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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

People Care - Okoboji 200

A few years ago I went on a long bike ride with my friends Rocky Vest and Andy McCoy.  100 miles long, a Century Ride.

100 miles was a long way and I was biking a lot then.  For me it was a notch in my belt, a checkmark off my bucket list.  For them it was a training ride for a 200 mile ride they were planning that would become so much more.

OK200 is a one day epic 200 mile bike ride and run from West Des Moines, IA to Lake Okoboji, IA to help fight human trafficking in Iowa and SE Asia. OK200 helps to stop the traffic by increasing awarenes about human trafficking and donating funds to support safe houses for survivors of sex slavery.

This Friday, they make that journey again. That's People Care!

To find out more and how you can support them go to-

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers Day all you dads, step-dads and grandpas! 

Dad and me on Father's Day several years back

I hope you all enjoyed your day and weekend.  Hopefully you got to spend some time with family, even if it was just a little or on the phone.  The weather was great here and we spent a little time outside, shared some laughter and did "Dad things" like tearing apart and trying to fix appliances.

Just for fun, I thought I would share this video of some of my favorite sayings :)
...OK, maybe not quite!

And FINALLY we have had a some rain to get us closer to normal moisture!  Here's a video of that rain garden installed a couple weeks ago just after a heavy early morning shower - catching the runoff before it can surge into the storm sewers.  This will allow it to sink into the ground over the next several hours filtering out pollutants and hydrating the landscape.

Have a great week!

...and Dads go out there and Be Epic!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hot and Dry

I don't know if the warm early Spring, then long stretch of cool weather messed with our bodies acclimating or what.  But man, it has felt really hot the last couple weeks!

The last time we got any decent rain was after we finished this rain garden at the end of May.

Here in Central Iowa it has been over two weeks since we've had rain, and the sun is rarely blocked by any clouds with daily high temperatures in the 90s everyday forecasted this week.  We moved a bunch of rock during the peak last week, thought we would get some relief Thursday for the new plantings installed but no such luck, and the homeowners have had to keep watering to help get them established.

Our home rain barrel is empty, and anyone with one has wished they had more storage capacity.

Are you considering a rain barrel?  We can install and even customize to match your landscape style.

Many fruit trees are ripening.  I netted our cherry tree next to our house, so that we can enjoy some, instead of feeding the birds this year. 

I also had a few handfuls of mulberries and service berries during one of our evening walks.  After the sun has gone down the evenings feel a lot better, giving us some relief.

We also found a couple monarch eggs on the milkweed in our yard.

The one thing that really surprised me this week, with all of the heat and lack of rain, was a note and pictures from a customer from last year.  Remember the large steel planters, with the wood cores? Normally raised beds, especially ones this high, need lots and lots of water due to the exposed sides and improved drainage.  These are pictures from last week, and had not been watered in eight days!

Don't they look amazing?

She definitely has a green thumb, but I like to think the wood is helping out some too :)

Let us know in the comments- 
What are you doing to beat the heat?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Public Stormwater Initiatives & Rain Gardens

As cities have grown, more and more forest and agricultural land has been converted to housing developments, shopping malls and office parks.  With more and more parking lots, streets and rooftops, their impervious surfaces have caused more and faster runoff, promoting erosion and flooding.  Another major side effect of this increased runoff is carrying pollutants directly to local streams and lakes.  Without the filtering effect of healthy porous soil, runoff laden with automotive pollutants, sediment, bacteria and even lawn chemicals and fertilizers negatively impact water quality. 

Many municipalities in Iowa are now promoting stormwater best management practices (BMPs) to reduce the amount of runoff associated with rain events. 

The local ecosystems of prairie, wetlands and forests were very good at infiltrating rainfall, with very little runoff.  Deep roots allowed for percolation; soils high in organic matter held on to moisture. 

Rain Gardens
Rain Gardens are generally one of the stormwater best management practices encouraged by local governments.  These landscape features can integrate many aspects of these native ecosystems which can help with:
  • Increasing rainwater that filters into the ground, which recharges local and regional aquifers;
  • Preventing flooding and drainage problems;
  • Protecting streams and lakes from pollutants carried by stormwater with lawn fertilizers and pesticides, oil and other automotive pollutants, and numerous other harmful substances that wash off roofs and paved areas;
  • Enhancing the beauty of yards and neighborhoods;
  • Providing habitat for birds, butterflies and many beneficial insects.

These are pictures from a recent Rain Garden installation by Abundant Design.
Checking the infiltration rate of the soil
Rain gardens are sized based on surface area and infiltration

Marking the layout
Downspouts were piped to the garden

The machine sped up the rough digging process...
...and the final work done by hand.
the laser level was used for the basin floor

Almost done

Rain gardens are one way you can help the environment and enhance the beauty and functionality of your landscapes.

