as birds can be a problem, it may be necessary to construct some anti-bird device such as wire screen, scarecrow, eagle kite, or even cage vegetables at times.

Fast growing vegetables may require less time in the garden in order to reap the benefits of harvest. A selection of fast growing veges include: beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chives, celery, cucumbers, Kohl Rabi, leek (13-15 weeks), lettuce (40-85 days to harvest), peas, radish (5-6 weeks), silverbeet, zucchini/mallows.

Vegetables that allow for continual harvesting or long lasting plants may also be good in that you do not have to harvest at a particular date and that the crop will not need replanting. Some vegetables that exhibit these characteristics include:
Asparagus picked after their third year for up to 12 years
Cassava continual harvest in warm areas
Sweet Potatoes may last years in a mild climate.
Corn  harvest period can extend over a few weeks
Kiol Rabi will last long if picked regularly
Potatoes if grown in a tub, can have continual harvesting
Rhubarb will last for 4-10 years
Silverbeet will last long if picked regularly
Sea Kale needs continual picking
Spinach as for silverbeet
Taro  continual harvesting in warm areas
Tomatoes have a long harvesting period, particularly cherry tomatoes which are less prone to problems.

There are many types of vegetables to choose from, not to mention the range of varieties of each vegetable. The choice will depend on personal taste, season and location.
To prevent the situation of your entire vegetable garden being attacked by a particular pest or disease, it is advisable to plant a range of unrelated crops. This means do not plant only brassicas (cauliflowers, broccoli) otherwise the one pest will have a field day. Also as the vegetable patch goes through rotation, try not to use similar plants (ie. do not plant mustard in a plot which has had cauliflower growing in it).

Rotation of crops is where after one crop has finished, it is plowed in (to return nutrients to the soil), and another different crop is planted. Occasionally, the plot should be left fallow (ie. not planted up) to allow it to rest from heavy cropping. In this time planting it with a green manure is very beneficial for the soil especially if a legume crop is used which will put nitrogen back into the soil.


Some degree of maintenance time in the vegetable garden is essential. Let us identify those jobs that need to be taken care of immediately:

  • Removal of dead, dying or diseased plants - if not removed the disease can spread.
  • Harvesting of fruit at the correct time - if you leave the fruit or vegetables in the garden they can get
    infected with pests and diseases or can rot on or beneath the plants.
  • Serious disease problems need to be treated as soon as they arise.
  • Removal of weeds as insects and diseases can breed in these. The use of mulch helps make this'
    job very low maintenance.

Techniques that can be used to reduce maintenance:

  • use slow release fertilizers (eg. rotting manures).
  • encourage the presence of predatory insects.
  • plant one cultivar only - this concentrates the harvesting period.
  • plant only disease resistant varieties.
  • companion plant may sometimes reduce the need for pest control efforts; which lowers the time needed for maintenance.
  • have a range of crops going so that if pests or diseases arrive they will not destroy every crop.

Plant breeders have given the home gardener a wonderful range of flowers and vegetables to choose from. The breeding programs however in past years have concentrated on appearance and shelf-life resulting in some bland tasting specimens. Old varieties are a good source of disease resistant plants, although their appearance can be a bit surprising. In recent years plant breeders have once again started to realize the importance of resistance. Progressively more resistant varieties will make their way onto the shelf.
Yate's plant breeders have given the Australian public disease and pest tolerant rockmelons, tomatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, and cabbage. Their hybrid cauliflowers are selling well in Europe and the lettuce varieties are doing well in USA and the hybrid tomatoes are being distributed worldwide.

It must be noted that a disease resistant plant in one locality may react differently in another locality. The individual garden hygeine practices and cultural techniques will influence health of the plants.

Rust and Summer death are two of the most important diseases that need to be controlled for the home vegetable grower. Luckily there are resistant varieties available.
Round Stringless varieties: Sinatra, Gourmet's Delight, Idelight.
Flat Stringless: Pioneer, New Pioneer. New Pioneer is also resistant to lodging (falling over), high temperatures (up to 30 oC), and a number of fungal diseases.
Flat with Strings: Redland Greenleaf, Brown Beauty, Windsor Longpod.

Purple King is a climbing bean that is tolerant to Sclerotinia and fungal pathogens. It does, however, have a high requirement for water and a need for a fertiliser with a low nitrogen content.

Stella Bianca is a butter bean with excellent canopy cover so beans are not so prone to sunburn. It is also tolerant to lodging.

The bush bean 'Redlands Green Leaf' is one of a series bred for fungal tolerance. It also has a high yield.

Round, stringless varieties 'Comet' and 'Banjo' have lodging tolerance, and 'Banjo' has some rust tolerance.

It has been noted that those beans with coloured seeds generally have better seedling vigour, and germinate better in cold soils compared to white coloured seed varieties.

Earworms (caterpillars) are the  only real concern to home gardeners when growing sweetcorn. The only real protection against the pest is a light husk cover over the cob. Snowy River seed varieties all have a good husk cover rating. Goldensweet, Snogold, and Superdot have some resistance/tolerance to common rust and leaf blight and Snosweet is resistant to leaf blight. Goldensweet has some tolerance to leaf blight.

The following varieties are have some resistance or tolerance to Bacterial Wilt, Common Smut, Maise Dwarf Mosaic Virus, and Leaf Blight:-
Yellow Hybrid: Wintergreen, Guardian, Marada, Apache, Capitan
Bicolour Hybrid: Dandy

NB: these varieties could be listed under different names in packets.

Lettuce breeders have made tremendous inroads into breeding Downy Mildew resistant varieties. Most of these are only available to commercial lettuce growers but one variety 'Greenway' is available to the home gardener.

With snow peas, powdery mildew is a problem. Look for the resistant Oregon Sugarpod.
Goodman Seeds have recently brought out a new mildew resistant pea named 'Nathan'. Keep an eye out for this one.

Tomatoes tend to suffer from a range of diseases eg. Alternaria, Fusarium Wilt, Grey Leaf Spot, Verticillium Wilt, Root Knot Nematode. A number of tomato varieties are resistant to these which would certainly reduce the maintenance of growing tomatoes.

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