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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Rain Garden Design & Installation Video

Learn how a Des Moines couple took advantage of one of Central Iowa's stormwater rebate programs to install a rain garden on their property!

Here is a new video collaboration we did with The Rain Campaign this summer-

This rain garden was part of the Easter Lake Watershed cost share program.  Runoff from the driveway and part of the roof, as well as from part of the neighbor's driveway is collected in these basins.  These basins filter and sink the rain into the ground instead of contributing to the storm surge and pollution.

Patchy lawn #Before
Reworked sizing for split basins

Laying out plants

Fresh Rain Garden Install   #After

Soil Quality Restoration (SQR) was done on the remaining turfgrass later, and additional native plantings are planned for next season.

Abundant Design can help with all your stormwater needs, link for more info-

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Invasive Species

The words "Invasive Species" can bring up a lot of feelings and even arguments... 
"My yard, my choice!"   to  "Kill 'em all! ...with RoundUp!"

Different people may even have different meanings when they say it.  For example, some people consider aggressive native plants to be invasive.  They can spread readily by rhizomes and self seeding.  Most Goldenrod species definitely need to be managed in manicured landscapes, removing flower heads before they go to seed, and dividing clumps that are encroaching into areas they aren't wanted.  However Goldenrod is also an important Fall food source for pollinators.

When I use the term Invasive Species it is meant for aggressive, non-natives that disrupt natural ecosystems by out competing native species.  Invasives can reproduce rapidly or sometimes have life cycle differences that give them an advantage over native species.

Most people are familiar with Bush Honeysuckle (Amur & Tartarian), one of the worst offenders across the Midwest.  Its lifecycle helps it outcompete native shrubs because it keeps it leaves longer in the fall getting just a little more energy and time to grow.  It forms dense, shrubby, understory colonies that eliminate native woody and herbaceous plants.  The berries are not edible for people, but birds readily eat them distributing seed everywhere.  Look for seedlings under trees and overhead utility wires and by fences.  Initially introduced as an ornamental, its planting was even formerly encouraged along fence rows to prevent erosion and for wildlife habitat.  

Trevor displays his honeysuckle trophy
love using the stump bucket to remove invasive honeysuckle!

Another plant widely used for erosion control along highways and in agricultural grassed waterways was Reed Canary Grass.  It lays flat and conveys water quickly, however it is hard to manage and no longer recommended by conservation agencies.  Lying flat under the snow it provides little winter wildlife cover and forms dense stands that reduce biodiversity.

Japanese Barberry is another invasive species widely used as an ornamental.  Tough as nails, but even sharper, these "bullet-proof plants" are often seen in new construction with Spirea and Boxwoods.  Like the Honeysuckle, Barberry lifecycle allows it to leaf out in the Spring earlier than native plants shading them out.  The small berries can be eaten by birds which spreads their seed.  They can also spread by rhizomes and their roots can interfere with the growth of other plants.

Barberry is a nasty one, with painful and irritating thorns

Barberry at Browns Woods in West Des Moines

One of the most beautiful, and highly invasive, ornamental shrubs is Burning Bush or Winged Euonymus.  I love the color, and we had a nice row along our home when we moved in.

Brilliant, but Invasive, Burning Bush

Easily propagated, hardy and beautiful, it is a staple of the landscaping industry.  I eventually removed ours with machinery, but seedlings and remaining roots continued to resprout for some time.  This makes established colonies of exotic burning bush very hard to eradicate. The photos below were also taken in the Fall at Browns Woods. You can notice many of the surrounding plants are dormant, while the burning bush is just starting to change color and drop its leaves (giving it a life cycle advantage).

A US Native Burning Bush, the Eastern Wahoo, is unfortunately lesser known so most nurseries and greenhouses only carry the exotic variety.

Here's a recent episode of the Small Farm Sustainability Podcast from Iowa State University

Here is even more information on Invasive Species from ISU Extension and Outreach

We also found some bittersweet on our walk in the woods...

Use of invasive species in landscaping contributes to their spread into natural areas. Avoiding these species is the first step to help control their invasion.  When it comes to invasive species, the old adage is right...

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

That's a pile! Invasive Honeysuckle

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Keeping Rootstocks in Check

Suckers growing from the rootstock

Grafted fruit trees are wonderful additions to the landscape.

Grafting lets us know which variety of fruit we are growing, assuring we get our favorite flavors and other qualities.  This top part is known as the Scion wood and is grafted onto a known rootstock.

The Rootstock is the part of the tree that will grow in the ground, and also chosen for its characteristics.  Rootstocks can be seedling grown for economics but are typically cloned with reproducibly known qualities.  These may be chosen for size, disease resistance or performance in a specific soil type.