Have a great week!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Eden & Gethsemane

Gardens and nature are an important part of our lives and history.  A good part of my childhood was spent "helping" out in the gardens, scanning the road ditches for asparagus or paddling through the marsh.  The pioneers could not have survived without their gardens, fields and an abundance of wild food to forage.  Farming and gardening were also important to our nation's first and more recent Presidents

The last several weeks I've realized how big of a part they play throughout the Bible as well.  On Easter, I shared an article from Sustainable Traditions comparing the germination of dormant seeds to the resurrection of Jesus.  This week will revisit the human-natural-spiritual connection as we look at nature and the gardens of Eden and Gethsemane.

"There's something about examining a delicate flower, or
admiring a rushing waterfall that reminds us we are not accidents,
and our God is an awesome God!"   -Read more at newspring.cc
Creation and Nature
These were God's first missionary.  We can learn much about God by considering the works of His hands. Creation highlights a number of God’s attributes--His character traits.
Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20
For a full commentary on Romans 1:20 go to jcblog.net

The Bible also draws attention to nature to illustrate lessons about life and conduct as guidance for us.  See also Psalm 19:1-2
Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? Job 12:7-9
Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise Proverbs 6:6
Jesus referred to agriculture and farming practices of the time in His teachings, too; the parable of the sower, references to viniculture (highlighted in Secrets of the Vine) and more.  See also Matthew 20:8
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed..."  Matthew 13:3
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1-2



Garden of Delight
The Hebrew word "Eden" means delight.  What was it like?
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.  The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:8-9

Trees.  "Pleasing to the eye and good for food".  Sound familiar? 
This wasn't just a backyard vegetable garden, but a massive food forest, teeming with plant and animal life, strikingly beautiful, with an abundance of food.

Original Mission - What were we made to do?

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)

One reason for being created was to be caretakers and stewards of this miraculous place that had all we needed.  Eden was a paradise that had all humans needed, but yet we wanted just a little more...  and for that we were expelled.  But we still live on this planet created for us, which is an amazing place. 

"God is not asking us to turn everything into a productive vegetable garden, but is asking us to serve the needs of our earth, and to recognize its goodness and worth."
Read more on the vocation of "Avad:To Serve the Earth"

Garden of Gethsemane
Gethsemane means Place of the Olive Press, this Garden included trees.  Natural settings can calm our spirits and bring a sense of well-being.  Jesus went there with the disciples to pray often. 
Prayers in a garden, not the temple?  
Jesus himself found comfort, peace and a favorite place to pray at Gethsemane.

The most famous visit to the garden was the night of Judas's betrayal, after their Passover feast.  The events of that night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, have echoed through the centuries in art, music, books and recently film. (Matthew 26:36-56, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:40-53 & John 18:1-11)

Ancient Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane
All creation points to the Creator.  Natural systems are like illustrations in a children's book; they help tell the story for those who can't yet get the full meaning of the words. 

  Would you like to "feed your flock" as well as enhancing your faith community's space?   

A space designated for a garden such as these would provide an area where people could go and experience God's Creation.  One could spend time in communion with God through, much as Adam and Eve might have.  These natural spaces would provide a sense of calming and peace, like Jesus and his disciples felt at Gethsemane.  These gardens would also provide nutrient rich food to use or share in the community, while needing less maintenance than traditional community gardens or manicured lawn space.

Abundant Design can help with your mission of sharing God's glory.

These types of Forest Gardens are our specialty!

Maybe you would like a smaller version for your own backyard, we can do that too!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Patio Production in a Mini-Woodland

When doing a permaculture design a property is divided into zones.  Zone 1 is where you spend most of your time and you work out from there to Zone 5, the wild spaces.
Zones 1-3 from "Introduction to Permaculture"

This recently completed planting in Johnston is a great example of a Zone 1 feature.  It shows what you can do right near your home, in this case just off the patio, with easy access for care and harvest.

Retaining walls had been installed the previous year by another contractor.  I was contacted to design a planting for the area.

During the site visit topics included fruit trees, bird & pollinator benefits, and companion interactions with low maintenance.  The following plan, developed based on the homeowners favorites and plant availability.

Design for the plant communities
Located next to the patio, where the grill is kept, made an excellent place for herbs to be planted right at an easy harvesting height.  Sage within arms reach for grilling chicken, or the soothing scent of lavender while relaxing in the evening watching the sunset.  The Western facing inside corner provides a warm sunny area perfect for heat loving herbs. 

Closer to the retaining walls and under the shade of the fruit trees Ostrich ferns will provide a lush green backdrop.  They also will have edible fiddleheads in the Spring as the columbines and hellebores flower. 

