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.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Latest Johnston Rain Garden

Our latest rain garden in Johnston took advantage of the city's cost share program (link).  
(Our first Johnston rain garden was featured heavily in their promotional video!)

We were able to capture nearly all of the roof area in this project.
Over 1300sf of rooftop runoff captured

We also removed most of the existing foundation planting, with assorted bushes and edging, and minor rebuilds of the existing retaining walls.  

The dry stream bed also helped address some developing erosion issues.

Lots of abandoned and active cable made the upper stream challenging.  It was also some of the hottest days we've had this summer.

In process..

Butterflies often stop by to say hello during planting!

A whole new look after completion!

New native foundation planting to go with the rest

Limestone bridge keeps the natural look 

Larger rocks disrupt flow at the inlet

This stream and rain garden basin are ready to work!

If you live in Johnston, or other areas in and around Des Moines, and want to help reduce stormwater runoff, clean water and provide habitat for pollinators contact us today.  You can even learn more about possible cost share opportunities at RainCampaign.org

Saturday, July 3, 2021


Happy Independence Day weekend!

The evening fireworks will be colorful and exciting, but if you look around, you'll catch some other colorful (but quieter) displays outside.

Our peonies are one of my favorites, often blooming around Memorial Day.  It has about the largest flower in our home garden.  The sweet nectar supports pollinators, including Typhia and Scolia wasps and can be one part of your overall plan to control Japanese beetles.

A redbud tree in bloom is spectacular!

I'm so thankful for the Redbud tree in our backyard.  It shades the deck for cooler seating in summer.  They are arguably nitrogen producing trees, although missing the tell-tale root nodules typical of nitrogen fixing plants. The spring blooms feed and draw pollinators to orchard areas, and are an edible treat that taste similar to snap peas.  

Young apple tree in bloom at the
Sprout Learning Garden (Drake University)

We had a very warm early spring, then a cold snap unfortunately with several late frosts.  This had me worried about our peach and cherries.  Freezing weather damages flower buds severely impacting fruit production. I've considered redesigning some soil shading shrubs to help delay flowering, but have yet to make any changes at our house.

I'm thankful for our late blooming peach seedling!  Patient peaches are productive peaches!

Native Columbines are an
early woodland favorite

More flower pics to enjoy!

Butterfly Milkweed, looks nice, is well behaved
in pollinator gardens. Aphids can be a problem,
so yarrow nearby encourages predatory insects

An adult monarch feeding on common milkweed nectar.
Common milkweed flowers smell wonderful, and
the leaves are perfect food for monarch caterpillars.

Bumblebee also foraging on common milkweed

Echinacea is a great native flower!

Penstemon or Smooth Beardtongue

I love the crown-like flowers on our native
Cranberry Viburnum

The dry stretch finally seems to be giving way to a little spotty rain.  More please!

We have been getting lots of projects done, but the plants we've put in will appreciate the rain instead of life support from irrigation!

A butterfly stopped by to say he appreciates what we do
during a recent rain garden install!   Ha!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Now Hiring!

It's almost Spring and project installations are soon to begin ! ! !

Are you highly motivated, hard-working, and seeking to join an award winning landscaping company?

Abundant Design LLC is a small, but growing, permaculture based landscaping design & install business located in central Iowa.  At Abundant Design, we help people build resiliency through edible landscapes and gardens, establish wildlife habitat and conservation practices.  We help provide experiences with nature and enjoyment of Creation in customers' backyards, properties and communities. 

Abundant Design is looking for motivated individuals to help bring these projects to life.

Positions involve lots of digging, planting of native and edible plants, shrubs and trees; moving compost, rock and mulch; some hardscapes, walls and other builds.

Mulching a new multi-species orchard on a southern Iowa homestead

Seasonal Full & Part Time Laborers

Perform landscaping and light construction for properties as directed.  Tasks may include, but not limited to - shoveling rock, sand, mulch and other materials on the job site; moving boulders; trenching by hand or with a machine; operating a laser level for grading; plantings ranging in size from large balled and burlapped (B&B) trees to delicate transplants

  • Must be physically able to work hard outside in various conditions
  • Must be able to communicate clearly and follow instructions
  • Must be respectful of customers and their property 
  • Must be able to get to and from job sites
  • Must be at least 16 years of age
  • Knowledge of, or experience in gardening, landscaping, horticulture, a plus
  • Experience operating power tools, equipment and small machinery, a plus

Great summer experience for students in conservation, natural resources, regenerative agriculture, and sustainability fields, or anyone interested in the same.  

