Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Water Water Everywhere #3 - How NOT To Do It

Iowans are dealing with heavy rains and record setting tornado activity this season compared to the drought like conditions of the last couple years.
Funnel cloud over our jobsite about 30min after I left last Tuesday

Northwest Iowa has been hit especially hard with flooding with several counties declared Federal Disaster areas.
Read to the end for ways you can help!

Last year headlines were filled with flash flooding and the Atmospheric River over California.

In this third installment of the Water Water Everywhere Series, I originally wanted to share some Simple Solutions, but before I do I think it is fitting to contrast it first with What NOT To Do!

Before you continue, you might want to check out the first two articles-

Over the last couple years, I've tried to bring awareness to the problems of increasing runoff - 

Flooding, Pollution, Desertification and more...  

Today I share the thoughts of a friend of mine, that he shared on social media awhile back during another Natural Disaster.  I forget which one now, likely Hurricane Katrina, but his words stuck with me.  It is scary how it seems we have actually taken steps to make ourselves and communities Less Resilient and More Fragile.

The following is from a post by Ben Falk, a well-known Permaculture Designer and Author.  Ben and I have swapped seeds and plants, and I enjoyed watching his excellent Permaculture Skills DVD course several year ago.

"Design for brittleness rather than resiliency - ahhh "natural" disasters - they always make it so starkly clear. If humanity wants to multiply - rather than reduce - the affects of disasters, we couldn't be doing a better job:


Step 1: Concentrate population densities in the lowest-lying coastal areas after draining them of their storm surge-absorbing wetlands and estuaries. Make sure it's also the most active hurricane path on the planet. Bonus points for making sure other ...fast-growing regions have the opposite problem - NO water.

Step 2: Pump as much carbon and other climate destabilizing gasses from the geosphere into the atmosphere as possible.

Step 3: Turn as much permeable, cooling, green landscape into black, impervious pavement and rooftops as possible. Concentrate all stormwater runoff. Bonus points for mixing it with sewage when it rains really hard. Double bonus points for lawn. Triple bonus round for golf courses and shopping malls. Quadruple bonus points for destroying town centers in favor of strip development.

Trash in Yeader Creek (and "yes it looks like this every time it rains")
Photo courtesy of Julie Perreault – Polk Soil & Water Conservation District 

Step 4: Ensure all new development is built with total dependence upon active air conditioning. Bonus points for glass high rises with non operable windows - vertical greenhouses without, you know, the plants. Double bonus points for failing to put passive air cooling in nursing homes, hospitals and emergency shelters.


Step 5: Don't harvest or store any drinking water locally. Ensure total dependence on government emergency shipments of tiny bottles of water when none is available. Bonus points for polluting all surface waters so they can't be drank. Double bonus points for contaminating ground water aquifers.

Step 6: Rebuild and do it all over again. Bonus points for getting government grants. Double bonus points for growing the economy to attract more people to "hard hit" regions so that it will be even worse the next time around."

So, how do you think are we doing?

Watch for the next post in the Water Water Everywhere series as we look at real solutions for homeowners, farmers and anyone concerned about clean water.

Water Water Everywhere #4 - Real Solutions

Until then, Ben has a revision of his book The Resilient Farm and Homestead.  You can hear him talk about it on Episode #3427 of the Survival Podcast and order it HERE or at Chelsea Green Publishing.

If you would like to help the people in NW Iowa you can donate and/or volunteer with-

Convoy of Hope  or  8 Days of Hope

Monday, June 17, 2024

Pollinator Week 2024

Happy National Pollinator Week!  June 17-23, 2024!

A Zebra Swallowtail butterfly visited our job site last week.  We have seen a few butterflies fluttering around this year, but not a lot. No Monarchs yet... There has been a good variety and a lot more bees though.  Bees and wasps have been visiting our flowers at home for a while now, too.  They are beautiful to watch, but also very important parts of our ecosystem!

Did you know that pollinators, like bees, butterflies, bats, birds, and more, are estimated to play a key role in one of every three bites of food we eat?  Everything from berries to melons, apples and tomatoes, pumpkins, alfalfa that dairy and beef cows eat, even coffee rely on pollinators for pollination.

You can BEE a friend to pollinators this week and throughout the year, Pollinator Week is for everyone!

Here are some ways you can help:

1. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden using native flowers, providing water and avoiding pesticides.