American Cranberry and Aronia will provide some Fall color as well as berries for birds and people. Daffodils, clover and comfrey will cycle nutrients helping the fruit trees until established.

Sheet Mulch
After calling in the utility locates, the soil was amended and the trees, shrubs and other plants were installed.  Following planting, cardboard was put down as a biodegradable weed barrier.  With the warm Spring weeds were already growing on the bare dirt.

Another layer of compost
Wild garlic chives were plentiful, so multiple layers were added in these places.  Another layer of compost was added to hold down the cardboard and speed up its decomposition.

The capstones of the retaining walls were matched to use as edging giving it a unified look.

Finally ramial chipped wood was sourced locally as a great low cost alternative to dyed hardwood mulch.  If you don't mind a few larger sticks and twigs, they provide more nutrients quickly that help build quality soil.  After a few rains the chips will look clean as the leaves and bark wash in, helping offset nitrogen tied-up by the woodchips.

Here are the after pictures with plants just starting to grow.  Follow Abundant Design on Facebook for more pictures as this Patio Project matures this summer.

After: Patio Production in a Mini-Woodland
After: Time to Grow!
Don't forget to Like and Share or Leave a Comment on this post on Facebook!

Have a great week!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mothers Day Weekend

Mom helping out on a project earlier this year

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, and especially the mothers in my life!

My mom, my mother in law, plus my two grandmothers and my wonderful wife.

All have done, and are doing an amazing job with the children under their care :)

From making sure we had healthy meals and ate our vegetables, to comforting us when we had a skinned knee or lost a pet, moms have a special kind of love for their children.

Thank you!

A Mother's Day bouquet with columbines,
chive, horseradish, camassia, and
comfrey flowers - A very "Permie" Mix

I also celebrated a birthday last week, with an unexpected gift in the back yard. 

I had tried with very little success last year trying to grow nasturtiums.  Granted I was a bit early in the season, trying to get them to flower in time for the March home show, but they are supposedly easy to grow.  I filed parts of the seed coat off, I soaked them, etc. etc.  I eventually got a couple spindly looking plants in time, but no flowers until much later in the year after I transplanted them outside.

Late last week and into the weekend I found several, then another and yet another scattered about the landscape!  I must have tossed the extra seed and/or failed attempts randomly...

 Under one of our maples, and another with Echinacea and clover near the rain barrel

These were hiding out in and near the kitchen herbs
Plus projects continue...
I can't decide if the big grin is from knowing I was being photographed, really enjoying bringing this project to life, or was just happy the job was all done but the clean-up.  Probably all three!
Have a great week and thanks for reading!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Spring Rush & Birthday Break

It's my birthday this week so I'm taking the week of blogging off, sort of I guess.
A video of the bats we watched hunt while playing
around at Walker Johnston park in Urbandale

Also read "Half Hearted Fanatic"

We've been working hard on several projects - retaining walls with native plantings, including a few edibles; Herbs by the grill and other edibles and shade plantings near a patio; and continued work on a backyard food forest.  We also were preparing for a couple rain gardens, native privacy screening and a patio/firepit project.

After enjoying some of the Spring sights (below) in our yard, I planted some tomatoes, peppers and more in our own garden, and gave our garage a much needed cleaning and sweeping. <cough, cough>
 Irises - close up

 Ostrich fern and one of the last tulips

Iris, strawberry, columbines and blue flax

Next week there is a fund raising event for Primary Health Care, the facility where the healing garden will be going.  Funds raised will go towards their mission of providing healthcare and supportive services for people in Central Iowa to improve their quality of life.

Support them here-

Tuesday, May 16 at 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Forte Banquet & Conference Center
615 3rd Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Get tickets HERE

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Guerrilla Gardening Weekend

May 1st is International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day
https://www.facebook.com/guerrillagardening/ and http://www.guerrillagardening.org/

Redbud, apple seedlings and more
are heading out on a "mission" of
beautification and food production
Guerrilla Gardening is planting where you don't actually have permission, whether road ditches, along bike trails, abandoned lots or public parks & open spaces.  Guerrilla gardeners often see these spaces as neglected and ply their trade as a way to improve the space.  Sometimes vegetables and fruit trees are planted for food, while other times sunflowers and other flowers are used to beautify a space.  Fruit bearing branches can be attached to ornamental pear and crabapple trees by Guerrilla Grafters.  Even moss can be used as a form of "Green Graffiti."  Guerrilla Gardening can be used as a political act to encourage local food production, bring attention to urban blight or promote changes in land use policies.

Watch Ron Finley's famous Guerrilla Gardening TEDtalk

This weekend, although cold and rainy, was actually a decent time to put out some plants particularly in the "wild" as bare rooted apple seedlings ended up cool, out of direct sunlight and the roots stayed moist with little extra effort.  The continued cool weather forecasted shouldn't stress them much; and more rain will provide a cool drink that will also ease the transplanting stress.