Pay ~$12-15/hr, depending on experience.

Fresh rain garden install - Urbandale

Full-Time Assistant & Crew Leader

Perform and lead team members in landscaping and light construction for properties as directed. Tasks may include, but not limited to - shoveling rock, sand, mulch and other materials on the job site; moving boulders; trenching by hand or with a machine; operating a laser level for grading; light grading with mini-skidsteer, hauling materials; plantings ranging in size from large balled and burlapped (B&B) trees to delicate transplants

  • Must be physically able to work hard outside in various conditions
  • Must be able to communicate clearly and follow instructions
  • Must be respectful of customers and their property 
  • Must be able to get to and from job sites around the Des Moines metro 
  • Knowledge of/experience in permaculture, gardening, horticulture, biology/ecology, and regional ecosystems 
  • Experience operating tools, power tools and small machinery safely and efficiently
  • Interest in permaculture, conservation, regenerative agriculture and sustainability
  • Experience in permaculture, conservation, native plants and/or regenerative agriculture, a plus
  • BS/BA in Natural Resources, Permaculture Designer's Certificate, or Stormwater Best Management Practices training, a plus

Primarily working and training side by side with me through the early Spring, then independently or as a crew leader through the busy seasons.  Additional training opportunities possible.

Compensation commensurate with experience. 

Pergola build at the east side Healing Garden

To apply for these positions, email your Resume/CV/Work Experience and references to Abundant Design.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Drainage Easement Makeover, Naturally

As we have said before, drainage easements can cause many problems for the people on the lower ends of the neighborhood. Often times the final grading isn't finished quite as designed, or time causes uneven settling which can hinder drainage.  

These easements are generally planned assuming the best way to deal with stormwater is get rid of it as fast as possible.  This can make flooding worse during wet years, worsen droughts in dry years and is not good for local and regional water quality.  

Dry stream, infiltration pools and native plants

This site near Easter Lake was one of those neighborhoods, with our customers being at the end of a neighborhood drainage easement.  Desirable trees and shrubs struggled in the area, and it stayed wet long after rains.  Mowing the grass, where it wasn't drowned out, was a tough and muddy chore when possible.

After determining the typical high water mark, upstream water catchment and utilities, we discussed using a dry stream to armor the flow and use native plants to filter some of the runoff.  A mid project rain storm showed us we had good soil infiltration rates.  We determined that with some minor yet creative grading, we could even infiltrate a good amount of stormwater as well - even if beyond the scope of a typical rain garden.

Multiple basins infiltrate some runoff, reducing the stormwater surge into Easter Lake

The first step after locating utilities, of which there were many, was to remove the sod, and prune back some of the existing trees and shrubs.

Using care to avoid the utility lines* we sculpted the desired waterway, and constructed the catch basins.  Boulders were used to construct small weirs, dam like structures, and give the streambed a natural look.
*hand digging periodically to locate

Separation fabric only in the channel, not the basins

Finally the predominantly native plants were put in that will help infiltrate more stormwater as their roots punch deep into the soil.  Blazingstar, Little Bluestem, Columbine and sedges were among these.  Also native edible shrubs like Gooseberry, Elderberry and Aronia, plus a blackberry, will provide backyard foraging opportunities. A stump from a very large old tree was inoculated with Oyster Mushroom spawn as well, easily identifiable and a favorite for cooking with its firm texture.

One of the catch basins from upstream

We all really liked the way this project looked when we were finished!  

 . . . and according to the homeowners, functions just how it is supposed to.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Water Water Everywhere #2 - Water Quality & Impact

Iowa’s native prairie and savanna had deep, rich, healthy soil with abundant microbiology and good infiltration rates.  Most rain soaked into the soil, recharging groundwater, that eventually fed our lakes and streams with clean water.  Now many roads, buildings and compacted lawns shed rainfall instead.  In 
Water Water Everywhere #1 (too long ago to be a series...?) we went into changing land use in detail.  For this next part we will talk about how this effects water quality and pollution.
Increased runoff through a suburban development in Ankeny

With this increased runoff and flooding, this water now has the energy to pick up lots of trash and other pollutants.
Trash in Yeader Creek (and yes it looks like this every time it rains)
Photo courtesy of Julie Perreault – Polk Soil & Water Conservation District 

