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, November 29, 2014

Backyard Makeover

Well we've had quite the weather ups and downs this week.  About 4" of snow fell earlier, and now today temperatures are in the 50's.  It'll help clean up the icy spots on the driveway and the sidewalks where the snow blew in after it was shoveled.

Between shoveling the drive and eating turkey I updated the Gallery page with one of my first projects as Abundant Design.  Check it out!


Waveland Area Backyard Makeover- After a garage had been refurbished/rebuilt the backyard space was a patch of bare dirt.  We had a nearly blank slate to put any new additions to the yard, but with any rain making a muddy mess we needed to act quickly.
                               
The homeowners had a small concrete slab patio which held their dining set, but they were hoping for a larger space to place a firepit and use for entertaining.  A ninety square foot expansion was built using reclaimed flagstone to meet this goal.  Low maintenance moss will be planted in the gaps.

 A mulched play area where the swing set would be situated was sectioned off with an alternating double brick border.  The existing shrubs and hostas were mulched, to reduce weeds and retain moisture, using a natural edge cut in.  Afterwards the remaining space in the yard was sodded. 

They were also off to a great start with  a small vegetable garden, dual compost tumblers and a rain barrel, but were really interested in perennial crops such as raspberries and strawberries.  Although the yard was heavily shaded by mature trees, there was an area along the property line that had good sun exposure.  This area would provide a planting area for the berry plants that was out of traffics way but allowed easy access to the fruit.  Since it was on a slope, terraced raised beds were installed.



I hope you enjoyed this quick summary of what a project looks like before and after, along with a quick sketch of the plan. 

If you would like to have a project done this coming Spring, or even get a design ready to do it yourself, contact me and we can arrange a time to talk about your productive and sustainable landscaping options!

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

This week we, as a nation, will celebrate Thanksgiving. A reminder of the Pilgrims' first feasts and celebrations of "giving thanks" to the Creator, during their early struggles at Plymouth colony. 

I want to send out a special thank you to my customers. I am glad I could help you on your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle and bring beauty to your home, with a strong foundation for abundant
yields of the highest quality fruits and vegetables available. In time, I trust the bounty from what we have created will be featured on your Thanksgiving celebration menus. My hope in the future is for those who follow us will be thankful for the trees we've planted, the rich soils we have made and the clean water we've contributed to.

I also want to say thank you to all of you who have supported me in other ways; family and friends who have believed in me and this new adventure I've started. Especially to my wife and kids who have had to put up with me being gone a little more than usual. Those that have helped spread the word of what I am doing, guided me in business decisions and provided help with my videos and blog. I am truly blessed and for that I am Thankful.

Squanto's Garden by Bill Heid
As a thank you gift to you, here is a link to a downloadable .pdf of  Squanto's Garden.
 
"Whether you are an experienced gardener, or just starting out, "Squanto's Garden" has plenty to teach you. The information in this book is designed to help any gardener learn about soil and how it affects the things that grow on it. One of the best aspects of this type of gardening is that you will learn to work with nature, rather than against it. You will learn to create a garden, or transform an existing one, using the same techniques that were used to bring about the first Thanksgiving. You will also learn important and little known information about that early period in American history, and the real truth about the Native American Squanto."

And at the bottom are some printable coloring pages I made for the kids to enjoy!  If dinner gets late it might help keep them busy :)
 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 


 

 
 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Protecting Plants from Rabbits, and more

The weather has sure changed this week.  The warm start turned into a freezing spell followed with a couple inches of snow yesterday.  In the suburbs rabbits will be putting increased pressure on your planted areas.  Buds and branch tips, especially ones just sticking out of the snow, are easy pickings for our little cottontails.  In the video that goes with this weeks post I'll show you how I installed a temporary fence to encourage the rabbits to look elsewhere!


Other things you might want to be thinking about is mulching your trees, especially newer ones to stabilize soil temperatures and retain moisture. Your garlic and other bulbs will appreciate a good layer of mulch too.  I just put 3-4" of old straw over our garlic.  You can probably prune most trees that need it, as well, but there is no rush as they will be dormant for a few months now.

If you are planning to change over any part of your lawn to garden beds; or the installation of compost bins or other things with posts in the ground you better get on it!  The soil probably won't be workable for much longer.

Have a great week!  Stay warm!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Swords into Plowshares

This week we celebrate Veteran's Day in America.  In today's geo-political climate, the War on Terror stretching on and on, we have more and more men and women to commemorate.  Not to mention our fathers and mothers, cousins and grandparents who may have served our nation from conflicts around the world; Panama, Serbia and Kuwait to Vietnam, Korea and WWII.  These brave men and women have gone when called.  They may have witnessed the unspeakable, and cannot forget what we cannot imagine.  For each of them, we say

"Thank You"
 

There are a multitude of groups around the nation today doing work supporting veterans with their transition to civilian life.  Many of these groups are teaching veterans skills in agriculture, sustainable farming, local food and permaculture.  Homegrown by Heroes, The Valhalla Project, and The Farmer Veteran Coalition are just a few.  These organizations are truly helping vets beat their swords into plowshares.

