Observe and interact.
A natural yard is always a response to a specific place – there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all natural yard plan. A plan may incorporate plants native to the region, and will certainly account for site conditions.
The only way to know the site conditions is to observe the site for a period of time. Permaculture experts urge practitioners to observe a site for a full year, if possible, before undertaking any major projects. Practitioners who don’t follow this guideline typically find that their impatience results in costly mistakes.
This observation is not passive, however. The second part of the principle is interact. While beginning major projects too soon is unwise, conducting small experiments is good. Bring in a few plants and see how they do. Dig a hole and watch how quickly it empties after a rain. Stroll around the yard and notice which areas you are drawn to.
The first principle of permaculture may seem simple, but it lays a crucial foundation for a successful natural yard.