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, 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. 

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.


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!

Monday, June 12, 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?

Monday, June 5, 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!

Monday, May 22, 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!