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, September 10, 2017

Resplendent September - amazing opportunity and potential


Things are HOPPING! 
And I'm not just talking about the rabbit that lives in my herb garden :) 


We are working on several projects from rain gardens, back yard retreats and patio rebuilds with functional plant design.  Multiple jobs at once is pretty rare for Abundant Design, but the weather has been good and material scheduling and available help has worked out well.  I'm energized by people excited for new functional landscapes, healthier lifestyles and the benefits of natural settings.




I also treated my own lawn with predatory nematodes as a chemical-free way to help control Japanese Beetles


September is Preparedness Month, which is a big deal with hurricanes and wildfires in the news, and although not really tornado season, we live in an area prone to them.  Besides, winter is approaching and several years ago, although not too far off the beaten path my mom and dad were out of electricity for over a week following a blizzard!

For lots more tips listen to "Why Practical Preparedness Wins the Race"


Here in Iowa, some troubles for Versaland, a permaculture styled regenerative farm near Iowa City, with the Johnson County supervisors. Grant Schultz messaged me Friday, Dan Grubbs asked me to share, and here's The Urban Farmer Curtis Stone's video call for support along with Grant's video.

If you are nearby, Grant would appreciate your support at the Johnson County Board of Supervisors rezoning meeting September 14th (This Thursday) at 5:30pm
Johnson County Administration Building
913 South Dubuque Street
Iowa City, IA 52240


Blank Park Zoo's Plant.Grow.Fly. Monarch Festival will be held at Blank Park Zoo on Sunday, September 17 from 12-4 p.m.


Enjoy the exciting transition from Summer to Fall!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Privacy Screen with an Abundant Spin

The home owner talked to me at the Home & Outdoor Living Show about her need for a privacy screen and wondered if I could do it within her budget and short time frame. 

Before-

They didn't want mulch as their dogs tended to dig, and river rock also matched their neighbors border which they liked.

Although the whole back property line was to be done, particular lines of sight were drawn in to prioritize. 

Two drawings were made, one with slight variations and shared.  The alternate drawing with evergreens for winter screening, was selected.

The Arborvitae will also provide a nice dark backdrop to contrast the spring blooms on the Serviceberries.

The low spot included more water loving native plants like Blue Flag Iris and Elderberry.




Work begins- Including 15+ tons of rock!





NF said it, on a few of those hot, late nights








 
After- Over 50 trees, shrubs and plants, many natives, some edible, medicinal and superfoods!
 
We finished up right in the peak heat at the beginning of this drought, conditions were not ideal for plant establishment.

However, the recent rain, although not near enough, has given things a healthy natural drink and renewed vigor!
Privacy Screen with Natives, Edibles, Medicinals and Superfoods!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Prairie Edge Stairway Project

Before: Slope along garage

This is an update on a project in Adel done earlier during the Spring rush.  I got a chance to visit the project today, snap a couple photos and visit with the client.


After their new garage was built, the homeowner was looking for  designs for a pleasant space to look upon from their deck as well as a way to get to the backyard.


Abundant Design's initial meandering natural pathway design was chosen to move forward with.  After a few tweaks to the plan, including a stone stairway they liked on Houzz, we began coordinating timing with the other contrators finishing the garage and concrete work.



Soon after, dirt work began with the stone retaining walls and stairway put in place. 


Incorporating native grasses and wildflowers provided a natural look and feel to the space, bringing in a piece of the prairie.  Local pollinators will appreciate the nectar of Blazingstar, Purple Coneflower, Coreopsis and more.

Native shrubs, like Aronia, stand out from the prairie plants providing Fall color.  They also have super nutritious, if not that tasty, berries.  The Serviceberry specimen plant will shade the deck in the future, bloom in the Spring and have better tasting berries than the aronia, similar to a blueberry with a hint of black cherry.

Planted and Mulched
After: Natural Stone Prairie Edge Stairway




 
The plants have had a chance to fill out a bit now, and although the blazingstar flowers were done, the coreopsis and coneflowers were still blooming.



I love customer feedback like this too!

Thanks to Beemer Landscaping for the assist on the stairway, and Blooming Prairie Nursery for many of the plants.

Monday, August 21, 2017

More Fruit Trees, Layering Rootsuckers

I love apples, really love apples, pears, peaches and...  That's part of why I do, what I do - bringing tasty and nutritious food possibilities in a sustainable way to people.  This week I did another How-To video showing you how.

We've talked about growing fruit trees, and root stocks, from seed.  While simple and free, these may or may not be high quality rootstocks, and have unknown characteristics.

