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, August 18, 2018

Caring for Newly Grafted Trees

It has been a busy summer so far.  Lots of great projects going on!

Here is a follow-up video to the Grafting Tool Review and the Grafting Class with Nine Square Feet earlier this year.  It highlights new graft care and what you might have seen with your grafts.

Some of the scion we had was kind of small and maybe dried out a bit, some might have not lined up quite how it needed to be, or maybe yours were physically damaged afterwards like some of mine. 

Hopefully you had a decent success rate, mine was around 50% I'd guess.  Ask any questions in the Comments here or on the Facebook post.

I am really glad some of the rarer varieties I tried have worked out though!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

New Strawberries, a How-To Growing Guide

I'm very happy to say that Abundant Design has put in hundreds of strawberries this year.

To help get everyone of to the best start, here is a quick growing guide for our new growers and for anyone growing strawberries. Enjoy!

June-Bearing Strawberries (like Jewel and Cavendish)

This first year pinch off all the flower buds in the first year so plants can put more energy into growth, and more fruit the following years. It also encourages runner production and helps winter survival. You can let a couple runners root on each side to help fill in the rows. Space the plantlets out evenly and make sure to get good soil contact around their roots. Cut off any extra runners this season to avoid over-crowding, smaller berries and disease.

After the first year June-bearing strawberry beds do best with an annual "renovation" immediately after harvest. It helps keep your plants healthy and productive. 
Do not renovate the first year.
  • As soon as all the berries have been picked, clip off the leaves to about 3” tall.  You can use your lawn mower set at the highest setting and collect the clippings or rake them off to help reduce disease. Take care not to cut or injure the crowns!
  • Narrow the beds by removing plants that have spread beyond the desired width.
  • Reduce crowding within the beds by removing some plants. Try to retain strong runner plants with 3-5" spacing, and remove "mother" plants after 3-4 years.
  • Complete the renovation process with a good watering and a little compost to get new growth off to a good start.

Everbearing/Day-Neutral Strawberries (like San Andreas or Ozark Beauty)

Just like the June-bearing varieties, pinch off all the flowers for 3 or 4 weeks after planting. Also remove all the runners during the first year. This will allow the plants to become healthy and well established. You can let the plants develop fruit midsummer through October.

You do not need to renovate everbearing strawberries.  I use the everbearing kinds throughout many fruit guilds and food forests, letting them run free as a ground cover and foragers treat.  The shade most likely does lower overall fruit production, but can also help promote season long fruiting.  Everbearing varieties will produce less with the hot weather of summer, but produce again once the cooler fall temperatures return.

Weed Control & Mulching
Remove any weeds once a week throughout the growing season. Catch weeds when they are small so they do not have a chance to compete with your strawberries. A scuffle hoe works well for this, but be careful not to damage the shallow roots and crowns. Avoid covering crowns with soil while you work.

Proper mulching is a powerful tool, helping with weed control, keeping fruit clean, conserving moisture, and adding humus to the soil.  Mulch with 4" of a loose, weed and seed free material such as straw.

Pest Control
A net or other covering can keep birds from snatching up your ripe berries. Copper wire or aluminum foil pressed around the top of wooden bed edges and beer traps can foil slugs (see what I did there?)

A resident wren will also eat slugs and many other pests!

I've had whiteflies before but they went away and I don't know what I did that helped.  You can use a mixture of dishsoap and water which smothers many insects.

Maintain good moisture throughout the season, ideally 1”-2” of rain each week, or supplemented with watering.  Try not to water them when the sun is hitting them directly.  I like to water ours in the morning before work, but if needed a late afternoon/early evening is fine if there is enough time to dry a bit before dark. Strawberries do poorly under drought conditions.

Preparing for Winter
Mulching is necessary in Iowa for winter protection of the crowns. Repeated freeze/thaws can kill strawberry plants, but mulch moderates temperature shifts. After plants have started to go dormant apply several inches of mulch cover.  I usually use shredded leaves but straw is a better choice if you can find it. Remove the mulch in early spring before or right when new growth appears. You should recover the plants again if cold temperatures return.

If you bought crowns and haven't planted, or thinking of getting some strawberries
Select a site with good water-holding capacity, but avoid wet soils. I like to plant them on the top of  rain garden or contour swale berms.  Plant as soon as possible in the spring, after the soil has warmed. Planting at the correct depth is very important.
  • Dig a hole deeply enough that you are able to lower the plant into the ground without bending the roots. 
  • Make certain that the plants are set with the middle of the crown level with the top of the soil. Do not to cover the crown. 
  • Press the soil firmly around the roots, but do not pack it hard. 
  • After about a week check the soil level for any settling. 

Enjoy the coming summer!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Public Gardens & Mothers Day Weekend featuring Reiman Gardens

Friday I took the afternoon off to celebrate my birthday with family and visit Reiman Gardens for National Public Gardens Day.  It started in 2009 to raise awareness of public gardens and the role they play in our communities. This annual celebration takes place on the Friday preceding Mother’s Day each year.

