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.

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.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Creeping Charlie - Killer Recipes

Creeping Charlie, or ground ivy, is one of those weeds that just won't quit.  It was brought over from Europe by settlers that thought it would make a nice ground cover for shaded areas.  And that it does well, thriving in moist and shady locations!  

However, Creeping Charlie also grows well in sunny locations and can be an unwelcome invader to grass lawns.  It spreads by both seed and vining stems which root about anywhere it comes in contact with the ground. These vining stems can even hitch a ride under lawn mower decks that move from yard to yard.

Creeping Charlie running stem with roots

The leaves are rounded with scalloped edges and have a somewhat strong smell when cut or crushed.  Many people think it smells minty and pleasant.  It can be used to make teas, added to salads or cooked in soups.  Although I will likely pass, I don't like it much.  I do sort of wish I had saved and potted a little bit when I removed it from our yard.

Unlike a lot of my posts about plants, this recipe is for controlling them in your lawn, specifically Creeping Charlie!

     More foraging info for those interested can be found here- 

Creeping Charlie blooming with its small, bluish funnel-shaped blossoms

Enter Boron

Boron is a necessary micronutrient for plant growth, helping with sugar transport, cell division and seed development. Without enough boron in the soil, plants may appear healthy but will not flower or fruit.  The balance of too little or too much between plants and boron is a delicate one, and heavy boron soil concentration can be toxic to plants.  Luckily for those who have a this weed problem in their lawn

Creeping Charlie is very susceptible to too much Boron.

This recipe for controlling it originally came from Iowa State university.  They removed the article initially, as many people were killing their lawns permanently.  It has been republished here, with plenty of warnings.

Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

I've added some steps to help increase effectiveness, and reduce the risk of killing your grass with Boron toxicity. First you'll need to rake out as much creeping charlie as you can. Aggressively go after the running stems as they will try to regrow.  A stiff tined garden rake works very well for this part.

Next, I recommend starting with just half strength (5oz Borax) of ISU's recipe below

Recipe for Borax control of ground ivy on bluegrass
     (Caution: apply over recommended area to avoid toxicity symptoms)
Treats 1,000 sq. feet:
Dissolve in 4 oz. warm water to help dissolve the borax
Dilute this premix in 2.5 gal. water


If the Creeping Charlie returns to your lawn, you'll need to rake the rhizomes out again.  It should definitely be less this time, and then use a 2nd half strength application.

If it happens to come back again, it should at least be in sporadic patches and way more manageable with patience and a bit of maintenance raking.

Recent articles claim long term control with Borax is limited, but my anecdotal experience says it really helps get ahead of it and you can keep it under control with a little diligence.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Backyard Retreat & Woodland Adventures

Dry play yard, decorative and functional stream
with a woodland adventure area behind

Wet + Shade + High Traffic

These things never lend themselves to a healthy lawn...  A lawn is definitely something the homeowners wanted out of this project for their kids' soccer and football games.  But in addition to the lawn, they wanted a space for creative play, keeping or expanding the existing vegetable gardens, increasing the numbers of edible berries and plants, all while doing it in a natural and earth-friendly sort of way.

Before pics-

Heavy shade, traffic and excessive moisture
make turf grass struggle to thrive

Deeper shade and low growing branches
Garden space, with bland spirea along the house

These bushes on the back window were lanky and just not very interesting, they were hoping for something better, maybe even edible.  The blueberries they already had were doing great!  We decided on a trio of 'Regent' Serviceberry for variety, a hardy native that also produces delicious berries.

This area was also in heavy shade from a maple tree with an expansive canopy.  Grass had always struggled along this access area in and out of the backyard, too.  Maybe we could use the 'problem as the solution' and just take the turf grass out of the equation for this part of the yard?


The shade was hindering the lawn from drying out, but the cause of the initial wetness was downspouts pouring into the yard, shallow slope preventing proper drainage and a large amount of runoff from a neighboring hillside.

We could reroute the runoff from both uphill and the downspouts, utilize the city rebate program and create multiple spaces for adventurous play, pollinator habitat and a natural feeling space that felt more like a nature park than the suburbs. 

Many shrubs had volunteered along the back property line, including dogwood, mulberry and highly invasive honeysuckle.  We removed most of these, except a few pagoda dogwood that happened fit where they were.
I love using the stump bucket to remove honeysuckle!

We raised the canopy on the evergreens to open up the feel, leaving some climbing rungs for tree borne adventures.  You can also see the grading for the swale that will push water to the rain garden and away from the lawn.

A designated walkway - the "jungle path" as the kids called it - was made using a darker shade of mulch, which will allow traffic in the area but keep the new plantings from being trampled.
Tripod sprinklers kept the newly installed plants and sod
hydrated during the long, hot and dry peak of summer.

Stream installed, fescue sod going in for the final touch

A rain garden captures the runoff and sinks it into the ground
instead of flooding the neighbors and storm sewer system

Remember the shady access way where grass struggled?  We created a woodland garden with a limestone path for access.  We were lucky and could use mostly reclaimed limestone steppers found under the volunteer shrubs.  The nearby downspouts were routed to this space where native shade loving plants won't mind the extra moisture - including ferns, sedges and wild geranium.  A couple gooseberry shrubs won't mind the shade either and provide a seasonal snack for adventurous young explorers.
Shade tolerant access path planting

In addition, the front planting island around the flagpole was overgrown with a massive burning bush (also invasive), volunteer mulberries and plastic edging that had seen better days (no before picture).  Tumbled granite added an updated and durable edge to this bed.  All of the existing vegetation was removed and replaced with Midwest native plants, like an Aronia bush and New Jersey Tea tree.  Butterfly milkweed, rudbeckia and echinacea were among the flowering forbs, with switchgrass for height and textural contrast in the center and fronted by lower growing clumps of prairie dropseed.

The shade on this project was very welcome during this summer's heat!