Milkweed for butterflies, purple cone flowers for all pollinators, redbud trees for habitat and pretty blossoms are all good native choices for guerrilla gardening with positive benefits without the risk of invasiveness or obnoxiousness.

Seed bombs can help make a gardening "drive-by" with a quick "getaway"

Chris Rice and our friends over at the Quad Cities Edible Landscape group put this video together for a higher tech approach to their "Operations" of increasing native Paw Paw trees.  Paw Paws are a sought after edible, with rising popularity and a short shelf life.  If you know where a patch is, finding the fruit at the right time is a nice treat!  They are also one of the few host plants for the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.

This video will show you how to Guerrilla Grow food bearing trees in a wooded area. You will learn the tools and techniques necessary for a successful planting mission and there are links to suppliers in this description. In this video we are planting the native pawpaw tree which is well suited to growing as an understory plant and has delicious fruit.
Read the full article here with how-to's, more information and links to the tools used:

Join their Facebook group, the Quad Cities Edible Landscape​ at:

Beyond guerrilla gardening you could always get a plot in a community garden; volunteer at a botanical center, arboretum or shelter garden; restock books at a Little Free Library; or hang birdhouses around town.  Sometimes people with a yard or garden may let you help them out for a share of the seasons produce!

Have a great Guerrilla Gardening Day! and International Permaculture Day! and...

Happy May Day to you too!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day Weekend

I usually get a post out earlier for Earth Day deals and events, but we have been going like crazy with the warmer weather this Spring!

Earth Day is everyday at Abundant Design!

I have mentioned to a few friends lately that part of the reason I love doing what I do is that I have been able to plant way more trees than I ever could've on my own property. 

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade
they know they shall never sit in.” -Greek Proverb

Today we were pulling Creeping Charlie by hand, no chemicals in our yards.  We also built some small terraces, planted pollinator habitat, berries, rhubarb and herbs.  We'll mulch everything with fresh wood chips next week.
Good for the earth, good for us!

Many have gardens partially planted.  We have peas, potatoes and spinach in so far.  A couple friends even have tomatoes in hoop houses and the ones I saw in a backyard greenhouse were AMAZING!

Speaking of tomatoes and other garden plants, Nine Square Feet is hosting a

Plant Swap next weekend!

Keeping it local by trading those garden plants we have an abundance of for those we are short on.

I'll close with a few hints to help make everyday Earth Day for you, too!

Water - the most necessary nutrient we need.
  • Rain Barrels and Rain Harvesting Landscapes to save on irrigation
  • Increased Organic Matter in our lawns and fields to hold moisture in the soil
  • Buffer STRIPS to filter nutrients and more from runoff
  • Fix leaky faucets, shorter showers, turn off the water when brushing teeth, and more...

Air - Try breathing without air, hard isn't it?
  • Plant trees and windbreaks to clean air of dust and dirt
  • Indoor plants can help clean pollutants from the air inside your home
  • Keep Tires properly inflated to avoid wasting gas and reduce your emissions 
  • Ride a Bike for all trips under two miles.  May is Bike Month try riding to work/register
Here's a non-YouTube/non-gardening video for you :)

Land - Where will our food grow without the land?

Life - we are all in this together!

I hope you are having a great weekend, take a few of these things and see how you can make a positive impact on our world!  The ripple effect of your actions can make an even bigger impact in your life, your neighbors and your surroundings.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter - Resurrection Sunday 2017

The last week or so has had great weather (when it wasn't raining) for getting outside for fun or work.  We've been on our bikes, did some spring cleanup, prepping garden beds, planting seeds and more.  The bees are also getting things done, while birds are singing happy songs of Spring and courtship.

Bumble bee working the cherry blossoms
I came across this article in the last month or so, and have reflected on it while starting some of my own garden planting.  With the weather already favorable for planting along with the late holiday this year it seems especially fitting to share with you on this Easter Sunday.

Author J. Fowler of the Sustainable Traditions project compares the planting of seeds with the death and resurrection of Christ. 

"As you plant your seeds it is a hope-filled endeavor but have you ever considered that your garden is a place of deathbeds. I know it sounds morbid but JESUS said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” [John 12:24]
As you bury each seed in it’s final darkness it begins slowly dying, deconstructing, coming undone, transforming. It is ceasing to be a seed as root and shoot activate. And as more roots and shoots emerge, the seed ceases to be. But this death is swallowed in the newness of life. But first comes the death."

Jesus, The Seed of Resurrection and Life (montage: J Fowler)

Read the rest of the article here:

I hope you have had a weekend full of rest and reflection (in addition to any planting you've gotten done)
Happy Easter!

Early Spring color in the young Forest Garden