The following movie trailer is for GROUND OPERATIONS: Battlefields to Farmfields, a documentary and social action campaign championing the growing network of combat veterans transitioning into sustainable farming, ranching and artisan food production careers.



It can be a difficult transition, as the economy has yet to fully recover and many of their new job skills are not directly transferable.  Returning to family life after a long deployment, or having no family and dealing with loneliness, can be a struggle.  And far too often physical injuries add a level of difficulty, or psychological trauma weighs heavily on their mental well-being.  These groups are serving several of these needs.  Career skills training and placement are the most obvious ones.  But also, working in the outdoors, with nature and the soil can bring a sense of well-being that is needed by those who are struggling.

Support these organizations, if you can through donations, purchasing their products or even just sending them a note of encouragement or liking their Facebook pages.  I also encourage you to reach out this week to a veteran family member or friend, and say, "Thank you for your service."  They will probably be a little shy about it, but let them know you truly appreciate their sacrifice.  You and I may not support the wars, but let's support the warriors. 

This week November 9-15, as our way of saying Thank You, we will give a Free 1hr On-Site Consultation (with bubble diagram) for any Veteran or Veteran's group, or 10% off any other service.

               They will live again in freedom
               In the garden of the Lord.
               They will walk behind the ploughshare,
               They will put away the sword.
               The chain will be broken
               And all men will have their reward. — finale of Les Misérables

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cold SNAP!

We had a solid frost Friday night, I guess that is a typical start to November.  Our peppers and tomatoes cashed in their chips for good, and I need to bring in the rosemary and lemongrass pots for the winter.  This weeks update I will give you some hints and tips that I thought of sharing while doing things around our landscape.

Tree planting
A week or so ago I planted a couple small sumac trees in our yard.  Fall is a great time for planting deciduous trees, as is gives the roots plenty of time to grow before new Spring shoots start to grow and the Summer heat returns.  We might be passed the best time as soil temperatures are dropping below 50°F, but if you hurry this week you should be ok, especially if you can capitalize on a great plant clearance deal at your favorite store or nursery!  Cooler temperatures reduce evaporation and transpiration*, which gives trees time to recover from the transplanting process.  This also helps reduce, but not eliminate, the need for watering.  As the really cold weather hits and the ground begins to freeze stop watering.  Once the ground is frozen, guessing early to mid December this year, give your newly planted trees a good covering (3-4") of protective mulch.*not the case with evergreens, so save these for Spring when available soil moisture returns.
  • Transplant trees before soil temps drop below 50-55°F
  • Water well until soil begins to freeze
  • Mulch well once ground has frozen
  • Save evergreens for Spring

Garlic and Flower Bulbs
I also planted some Garlic, as well as Daffodils, Tulips and Crocus this weekend.  Garlic is
my Achilles heel, so hopefully this will be my year.  My Spring plantings have failed every year.  Last year's Fall planting may have been too early and the shoots grew too big and froze; but this year I hope to have hit the window.  I gently removed the dried skin and separated the cloves.  The largest cloves should be the best producers but I planted every one.  I set them in well-loosened soil, about 4" apart several inches deep with the top, pointy end up so that the tip is a couple inches under the soil.  I plant intensively in raised beds no wider than 4 feet, so I can reach the middle without stepping into them.  With no need for access rows to walk down, I use the suggested in row spacing in every direction to utilize the bed space more efficiently.  This also reduces weeds since there is less bare ground.

  • Gently remove skin and separate cloves
  • Largest cloves are best
  • Plant tip up, with tip 2-3" below surface
  • Space 3-6" apart depending on space available, wider spacing allows larger bulbs

I planted the Daffodils and Tulips about 6" deep with 6" spacing per the packaging.  The Crocus were done about 2-3" deep and apart.  Like the garlic cloves, plant these with the pointy shoot tip up for best results.  These flowers look best when planted in masses, as opposed to one here and there.  You can also group them together or intermix the larger Daffodils into clumps of smaller crocuses.
 
In your landscapes the Spring bulbs companion well with other plants that break dormancy later in the year.  They are especially good for fruit tree guilds.  Their early growth will grab nutrients and hold them so the early rains will not wash them away, and can release these as their foliage dies back and the other plants are at peak growth and fruiting.  They can also help draw in insects that help pollinate early flowering fruit such as cherries.
  • Largest bulbs best
  • Plant 2-3x as deep as the diameter of the bulb (2" bulb, tip 4-6" down)
  • Mass plantings more aesthetic than individual plants
  • Companion plants that hold nutrients

Water these new bulbs in very well.


Leaves & Composting
Leaves are also in ample supply.  Our big ash trees dropped their leaves early so these are already mixed into the compost bins.  These are a great and ample source of organic matter for your soil and carbon input for balancing your compost mix if you monitor this.  I don't pay much attention to my carbon(brown)/nitrogen(green) blend as long as everything is mixed well, and leaves are nearly perfect in and of themselves.  If you added nothing but leaves you would end up with a beautiful compost!
  • Leaves = Great Compost!

    Thanks for stopping by, and happy growing!