Rules of Thumb, 30x30, and the Laws of Nature

Spring Landscape (Rain), A. Krehbiel My mother had a commonplace book in which she recorded, by hand, in beautiful cursive, proverbs, sayings, and quotes that struck her as interesting, thought provoking, or wise. I also love sayings, and quotes, and mantras, but mostly I’ve collected rules of thumb, those short pithy statements that condense ways of dealing with life on earth in the same way that proverbs give advice on how to behave in prudent, trouble-avoiding ways.  Rules of thumb exist for every field of human endeavor. There are the general ones, such as the 80% rule, or Pareto Principle, that gets applied in sometimes surprising ways—"eighty percent of every thing is trash,” someone will say, or another will say that “80% of your output comes from 20% of your efforts,” for example. The 80/20 ratio is useful in all sorts of contexts. For example, in a perennial garden, the general rule (backed up by scientific evidence) is that about 75-80% of the plants should be native (lo

Ecological Gardening

At one time all gardening was ecological, based on organic inputs and using mostly native plants. During the twentieth century, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and the standardized use of exotic plants, changed gardening practice to the extent that gardening could be very harmful to the ecosystem. Ecological gardening encompasses philosophy and practice that reverts to the old idea that a garden should be part of and work with nature to create beauty and grow food, using modern ecological knowledge and organic methods.

An ecological garden can be a 20,000-acre prairie restoration, a 100-acre organic farm, a 1/4-acre suburban yard, or a 25x125-foot city lot. Goals and methods may differ, but the central philosophy of managing the land while contributing to the health of the biotic community, or ecosystem, remains the same.

Some attributes of ecological gardens:
  • They are beautiful
  • They conserve, restore and repeat (echo) the local landscape
  • They are true to place and ecosystem
  • They use mostly or all native plants (except in agriculture)
  • They are sensitive to the needs of and provide habitat for other species
  • They build soil health
  • They use organic inputs and sequester carbon
  • They help manage water