What is the fourth principle of permaculture?

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback.

A major concern of those who have natural yards is what kind of reactions they will get from neighbors who are used to lawns. The fourth principle, however, doesn’t refer to accepting feedback from people. It’s about accepting feedback from the yard itself.

Lawns, industrial agriculture, and other conventional practices are based on the concept that a person will dictate which plants will grow – and where, and how – and the plants will obey. A permaculture practitioner, in contrast, works with the plants. They lay out an (often very detailed) plan, and work to implement it, but they accept that not all plans will succeed.

A plant that dies is a form of feedback: that plant was not successful. A conventional gardener responds to this feedback by forcing the plant to grow through inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, supplemental water, and so on. A permaculture practitioner, on the other hand, makes changes that respond to the specific needs of the plant: providing different companion plants, for example, or moving the plant to a sunnier location. If these changes don’t work, the permaculture practitioner accepts that they will not have that plant in their yard.

Many of us are used to getting what we want; accepting setbacks and disappointments can be hard. But by recognizing that not all of our plans will work out as we hoped, we can stop fighting with our yards and just enjoy what is.

What is the fourth principle of permaculture?

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