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.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Northside Stream

Dry stream in a difficult to mow spot

This customer on Des Moines North side was one of several referrals from a previous DIY customer.  She didn't exactly know what kind of landscape she wanted, but knew she wanted something lower maintenance with environmentally friendly native plants and to utilize the city's Stormwater Program.  

At the site visit and consultation where we discussed existing landscaping, what was to stay and what was open for redesign, we came up with a few ideas to put to paper and begin planning.  Eventually we ended up with a dry stream to move rain water from the downspout away from the house and into a series of infiltration pools along the way.

We didn't have a lot of space to work with so a full rain garden wasn't going to be possible between the fence and sidewalk.  Between the fence and garage was shady, tough to maintain and not very usable space.  Outside the fence was just a bit of grass that was begging for a makeover.

Before - along the sidewalk and behind the fence

Another challenge was the concrete walkway right where we needed to move the water.  But we've played that game before 💪😀

Trevor and Jimmy got this!

Remove the existing vegetation, form the channel and pools...

The dingo was made for tight places like this

Tweak the grade, armor the channel and drops, backfill with designated soil blend and start planting...

Just have to water everything in and put the fence back together,

almost there
...and we're finished!

Final Rain Garden Basin and Overflow

The flowers, grasses and sedges in the final basin will reduce the maintenance back here, infiltrate runoff and provide a beautiful approach to the garage as well as habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Thanks, Jeff!  Love it! "

I love how it turned out too!

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Beaverdale Rain Garden - Video

Earlier this year the city of Des Moines asked this project's homeowner about taking in process photos and videoing our installation to help promote the city's Stormwater Best Management program.  This was a perfect sized project for that, and allowed us some extra time to meet the staff and "talk shop"  

Enjoy their video-

More info here about Des Moines's program

I thought we would also be training new summer help on this installation, but by the time schedules aligned in June the guys were pretty well good to go!

More installation photos-

Assessing the grade for pipe
and basin depth consideration

Marking layout and removing sod begins

Removing sod at the basin and trenhcing

Hand digging the rain garden basin

Getting the rain garden basin level

Tamping the berm to hold stormwater

Planting included Bee Balm, Prairie Blazingstar, Yarrow, Prairie Dropseed, Black Eyed Susans, Smooth Penstemon, Swamp Milkweed and more.

The video above happens ~here in the photo stream 📺

Final Product
with Trevor, Andrew, Bennett & Jimmy

The city has a great team and it was a pleasure meeting them and working together in person.  

You can watch other stormwater videos from the city here-

Check out Des Moines's cost share program and also look for your central Iowa community programs at - 

Enjoy the changing seasons!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Naturally Better Lawn

Even though Abundant Design takes out way more turfgrass than we put in, a lush piece of lawn is nice for many reasons.  

A lush green yard has some traditional appeal and is a resilient ground cover for sunny play areas.  It can indicate outdoor 'rooms' or transition zones from one area to another.  It can make a traffic resistant path through more open food forests.  Turf roots can hold soil in place on sloped yards if it can get established and water flow is not concentrated.  Lawn and turfgrass is often required for at least a percentage of the front yard in many residential neighborhoods, whether through an HOA or city zoning ordinance. 

So how do we keep lawns healthy, for the grass, but also for our pets, environment and ourselves?

I have the pleasure of knowing Jennifer Miller and Cody Killgore of Clarion Sage Farm in Waukee.  If you have ever been to one of our Seed Exchanges there is a good chance you've met them.  Cody had previously worked in the turf care industry for 13 years and has some suggestions which make up a great portion of this article.
"Here is what I recommend:  If you want what most people call a lawn, or cultured turf, in the midwest, grow one that is primarily turf type tall fescue, not bluegrass. Problem is, almost all homes are started with bluegrass turf, or have been cultured to it by prior owners. To convert it quickly you have to grind it up with a verticutter and reseed it with TTTF. Option two is to aerate the lawn heavily and then overseed it with TTTF, every spring and fall . Over a couple of years it will convert, or at least it will be more TTTF than bluegrass.
TTTF is more drought resistant and will hold it's color better in the summer and with less water. It is also better under foot traffic, aka kids playing on the lawn."

