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.

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fauxboo Creations at the 2017 Seed Exchange

Early post this week... if the forecast is correct, I hope to be getting stuff done outside this weekend!

I like to encourage people to take part in growing healthy food and landscapes, and even design and install those sorts of things.  But often times I'm asked what to do if you have no yard or live in an apartment or condo.  At first, options seem somewhat limited but there are possibilities with potted plants, vertical deck gardens, even dwarf tropical fruit trees and more.

By combining vertical gardening and hydroponics in an innovative and artistic way, Jon Neufeld of Fauxboo Creations provides one of these great solutions!  I had seen Jon's work previously online and while visiting Cherry Glen.  So, I was glad to get to know him better and have him share a little about his mission and Fauxboo's products at the Seed Exchange a couple weeks ago.

For more information go to http://www.fauxboocreations.com/

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pacifying Extreme Rain

By now you've heard of Cyclone Debbie in Australia, or at least seen the images of the "Man-eating Shark found on road..."  I took the click-bait wondering how bad the "Sharknado" was if sharks were eating people in flooded ditches.  They got me. 

Estimated cleanup for the devastation is estimated at nearly a billion dollars.

But as you can see in premier Permaculture Designer and Teacher, Geoff Lawton's videos below, good design can pacify and manage even the 17" of rain in 24 hours they received.

The water catchment design of Zaytuna Farm is to the left.

I think our weather outlook looks warm enough to hook my rain barrel back up.  I will still manage the overflow into a portion of our mini-"food forest" and watch for any potential hard freezes that could damage valves and seals.

Are you ready for our April showers? 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Another Fun Event!

Pickin' and Grinin'

What a great turnout for this years Seed Exchange!

Thank you to Cherry Glen Learning Farm for providing the venue
Matt and Randy brought their special blend of Iowa Bluegrass!
The Iowa Food Cooperative was also on hand to share information and local chips and salsa, YUM!

Ellen Sattler presented her "Ready Set Grow" seed starting program.  She also provided soil and pots for attendees to start their own seeds right away!  Thanks Ellen! 
An enthusiastic audience for "Ready, Set, Grow"

A new thing added this year was our "live" networked events around the Midwest.

Viewing on my phone (technical difficulties) the Big Screen next year :)
Scott Haase shared from his Cob Building Workshop held at Blue Dirt Farm in Minnesota!  All reports are that this was a stellar event!
"Cob Workshop to Seed Exchange, Come in, Over!"

Mixing Cob
We also got a "live" personalized tour via Google Hangouts of the Marion Ohio park that is being transformed into a into an "Edible Forest and Community Gardens" using Permaculture principles and techniques. 
A Big Thanks to Steve Harbolt of the OhioGSD crew, too!


 Read more about this great project here -

Other guests you might have gotten to chat with include Forest Avenue OutreachFauxboo Creations, Nine Square Feet and Autumn's Garden.

Thank you to everyone that made the drive out to Polk City and shared their time, gifts and seeds!

Have a great week and Best of Luck this upcoming growing season!!!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Ready, Set, Grow!" at the Seed Exchange

This year's Seed Exchange will host Ellen Sattler, who will present a short program on seed starting.

Is your starting rack ready? Or are you going straight into the ground?

Ellen is a 9th year Polk County 4-H member and throughout those years she has developed a passion for Horticulture. She has put together what she has learned into a presentation called “Ready, Set, Grow!” the steps to starting your own seeds.

Ellen teaching students at Crestview School of Inquiry

Plants starts
Transplanting with students at Children and Families Urban Movement

Each year just gets better and better!
Let us know you are coming, RSVP here

Leave a comment or post a message with anything special you are looking for,
or if you are bringing something special to share!!!
Read more about the 2017 Seed Exchange Super Party here

See you next weekend  ...the first weekend of SPRING!!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Seed Exchange Musical Guests

I'm excited to announce that Matthew "Sweet Tater" TeRonde will be returning to this years Seed Exchange with his multi-instrument talents along with friend Randy Gibson on banjo for some good ol' pickin' and grinnin' music and fun!

RSVP here

Read more about the 2017 Seed Exchange Super Party here

Monday, March 13, 2017

Home Show Recap

What a great weekend to hide form the snow and visit a tropical retreat right here in Des Moines, Iowa.  The icy winds, wintery mix and snow were forgotten a bit as you entered Hy-Vee Hall.

As mentioned last week Abundant Design spent the week working with The Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity's ReStore on one of this year's Feature Gardens at the Home and Outdoor Living Show.

Abundant Design's "Fire pit" is always a hit at these events!
Our partnership created a Shipping Container BBQ Shack with moveable outdoor kitchen island, complete with an "herb spiral" close at hand...
Herb spirals are ingenious features that combine multiple growing zones or environments into a small area.  These structures are easily maintained, resilient and attractive.  The hardscape, often upcycled materials, helps hold aggressive herbs within their boundaries.  Positioned close to your kitchen, these specialty plantings provide the freshest herbs you can get! 

The gathering space had a tropical beach feel with bright colors, sand, tropical canna lilies and lemongrass. 

The water feature was a new addition missing from last year's show that provided the soothing sounds of running water, as well as a place to grow Chinese Water Chestnuts, and native wetland edibles like cattail and arrowhead.

Corner "food forest" with apple, serviceberry, currants and more along with a stepper path

Thanks to all the people who stopped and visited with us about the ReStore, Habitat for Humanity and Abundant Design.

Don't forget the Seed Exchange is right around the corner too!

RSVP early for all the updates and announcements!