2. Support your local beekeepers and farmers by buying local honey, produce and meat.

3. Provide nesting habitat and materials for butterflies, native bees, bats and hummingbirds.

4. Support pollinator conservation actions in your hometown, like Plant.Grow.Fly, and get kids involved!

5. Tag your social media #PollinatorWeek and share with others about pollinators and how they can help.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Where does the rain go?

With the showers we've been getting, you may be wondering...

"Where does all this rain go?"

This quick video shows you!

Here is a fun online tool that lets you track a raindrop from your neighborhood, or any neighborhood, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico-

River Runner

At Abundant Design, we can help you design and install Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) and even walk you through potential rebate opportunities!

Native Planting in Adel

Soil Quality Restoration in Highland Park

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Grafting Workshop - Apple & Pear

Nine Square Feet is once again partnering with Abundant Design to bring you a fruit tree grafting workshop.  During the workshop you will learn how to graft trees with hands-on experience and valuable in-person coaching.

Nine Square Feet Learning Garden
1020 8th St
West Des Moines, IA 50265

Saturday April 6th, 2024
9:30am-10:30am &
11:00am-12:00 noon

Jeff Reiland will demonstrate grafting techniques and show you how to care for your newly grafted trees. Participants will select from popular and historic varieties or may bring scion from a favorite apple or pear tree to preserve a tree that has personal significance. 

        Each participant will graft 3 trees (either)
                Three Apples  OR
                Two Apples + One Pear

                $35 (with waiver to use a provided knife) 
                $50 (includes a grafting knife to keep) 
                *additional trees may be purchased if there are extra supplies

Make plans to attend this workshop if you've always wanted to learn a new skill or expand your gardening adventures. 

Class size is limited, so you'll want to reserve your spot ASAP! 

Sign Up HERE! (link)

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Soil Temperature & Garden Plants

Iowa Backyard Farmer
This up and down weather has been crazy!?!?  Shorts on Monday, snow on Sunday!  I think last year might have been even a little worse...  This 2023 weather app screenshot from Iowa Backyard Farmer really shows how crazy... and this year seems to behaving similarly.

It just goes to show that we need to resist the desire to rush into planting our gardens and pay attention to those last frost date charts and old-time gardening practices.

"Potatoes and onions after Easter"
"Tomatoes after Mother's Day"
"Sweet Potatoes after Memorial Day or Father's Day" 
                                            -depending on where you grew up

Corn farmers pay close attention to soil temperatures when they are making planting decisions.  Their rule of thumb is to wait until the top several inches of soil are at least 50° F and even then, with a warming trend in the forecast.

For gardeners who love to grow tomatoes, we need to wait even longer - ideally 60°F or more for those big, juicy red fruit.  Soil temps around 50° or below can stunt tomato plants, and even after it warms up those stunted plants will struggle to keep up with those planted later in warmer soils.

So how do we know what the soil temperature is?  The Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM) collects temperatures throughout its observation network. This data is made available especially for farmers on their website, but we can use it too!

IEM - 4 Inch Soil Temperature Maps

Their webpage has soil temperature maps for the past few days. The maps combine observations from the Iowa State University Soil Moisture Network and corrected National Weather Service forecast models to produce a high-resolution map of soil temperatures.

Recently they have added forecasted temps as well, like this one for One Week out-

The forecasted soil temp maps will really help you plan your gardening activities.

"Should I get the starts ready to go, or can I sleep in Saturday and 
let them grow on the seed starting rack a few more days?"

Watch how I built my Seed Starting Rack HERE
Get your plants at the Iowa Backyard Farmer

This web tool is great for planning, but actually taking the soil’s temperature with a thermometer is a more accurate way to know when to plant.  Also, seeds planted in soil that's too cold won't germinate and just sit there, they may even rot or be eaten.  At the optimum temperature seedlings emerge quickly and grow into bigger, stronger and healthier plants.

You can buy a soil thermometer like this one on Amazon for about $10-15

or look for one at your favorite Garden Center.

Besides tomatoes, many other warm season crops are dependent on soil temperature for growth and health.  This chart from the University of Wisconsin Extension Service shows optimal growing temperatures for many common garden vegetables.  This handy chart along with the above soil temperature maps can help you plan the best targets for planting your favorite crops.  Then just confirm with your soil thermometer and plant away!


Wishing you a great and productive gardening season!