Reiman Gardens has over 50,000 tulips, and almost at the end of their season they were still very much in bloom!

The apple trees were also blooming on the apple arbor, similar to an espalier, in their "Home Production Garden" space.

There are many other areas to explore around the grounds, including a Children's Garden, Rose Garden, Conservatory and Butterfly House.

In honor of Mother’s Day, all moms are admitted to

Happy Mother's Day from Abundant Design!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Gardens, gardens, gardens

Well Spring is finally upon us!

After several snows in the last month, the last April 15th, its been a scramble to get gardens finished in time for the growing season.  Now the temperatures have been in the 80s!

Here a Mandala garden we just finished before the rain came.  A Mandala garden incorporates several key hole beds in one growing space. They are also a striking visual!

Mandala Garden

More to come as this backyard oasis project continues to grow!

We also put in several raised beds in both the front and back yards in the last week.

At this house, we had a gentleman driving by, stop, ask a few questions and then say, "What you are doing is great, it's just great!"  Love it!

Also did some garden clean-up...

And built a giant raised bed using wood core, called a hugelkultur.  We have used wood cores before, but this was the real thing!  Read more about them at RichSoil.com

More to come on this project as well!

Browne Atlas worm castings

By the way, if you are needing plants, check out Nine Square Feet's Plant Swap this Saturday

Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Great American Farm Tour

The Great American Farm Tour World Wide Premiere  

WATCH the adventure as the Rhodes Family...

  • Turn an old school bus into a fabulous home on wheels.   
  • Close down their farm (including ALL their animals).   
  • Explore the Greatest Farms in ALL 50 states (Alaska and Hawaii too :)   
  • Meet regular folks who are doing extraordinary things.   
  • Uncovers the unimaginable beauty of farms and natural landscapes  
  • Laugh along with the unique humor from their children and their hosts.   
  • Discover THE Greatest Farm in America (the answer might surprise you ;)  

FREE online viewing (48 Hours Only)   
Saturday, April 14th 7:00pm - Monday, April 16th 9:00pm CST 

 REGISTER NOW for the FREE 48 hour Premiere

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

What's Up?

Things are going well and very busy, aren't we all!

The recent grafting class I taught, hosted by Nine Square Feet, was a huge success! A big THANK YOU to all those who came out and learned this valuable skill.  Great turnouts like this one motivate and encourage us to keep doing them.

Their Plant Exchange is coming up, you won't want to miss it either.  Details CLICK HERE

Projects are underway for the season, here's a few-

New Garden installation, a Christmas present 

After - New Keyhole Raised Garden Bed

Raspberry Trellises as part of a larger edible backyard oasis

The home garden has fresh wood chips in the walkways; plus onions, peas and spinach planted.
Feel free to SHARE your garden pictures in the Facebook comments!

Swales at sunset, after the cover crop seeding was done. Lots of clover in this section to fix nitrogen into the soil to feed the future orchard.  The rabbits like the sheet mulching (just make sure you leave the young trees alone!)

Also been helping with school gardens and more, other updates to come!

I hope your Spring is off to a great start!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Grafting Tool Review

With the upcoming Grafting Class at the West Des Moines library, I thought a review and "unboxing video" of the grafting tool would be right on topic!  I also mentioned the upcoming video last week, so here we go.

The wind, like always here, was crazy and I apologize for the noise when it got really gusty.
Grafting Tool Review - Unboxing video

After the video I noticed paint coming off the blades.  This could be a place where corosion could occur but keeping the blades clean, and stored with a light coating of oil should extend their lifetime if used sparingly.  If it becomes your workhorse you may be dulling and changing blades frequently enough that the paint flecking off won't be an issue.

The polymer frame, although plastic, should be fine over time, especially if you keep it out of the sun.  Although, this tool might not be an heirloom for your grandkids like the grafting knife, with care and a supply of replacement blades it just might be one you can pass down to your kids.  It should also speed up your process in the years to come.

Like in the previous post, I highly recommend you bring your own knife to the grafting workshop, and to have for future use.  These tools are the real deal and should provide many future trees to be done.

Grab your own grafting tool here.  This is the exact product I ordered and reviewed in the video.

Grab some Parafilm like I recommend in the video, and these other tools and supplies to do more grafting after the class.

We'll see you at the grafting class!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tree Grafting Workshop

That treasured tree on Grandma's farm was a favorite to climb and grab a juicy late summer treat, and the pies she made with them were incredible.  But now the tree is in pretty rough shape, and the entire homestead is going to be auctioned off next year.  Maybe the new owners will cut it down, or the whole place plowed for a couple acres of corn and beans.

Wouldn't you like to share some of those apples with your children or even grandchildren?  How can you save a piece of that treasured memory?  You can do it by grafting!

Grafting a healthy piece of that tree onto a new young rootstock will allow you to keep producing those same apples for years to come.  You'll be able to share with your family and friends, not only the memories, but also the flavor of those apples, and maybe even the pies if Grandma shared her secret recipe!  Maybe you'll make several to share as heirloom trees for all the cousins and grandkids.

Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop
presented by Abundant Design & Nine Square Feet
Saturday, April 7th 2018
10:00-11:30 am
West Des Moines Public Library
Millie Knee Classroom
4000 Mills Civic Pkwy
West Des Moines , IA 50265
West Des Moines Library Calendar-
Nine Square Feet is partnering with Abundant Design to bring you this fruit tree grafting class from 10:00am to 11:30am. Jeff Reiland will demonstrate grafting techniques and show you how to care for your grafted trees. Select from popular or historic apple varieties, or bring scion from your favorite apple tree to preserve a variety that has personal significance to you. Each participant will graft 3 apple trees for a materials fee of $30. If rootstock is leftover, you'll have the opportunity to graft additional trees for $10 each. Class size is limited, so reserve your spot by emailing ninesquarefeet@yahoo.com.

If this sounds good, or even if you just want to acquire a new skill, you'll want to make plans to attend this workshop.  During the workshop you will learn how to graft trees and gain valuable hands on experience.

Each attendee will be able to graft three trees to take home.  Materials include three rootstocks, three pieces of scion wood, grafting tape and compound.  Follow the event page for updates, space is limited and there may split it into two sessions.

I highly recommend you bring your own knife to the grafting workshop, and to have for future use.  A utility knife will do in a pinch (even electrical tape and petroleum jelly can substitute for the tape and compound) but these are the real deal and should provide many future trees to be done.

Graft your own later with these tools and supplies
This knife should last you years and years.  This tool probably won't be an heirloom for your grandkids like the knife, but it may speed up your process.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for an upcoming review of the grafting tool!

Maybe you'll eventually try a triple graft for three varieties on one tree!  Maybe even more!

And don't forget our Annual Seed Exchange this Saturday, with returning musical guests Sweet Tater Teronde and Randy Gibson!

See you soon!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Annual Seed Exchange 2018

Can you believe March is only a few days away!?!?
These crocus love the solar trap created by the fence corner and can't wait!

Spring is just around the corner too and that means it's time for...

Abundant Design's Annual Seed Exchange

WHEN:   March 10th, 2018
10:00am - 12:00pm/Noon
WHERE: Cherry Glen Learning Farm
 3989 NW 94th Ave
 Polk City, IA 50226 (map)

What is a Seed Exchange?
Exactly what it sounds like—an event for trading seeds & plants with fellow gardeners and plant enthusiasts.  They allow gardeners to come together and share seeds, cuttings, and transplants from their own gardens to swap with others.  They are a great way to share some of your extra seeds and get something new to grow — all for free!

Click Here  > >  RSVP  < <  Click Here
and then Invite your Friends!

Everyone is welcome
This event is for anyone! If you have seeds or wants seeds.  Expert gardeners.  Beginner gardeners. Aspiring gardeners.  Seed-savers. You. If you don’t have any seeds to swap, still come!  There should be plenty of seed to share with everyone as well as extra seeds available!

There's all sorts of FUN!

  • Chat with other gardeners
  • Share growing tips
  • Great music
  • Build community

How it works
    Share Tables - These tables will be where you can place seeds for others to browse and take as needed, and for you to take items to try. Everyone brings seeds to the swap and puts the seeds out on the large tables. These areas will be free-sharing for all.
    Barter Tables - There might even be some Barter Tables which will be for your rarer items that you would trade if you got another more desired item. If someone has rare or expensive seeds, they may be more specific in what they will accept in trades, and you see if the person who brought them is interested in anything you brought.  
    There could even be extra tools, scion wood for grafting, who knows!
Most likely, people will just want to share their extra seeds, and they’ll let you take some even if they don't happen to need anything you brought.

What to bring
You can bring any kind* of seeds/plants to trade: flowers, vegetables, herbs, annuals, perennials, bulbs — it doesn't matter. You can bring seeds you've collected yourself or leftover seeds from packets you have purchased.
It’s really pretty easy…
  • Bring seeds that are no more than 2-3 years old.
  • Store-bought, mail-ordered or home-saved; all seeds* are welcome.
  • If you are bringing seeds you saved yourself, please be sure they are from non-hybrid or knowledgeably hybridized plants, and were saved properly.
  • You can bring the seeds in whatever packaging is easiest for you. If you can, please make individual seed packets for people to take.  10-30 seeds are plenty. If you just want to bring your opened seed packet with leftover seeds in it, that's fine, too.
  • If you bring seedlings make sure the plants are healthy and well cared for.
  • Please clearly label all seed packets and plants with the variety name, year and source plus any special instructions or notes (for example, "These seeds need to be soaked before planting" or "My great-great-grandmother brought these seeds over on the Mayflower").
  • Little envelopes and a writing utensil so that you can collect and label your “loot”
*please no seed saved or propagated from patented plants 

You do not need to be a seed starting expert — people will gladly share growing tips! 

Here are some I posted a few weeks ago!
Click HERE!