An Introductory Permaculture Workshop

Objectives of the course/workshop:

The course aims at introducing the permaculture design concept so that each participant, at the end of the course, has a very good grasp of it and some very solid base to start to deepen their knowledge about permaculture, either by self-study or by attending a PDC. The course does this by leading the participants through a design journey that on one hand, teaches the necessary basic ‘ingredients’ to do a permaculture design and on the other, prepares the participants to do a conceptual design of the site where the course is held so the students can a have a good feeling of what is involved in doing a permaculture/ecological design.

The course also aims at giving some practical hands-on skill, where permaculture design is applied, like the design and implementation of a synergistic garden or some other physical feature according to the site’s and owners’ needs and wants as well as the time available within the course schedule.

Course Formats: I have used at least two formats for this course:

Format 1

The more standard format that I use is the weekend format. This is usually a residential course if done in a facility that has the capability for board and lodging of several participants, usually if done  somewhere in the countryside,  where people have to come from a distance, such that it is inconvenient for them  to go back and forth from home. On the other hand in an urban context, participants would usually go back home for the night (or even lunch time), and come back the following morning and we would just share a meal on the Saturday midday and break and the Sunday’s lunch.

–          Friday night: 2 hours, from 7pm till 9pm, also open to the general public as if it was an introductory talk
–          Saturday: all day,

  • Morning session from 9am till 2 pm with two, half an hour breaks (or less….),
  • Lunch: 2 hours
  • Afternoon  session from 4pm till 8pm, supper all together (usually)

–          Sunday, from 9pm till 2pm, then finish with lunch together

Format 2

The other format that I have used for this 16-hour course is having a 4:30 hours long session each Wednesday for four consecutive Wednesdays, spreading  the course over a whole month. This new format is the result of adapting the initial format to the needs of the place where it is taught, an agro-ecological learning center where they only had this kind of time slot available.

Since the course is spread over 4 consecutive wednesdays, it gives space for some further interaction with the students beyond class time. At the beginning of the course, I usually open a mailing list so that teacher and students can stay in touch during the days between classes. This enables me to help clarify concepts that may remain not well understood before the next class. Also I can suggest activities that can lead to further refinement of what was explained during class time or starting discussions.

Before the course starts (with both formats)  I collect relevant data about the course site (climate, history, land use, maps, etc) and prepare a map that the students can use for their design work session, since there isn’t enough time for them to engage in creating a base map, measuring of site, etc. By doing this I can lead a session on the client interview (usually the site’s owner) that will help the students to gather the data they need for the design session later on.

The workshop ends with a presentation of the designs of each of the groups and a group shared evaluation of the workshop.

In the courses run with the second format, I usually invite the students to bring their own projects, maps, aerial photos (because I have more time to understand and evaluate them for feasibility as an exercise during the course), and I help them find the appropriate cartography, climate data, etc. in the internet or elsewhere during the extended time. So the design session may end up having up to three or four different designs being worked on by as many groups, while in the workshop using the first format four to five groups all work on the design of the same site, although each group may be working on different aspects of the site design. The good thing is that even without knowing about pc design in-depth they all come up with very good ideas and some of them indeed look like true permaculture designs, with very good connections between elements, etc….)emergent behaviour?) and we have a lot of fun, eat good food, make lots of new personal connections, share info, etc.


  • General intro on the development of permaculture
  • Links to the reality of peak oil and actual societal crisis
  • Permaculture Ethics
  • Design Principles (John Quinney’s listing on “Introduction to Permaculture” by Bill Mollison)
  • Attitudinal principles
  • Zones, Sectors and slope analysis (I teach this as a separate topic from the principles, since it is a very key design tool, as well as to give a break to the students from an otherwise quite long session on design principles).
  • Observation practicum
  • Design methods
  • Client interview
  • Design session, group work
  • Synergistic garden design and implementation (or other physical feature)
  • Designs presentations
  • Additional topic if there is time, usually Transition Towns or Community food systems
  • Where to from here
  • Group shared evaluation and conclusion

Additionally, if there is energy and time for that, I cover other topics of interest after supper time, at night, or we pass a video on selected PC topics or discuss whatever comes up.

Here you can see a typical schedule for this workshop.