We've seen before how shallow Bluegrass roots are, especially when comparing it to native plants.

Whether or not you do the grass type conversion or not, Kilgore has other suggestions and tips-

1. Never take your mower off the highest setting  Tall turf shades the soil and inhibits weed germination, and preserves soil moisture. Turf that is 3" or taller is better, and a lot of mowers don't even get to that on their highest setting.

 MYTH: "If I mow short, it will be longer until I have to mow again."

2. Fall aeration and overseeding  Take whatever money you are spending on fertilizer and weed control and spend that instead on seeding, overseeding, or aerating every fall, and on watering if you must. The best kept secret to weed control is that weeds don't invade thick turf. Spend any money you were planning to, or have, on keeping the turf thick instead. Annual fall aeration and overseeding is the best.

Learn more about Soil Quality Restoration which adds compost in the mix

3. Cut regularly  Never let your grass grow tall enough that you are cutting more than 1/3 of the height. When that happens it stresses the plant and actually pulls on the root systems of the plant, which is bad.

Maybe now is the time to consider a Robotic Auto Mower?

4. Keep your mower blade sharp  Sharpen it once a year in the spring. A dull blade shreds the top of the leaf blade and that injury is where disease most often enters the plant.


5. Water wisely  If you don't want summer color or the watering expense, let your lawn go dormant in the summer. Watering too little does more harm than good. It will come back with the fall rains and cooler temps. But once you see it start to turn straw colored, just let it be.

If you do choose to water your lawn, water it in the early morning hours, like before 7am. This gives it time to soak into the soil instead of evaporating off the grass. Use a sprinkler that disperses large droplets. Large droplets are more apt to fall into the soil line and will not evaporate as much during delivery. Do not water at night, or right before dark. It's the fastest way to promote disease. Also, water deeply instead of often. When I kept a lawn I would water each area for an hour and a half once a week in the spring, and once every four days in the summer. This will put water deeper in the soil. It will be less apt to evaporate off the soil line, leach deeper into the soil, and that promotes deeper root development, which also helps promote thicker turf.


"Even though I was managing a large lawn care business at the time, I stopped applying herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides on my lawn. I put all my efforts into keeping it thick, and that, along with the practices I offered above kept it in deep color and good health. The neighbors couldn't even come close to competing with me, which meant I was the King of the Typical Suburban Male Neighborhood."  says Cody. 

Using these tips, maybe you can be the "Lawn King of the Neighborhood" and then share your tips and tricks to help grow a greener lawn naturally with your neighbors.

The infographic to the right highlights some of the negative health effects of pesticide use.  You can learn more at midwestgrowsgreen.org

You can also read about a more natural, gentler homebrew weed killer that I use at our house here - 

Have a great Fall!

Soil Quality Restoration

Soil Quality Restorations (SQR) improve your soil for a healthier, greener lawn by incorporating organic matter.  Organic matter improves the tilth of clay soil and water holding capacity of sandier soils.

SQR is also a stormwater management best practice that helps infiltrate stormwater and may qualify for cost share funding.  Although I prefer rain gardens and other practices with more pollinator habitat and visual appeal, the SQR is the best "Bang for the Buck" with regards to pure stormwater infiltration.

SQRs can be performed in both the Spring or Fall, avoiding the summer heat where sunshine can heat up the dark compost cooking any seed and the grass below.

Fall applications can give better grass seed results and if any compost remains, it will be covered by snow and worked into the soil by freeze/thaw action.

SQRs start with a deep tine aeration, 4-6" is best!  This eXmark unit is great for going deep, especially compared to most walk behind rental units that usually go about 2" deep.

Aeration is generally followed by a light overseeding of turf grass seed.  You can also target thin spots in the yard with a little extra seed.  Be aware that some cities won't cover seeding if you are applying for cost share.

After aeration (and seeding) a layer of compost is applied.  Evenly spread compost at a depth of 1/2" to 3/4" is recommended.  You may use a wheel barrow and rake if you want to do it yourself, or bigger contractors may use a blower like in the video further below.
Side by side comparison after compost application
with my Dingo and evening it out with a rake

You can read more about Soil Quality Restorations and see if you qualify for funding at the Rain Campaign.org

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful Fall weather!!!

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!