Permaculture Principle 4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

For me, this is one of the harder principles to put into action. It’s about setting limits and using resources wisely.

I’m certainly not the only one who has a hard time setting limits. Our planet is giving us some very strong feedback that we’ve put too much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. It’s reacting with large and forceful hail, increasingly violent storms, torrential rainfalls, droughts and heat waves. Honestly, how could nature be any clearer? And yet we keep on doing just what we’ve been doing. We refuse to acknowledge the feedback because then we’d have to regulate ourselves.

Sigh …

Enough of that. Let’s get to the garden.

A Few Ideas on Self Regulation

How do we start to apply self regulation? One thing we can do is try to provide from our own space/land all the resources that our garden will need and try to handle all the waste on our own land as well.

  • Suppose I couldn’t buy outside compost or fertilizer? How much could I produce on my land? How big would my garden be then?
  • Suppose I didn’t have city water as a backup supply? How much would I need to save or how much smaller would my gardening efforts need to be? How would I change my watering habits?
  • And what if there was no “away” where the garbage could go? How would I change my consumption habits?

Maybe it can’t be done, but what would we learn if we tried?

How Do I Know I Need to Do Something?

One of the tomato survivors of a heavy rain year

One of the tomato survivors of a heavy rain year

Plants are actually pretty good at giving feedback. Last summer my tomato plants told me loud and clear that I had planted them too close. I could hardly move through them to harvest so some fruit spoiled. Their yellow leaves said they needed pruning and I wasn’t giving them good air flow. Then, when heavy rains came, they said I hadn’t given them enough consistent watering so they greedily sucked up too much moisture and cracked. My mistreatment had left them thirsty and vulnerable.

So I acknowledged that feedback and made a plan to do some things different next year.

  • I won’t plant as many tomatoes. I’ll give them room to breathe.
  • I will prune the lower branches out.
  • I bought a rain gauge and I’ll pay attention to how much water they receive in a week so I can supplement it when needed. I’ll keep this on a notecard in the plastic bin with the garden tools.

My husband also gave me some feedback. He said: “Hey, where are the cherry tomatoes!” We discovered two years ago that the garden operates best when we have cherry tomato plants right by the garden gates. Everyone who enters the garden can pop a cherry tomato into their mouth, which always results in a smile as they walk down the path. I’d been so focused on trying new heirlooms, I’d forgotten this crowd pleaser.

My takeaway from that feedback? Write it down!

As much as I hate to have more pieces of paper around the house, I can’t remember everything from year to year. I really need to write down what has been successful and what needs to change. Then I can go over my notes during the leisurely winter months and see what other lessons can be gleaned.

In the long run, accepting feedback save us time because we don’t keep doing thing that don’t work, we don’t lose our anticipated harvest, and we don’t spend money buying plants that won’t grow.

About thinkofitasanadventure

We are a 50-something couple living in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We attended a sustainability conference at our local high school in November 2010, with keynote speaker Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. What we heard shocked us deeply. We finally understood the need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We immediately began to change the way we live. We joined together with other folks in our neighborhood to learn more, to do more and to have fun doing it! We're part of Transition Longfellow. We're choosing to change now and to "think of it as an adventure." If you are on this journey too, we'd love to hear from you.
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One Response to Permaculture Principle 4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

  1. I just read the post about FEEDBACK Leslie. I LOVE these posts. After reading them I always feel more connected in as a part of the garden myself. And a part of the human garden. The responsibility comes back into balance. And the gifts of life into a clearer view. Thank you for your connective heart-thoughts.

    Like

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