Here's another way to grow your own new rootstocks for more 'free' fruit trees, and these will be a known type so you can plan your backyard or acreage orchard or food forest better.  Check it out in the new video below-


Once you've gotten several new rooted trees you can try your hand at grafting, to clone the trees you currently have, or swap with friends to bring unique varieties home.

Have a great week, and happy growing!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Saving Seeds and the Fall Garden

This week I've been saving some seeds from our older sugar snap peas, calendula, borage and wildflowers; including blue flax, black eyed susan and bee balm.  I've still got a week or so for my two reserved lettuce plants are ready.  I trialed a few varieties and found a new one we all seemed to like.

I probably should get some tomato seeds sometime, but there is plenty of time for that yet.


Are you saving seeds? The plants in the video below are perfect ones to begin your seed saving adventure.  Look for our Seed Exchange event in late winter too!
 
Some of the peas we replanted for our Fall Garden, with just enough time to get some pods by the end of September or early October.  Now is also a good time to plant another round of cool season crops, like spinach, lettuce, broccoli and radishes.  You might be able to sneak in another batch of sweet tasting carrots too.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Shady Pollinator Garden

A couple project pictures from the last week or so include a shady pollinator garden to screen a septic system access as well as a few extra plantings.  Besides heavy shade, deer pressure was also a factor in plant selection.  Hellbore, Pulmonaria, Lobelia, Columbine and more were well represented.
The fence will come down once they are a little more established.
Pollinator planting for shade

Other plantings included replacements of dead or struggling plants, rethinking plant selection and splitting some others.

Before: Grasses struggling with waste heat from the AC unit


After: Lavender will be a better choice with a relaxing fragrance


 
Red twig dogwoods will fill the gap in the privacy hedge and the red stems will glow in contrast against the white snow in winter.
On the opposite side of the driveway, replacing the dead euonymus, these winterberry will compliment the dogwoods with their red berries.
 
On the homefront, our second peach tree is ripening nicely and the Japanese Beetle traps have done well protecting them.  Had my first Macoun apple today as well, the Aronia are ripe, and the Seaberries are leafing back out.


 

Another new kid in town!

There's another new kid in town!  In my house actually!!!  ...which might explain my delayed blog update :)

And if you happen to be born during Breastfeeding Week, you get a free t-shirt.


Short and late post this (?) week, but these times are always an adjustment :)


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Say "Hello!" to our Summer Intern

I'd like to take this week to introduce Michael who has been helping out and learning with Abundant Design this summer.  I should have written earlier this summer, but there's still some time yet before he has to get back to school.
After plantings the day before in Adel,
Michael digs a trench in Johnston


Could you share a little about your background?

I grew up on my family's corn and soybean farm in central Iowa.  After completing my Bachelors in Sociology and Communications, I spent several years in the mortgage industry.  Currently a student in Ag Business Management (At Hawkeye Community College), I was looking for an opportunity that fit my interests better than say, following a seed rep around for the summer, and that's what lead me to Abundant Design.


What interests do you have that make you a good fit at Abundant Design?

Well, I'm really interested in growing fruits and vegetables, agroforestry, permaculture and vermiculture.


What is vermiculture?

Worms... worms for speeding up compost and you can do it year round.  They are really interesting.


What are you most looking forward to this summer, and what has been your favorite project so far?

Observing the machine saving our backs

I really enjoyed learning about rain gardens, and then taking some of what I had learned for the rain garden I had been planning for my own home.
 
Almost done, ready for rain
 
 
I'm looking forward to helping with some edible landscaping designs using permaculture principles. 

'I hope I can move a bunch of rock in really hot weather...'

Privacy screen incorporating natives, pollinator plants and edibles

I've really enjoyed getting to know Michael this summer, and appreciate his passion for the environment and good food.  He will be an asset to an evolving agriculture, whether that's urban or rural.  Michael is a hard worker and an eager learner.  He's even taken a week off to complete his own Permaculture Design Certificate course this summer.


Thanks for all your help so far Michael!



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chop & Drop - pruning, mulching and so much more

Chopping and dropping plants, is a great way to maintain your plantings.

The resulting layer of organic material acts as mulch; retaining moisture, shading the soil and hindering weed seedlings.  Over time it is broken down by bacteria and fungi, or gobbled up by earthworms.  These processes change it into nutrient rich organic soil.

