Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture Courses

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What is Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture?

Horticulture is the branch of plant agriculture dealing with garden crops, generally fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Sustainable horticulture is a way of growing plants that’s sensitive to the environment.

Permaculture is the combination of the terms “permanent culture” and “permanent agriculture”. It is a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

By thinking carefully about the way we use our resources – food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs – it is possible to get much more out of life by using less. We can be more productive for less effort, reaping benefits for our environment and ourselves, for now, and for generations to come. This is the essence of permaculture – the design of an ecologically sound way of living – in our households, gardens, communities and businesses.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture courses in the following subject areas:

  • BSc in Horticulture – You will study horticulture modules, undertake work placement, gain business skills, and graduate from the course having specialized in two major streams of horticultural study.
  • Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture – A science-based course offering a practical and wide-ranging learning experience.
  • Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Horticulture – Acquire management knowledge and skills to effectively manage and carry out day to day tasks and long term management of parks and gardens, sports turf and commercial horticultural enterprises.
  • Horticulture / Garden Design Advanced – This advanced course in Horticulture/Garden design will give students an opportunity to upgrade their skills with intensive training for another academic year.
  • Horticulture – Gain a general all-round knowledge in key aspects of horticulture including scientific experiments, building techniques, garden design, organic production, plant care and identification.

Studying Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture in college

There are many Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture courses that take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. Experience in retailing and/or gardening and evidence of an interest in fresh produce and plants is useful if you want to work on the commercial side. Try to obtain a work experience placement or a vacation job within the industry, at a plant nursery or on a farm producing crops. Relevant work experience is a good way of demonstrating a genuine interest in the field and is regarded favorably by employers.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of garden crops such as fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants.

Commercial horticulturists are involved in the growing, distribution and selling of food, crops and plants

As a commercial grower, you will usually specialize in field crops, protected growing, soft and top fruit, hardy nursery stock or cut flowers. Clients may include plant and tree nurseries, supermarkets and DIY stores. At first, you’ll most likely be concerned with hands-on cultivation and maintenance tasks, or routine retail and commercial tasks, rather than line managing other people.

Typical employers include companies growing and supplying fresh produce and plants and those that process, package and distribute fruit and vegetables. These vary in size, from businesses employing just one person to large nurseries and farms, and include pick-your-own enterprises and organic farms and gardens.

There may be opportunities in consultancy as a horticultural consultant, to transfer across to amenity horticulture, or to move into commercial posts in other industries such as retail and services and agriculture and horticulture. Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various facilities or companies. Working hours and workloads vary according to the crop, season and position of the employer in the supply chain, but early starts and late finishes are common. Flexibility is essential at peak times, for example before bank holidays, with long hours at harvest times.

Related jobs include:

  • Amenity horticulturist
  • Commercial horticulturist
  • Horticultural consultant
  • Horticultural therapist
  • Landscape architect
  • Environmental consultant
  • Environmental education officer
  • Field trials officer
  • Interior and spatial designer
  • Nature conservation officer
  • Planning and development surveyor
  • Plant breeder/geneticist
  • Urban designer

Further study

After completing a course in Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as agriculture, commerce, crop and plant science, horticultural sciences, landscape and garden design, nursery horticulture, propagation and organic production.


What skills could be helpful for a career in Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture?

A career in Horticulture requires excellent planning skills, problem-solving ability, project management skills and a hands-on, practical and realistic approach to work. If you would like to start your own business and be self-employed it could be useful to work on your management skills and business and financial awareness.

Other skills that are useful in most industries such as the ability to organise and manage your own workload, communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to work in a team and use your initiative will also be appreciated by employers and clients.

What are some easy ways to promote sustainability in a horticulture environment?

Implementing practices to increase soil quality, such as mulching, avoiding tillage-style practices like turning over the soil, planting species to cover garden beds all year round, and leaving dead plant matter in beds.

Where can I study Sustainable Horticulture / Permaculture?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

  • The theory for permaculture was developed in the seventies by two Australians, Bill Mollison (a biologist) and David Holmgren (an essayist). The term permaculture initially referred to “permanent agriculture”, but was soon expanded to mean a ‘culture of permanence’
  • A sunflower is not just one flower. Both the fuzzy brown centre and the classic yellow petals are actually 1,000 – 2,000 individual flowers, held together on a single stalk
  • There are more microorganisms in one teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth.
  • The world’s tallest-growing tree is the coast redwood, which grows along the Pacific Coast of the United States, mainly in California.
  • From a botanical standpoint, avocados and pumpkins are fruits, not vegetables, because they bear the plants’ seeds.

Mariza Halliday

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