While trees are young, "root suckers" and other branches on aggressive rootstocks have an easier time growing as the graft scar takes some time to heal completely.  This reduces nutrient and water transfer, hindering the scion's ability to grow until it heals completely.  These branches and suckers can sometimes grow rapidly and overtake the slower grafted portion.  If left unchecked this can eventually cause the grafted part to atrophy and die, losing your chosen variety.

In the video we'll visit the Food Forest at Drake University to demonstrate sucker pruning on a young grafted American Persimmon tree.

Branching and suckering of the rootstock is one way to lose your grafted variety from trees and you will be left with lesser quality fruit, if any fruit at all.  Removing these vigorous suckers is necessary for the long-term health and productivity of the tree.

Friday, May 19, 2023

New Planting Care Guide

Our customers want to take the best care of their projects once we finish an installation.  We often share care and watering tips with them on site, but sometimes they are at work, on vacation or away for any number of reasons.  Also, many prefer to have the directions written out for them as it can be easy to forget, or stressful wondering if you forgot something important.  

Here are our suggestions for taking the best care of your new plantings.



Over the next few weeks and months water and observe as necessary until the tree is fully established.  

  • Water daily for 1-2 weeks; then 2-3 days for 3-12 weeks; then weekly until established
  • Apply 1-1.5 gallons per inch of trunk caliper* at each watering
    • For fruit trees, stay closer to 1gal/inch especially if in heavier or clay soils unless you see signs of drying

*Caliper refers to the diameter of the trunk 6" above the ground (or 12" high if larger than 4" caliper)

A smaller tree will take nearly a full growing season to become fully established.  A 2" tree may require two years to become fully established on its own while a 3" tree may need three years. The larger the tree, the bigger the shock so continue to be diligent in keeping an eye on things even long after the initial planting.

Although not always accurate, you can guess the reason for stress by where you see wilting leaves - Wilting higher in the tree can indicate not enough water and if wilting or browning occurs lower in the tree it may signal too much water.  Adjust your watering plan accordingly.


Over the next few weeks and months water and observe as necessary until the plant is fully established.  

  • Water daily for 1-2 weeks; then 2-3 days for 3-12 weeks; then weekly until established
  • Apply 1/4 to 1+ gallon at each watering depending on container size (#1-5)

Typically a smaller plant will take nearly a full growing season to become fully established.  The larger the shrub, the bigger the shock so continue to be diligent in keeping an eye on things even long after the initial planting.


Over the next few weeks and months they will need watered as necessary until the plant is fully established. 

  • Water daily for 1-2 weeks; then 2-3 days for 3-12 weeks; then weekly until established
  • Apply 1/4 to 1/2 gallon at each watering depending on plant/container size

Typically perennials will take a growing season to become fully established. 

Sprinklers can help cover large areas

These Tripod Sprinklers are great!

Along with these instructions, watch for indicators that help determine if you need to adjust watering.  Especially hot or windy conditions will require more watering.  Rainy weather will allow you to reduce the amount of watering, or even skip a day.


Mulch, including rock, helps keep the soil cool and retain moisture.  Organic mulches, such as wood chips, will break down overtime building the organic matter and quality of your soil.  Our projects are usually mulched during installation.  However you may wish to refresh the mulch after a couple years.

Too much mulch or piling mulch against a trunk can be a problem.  Leave a few inches between your mulch and the trunk to prevent fungal infection.  Mulch deeper than 4" can also keep water from reaching the soil and roots during lighter rains, as well as other problems.

Avoid the "Mulch Volcano" and think of using more of a flattened mulch donut.


Pests like rabbits and deer can really do a number on young plantings.  Even if a plant is described as resistant, rabbits and deer don't read books!  A wire cage or tree guard may be warranted.  During the winter, protection can be even more important as many typical foods are dormant or under snow, causing deer and rabbits to eat things they wouldn't normally eat.  Male deer will also rub their antlers on younger trees during the fall rut.  This can damage the bark on unprotected trees allowing pests or disease in, or even break off a young tree entirely.

With the right care your new plants will be off to a great start providing years of enjoyment.  Whether it's a new shade tree for the patio, new berry bushes by the garden or a whole food forest, you can give your project the best chance of success with these simple tips!  

Best wishes on your new project!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

New Video! Wheelbarrow?

Yes, there is a new YouTube video we just posted!

Well, it isn't that exciting, but it will help if you have to haul your wheelbarrow over to a friend or family member's house.  Or maybe you are the new kid on a landscaping crew and want to show the guys you know a couple tricks.

I hope to be putting more content out as we document more of what we are doing.