Check it out in the video below-

Whether your overgrown favorites, unwelcome weeds or specially designated mulch plants, these all can add to your soil.
  • The Echinacea in the video is pretty close to the blueberry plant. I might relocate it if it were farther away, but I don't want to damage the blueberry roots.  A few of these will eventually fade out of the blueberry patch, but no worries I have plenty for pollinators and goldfinches.
  • Most weeds aren't spread by runners, but if they do I'll leave them on a stone or board for a couple of days to dry out, or you can skip dropping these.  If any have gone to seed, skip these too.  Spurge is one I really take precautions with.  All the others can just be pulled and dropped into the garden bed.  Invading lawn grass can be tossed back into the lawn, if it roots great, if it dies I just added organic matter back into the lawn. 
  • Comfrey is one of my designated mulch plants since its such a great mineral cycler.  It is very popular in permaculture circles and has many uses for the herbalist.  Other designated mulch plants could include horseradish and sorrel.
Timing is another factor with Chop & Drop.  Done when it is cool and rainy, your mulch plants recover well.  Done after flowering before seed set and you can end annual weeds life cycle, preventing weeds the next season. If its hot and dry, and done multiple times you can really hinder regrowth from tough perennial weeds.

Chop & Drop is a basic, yet core skill when establishing permaculture landscapes.

Stay cool and hydrated this week!

Pesticide Free Japanese Beetle Control - Update

Last week we talked about Japanese Beetles, and pesticide free solutions.  I must say the bait traps have worked amazingly well.  The first two days after placing the traps, I only found two beetles on my cherry tree.  So happy for that!  I have dumped gallons of the dead ones into the compost bins, and they stink.  I posted a video of me dumping the trap into a bucket of soapy water to dispatch them. 
video

Too many bugs for the included bag so I ended up opening the bottom and placed a 5 gallon bucket filled with soapy water under it to collect them.  That seemed to work a lot better and stress the ties and the bag attachment less.

I think the worst has past, but will still apply the milky spore and "attack nematodes" around our yard and maybe a couple neighbors' if they let me.

Good luck with yours!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Japanese Beetle Menace

This year has been the worst year ever for us in our yard as the Japanese Beetles have attacked with numbers I have not seen before. 

Japanese Beetles are an iridescent copper and green colored beetle, about 1/2" long.  They probably came to the US in the early 1900s and were first discovered at a New Jersey nursery in 1915.  By 2006 the pest had not spread much past the Mississippi River, but the next few years saw infestations across the country.

They eat the leaves of your plants, leaving the skeletonized veins behind.  This kills the leaf and hinders its ability to perform photosynthesis (using the sun's energy to make sugar, energy for the plant).  They can also carry diseases from tree to tree.  I'm guessing that's how one of our peach trees was infected with peach leaf curl.


Our seaberries were almost completely stripped, cherry leaves were skeletonized and they even ate the developing seeds on our garden sorrel.  Most heartbreaking is the loss of our peaches.  We got most of the fruit last year before they discovered how tasty they were, but this year they went after them early.

The stories I have heard from nearby friends, or people that just ask me about them around town confirm we are not the only ones affected.  It has been a rough year.

Japanese Beetles feeding and breeding on some friends' apple tree

Significant Japanese Beetle feeding damage on this flowering crabapple tree
 
In years past, the soapy water in a bucket trick worked quite well.  This year however, there have been too many, too fast and many of our trees have matured with branches out of my reach.  I used a soap solution in a backpack sprayer with limited success.  Quite a few were killed but many were also not affected and remained.

I have been hesitant to use the traps as they have been known to attract more than you would have otherwise.  I have ordered a few for our backyard now.

            

Even better is biological prevention.  Both Milky Spore and certain nematodes are effective at controlling Japanese Beetle larvae and other grubs in the landscape.  These will only control the grubs in your yard, so wandering beetles can still come from other areas.  Again I have put off buying any of these since we haven't had any turf damage, thought we'll just get them from neighboring yards anyway and just out of negligence.  They will be applied this weekend!  You can get a smaller sized bag, but I ordered the larger bag below so that I can apply a couple times, as well as the Heterorhabditis bacteriophora nematodes.

          

With any luck, and neighborhood cooperation, we'll do much better next year!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Happy Birthday America

Come to Waukee for its annual all-American celebration in honor of Independence Day!  Activities start at 3:00 p.m. with the parade beginning in our Historic Downtown and ending at Centennial Park.
 
Following the parade, Centennial Park will have inflatables, music, food vendors and more. The band Abby Normal will take the stage at 5 p.m. performing acoustics, timeless rock songs and current hits. Stay all evening then enjoy the fireworks after dusk.

video

Enjoy the day, stay safe and say hello if you see us in the parade or at the park!

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!