Along with garbage, water coming off parking lots, driveways and roads can be contaminated with gasoline, motor oil and heavy metals.  (Grass clippings and leaves in the street are also easily carried away, more about those later.)  These compounds, and toxic elements, breakdown slowly in the environment and directly threaten the health of people, fish and other aquatic organisms.  
Oil in parking lot at Easter Lake Park
Oil slick in Yeader Creek
Photos: Julie Perreault – Polk Soil & Water Conservation District 

Increasing water speed also creates erosion, damaging property and picking up sediment.  Sedimentation is a major contributor to water pollution by reducing water clarity and smothering habitat in streams and lakes.  Recreational lakes downstream may fill in with sediment and need to be dredged out, at considerable expense.  Sediments also carry with nutrients, especially phosphorus.
Eroded streambank near West Des Moines

Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus can stimulate harmful algae blooms and bacteria growth, reducing water oxygen levels and sometimes toxic on its own.  Grass clippings, leaves, pet waste and lawn fertilizers are other stormwater pollutants that contain high nutrient levels, as well as additional bacteria, that contribute to poor water quality.  All of thes factors can lead to fish kills and beach closures.

Insects also love stagnant backwaters left behind as flood water recedes.  These pools are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes as predatory fish mostly follow the receding water back to safety of the lakes and streams.

These swarms often cause even more contamination, as the cure is worse than the disease...

Watch for the next post in the Water Water Everywhere series (it hopefully won't be as long between) as we look at solutions for homeowners, farmers and anyone concerned about clean water.

Badger Creek at Sunset


Friday, February 12, 2021

Drake University Food Forest and Sprout Garden

New trees in the mixed orchard space at Sprout

Sprout: The Des Moines Urban Youth Learning Garden at Drake University was established in 2012 through the work of environmental science students and a grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board.  It serves as a community hub for environmental education and healthy food access for the neighborhood surrounding Drake University.  Produce from the garden is donated to the community through the Little Free Pantry, the Boys and Girls Club, and to students and volunteers.

Previous location on Forest Avenue

The Sprout Garden was originally located on Forest Avenue, near the Knapp Center and Boys & Girls Club, but due to new development the Sprout Garden had to be relocated.  The new location at 30th & Carpenter is a prime location as the gateway to campus.  The move also offered an opportunity for a redesign and introducing new features.  Through word of mouth and our previous work at DMACC, Abundant Design was selected for the project.

Campus "Gateway" on 30th St off University Ave

Meetings were virtual, budgets and timelines were tight.  Permits & getting approvals pushed back the start date, and approaching winter could put a hard stop on the installation.  Trying to reuse and bring over from the existing location as possible we took inventory of what we could salvage.  Ideas and possibilities were discussed among potential interested parties, with the current open space redesigned through several rough drafts into a food forest park, with permaculture tree guilds, runoff capturing rain gardens and gathering spaces.

Work began with new site prep, grading and rainwater catchment to hydrate the parched lot and manage stormwater.

Site assessment and beginning dirt work

Snow and rain helped confirm soil infiltration rates after construction

Student volunteers helped move native plants over to supplement the rain garden plantings.

Final overflow - three rain gardens double as On Contour Swales 

The garden shed was next, along with the rain barrel, and a new gathering/presentation space. Almost stadium style bench seating was built with the limestone brought over.  The existing gingko trees from the green space were moved into the parkway for street trees requirement.  This conserved budget and gave us lower growing trees as not to shade the garden production areas.

The Drake facilities team members were great to work with, and getting the shed and arbors moved.

That early first snow gave me a scare that the nice weather wouldn't last!

But luckily it did!

Garden beds were modified from the previous rectangular beds (seen above) to keyhole beds using the aged but mostly reclaimed lumber.  These keyholes allow for easier access to the plantings while increasing overall growing area, all with a smaller overall footprint.

Keyhole raised bed construction

Wood cores will give them an almost h├╝gelkultur effect, feeding beneficial fungi and helping to retain/wick moisture.

Aged wood lined beds and fungal activity

At the end of Season one had the garden space moved and a great start on the mainframe of the forest garden park.

Arbor entry into the gardening area

Raised beds, in-ground grow space, fence with orchard behind
Teaching space with limestone benches off shed

You can follow the Sprout Garden on 
Facebook for gardening tips, community resources and volunteer opportunities.