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, December 14, 2023

Abundant Design Holiday Gifts

This year you might considering an alternative gift.  We'd like to offer some ideas and options that are earth-friendly and fun!

These gifts will be available for pickup mid to late spring, but you can get a printable certificate for gifting. 

Pollinator Plug 6-Pack   $30

6 pack of native plugs, wildflowers only  Order a 6-Pack

- 6 larger potted plants for $60


Pocket Prairie Starter   $45

15 Native prairie plugs, include wildflowers and grasses for diversity.  These plants are suitable for a 4' x 8' or similar sized planting area and include shorter species for the front and taller growers for the back.

  Order a Pocket Prairie  

- 15 larger potted plants $150

Tree Guild To-Go   $50

perennial & productive 

Newly grafted fruit tree along with companion plants; 2 chive plugs, 2 white clover plugs/seed packet, comfrey root cutting

  Order a Tree Guild To-Go

- Upgrade to 4-6' potted tree +$50

- Add strawberries, 5 large crowns +$5


-Newly grafted fruit tree only for $25

These Holiday Deals will go through the end of the year.  Installation is also available for next season.

Sometimes the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds can hardly wait for our plants to get in the ground!

🦋 Butterflies showing some love 💕

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Rain Garden Design & Installation Video

Learn how a Des Moines couple took advantage of one of Central Iowa's stormwater rebate programs to install a rain garden on their property!

Here is a new video collaboration we did with The Rain Campaign this summer-

This rain garden was part of the Easter Lake Watershed cost share program.  Runoff from the driveway and part of the roof, as well as from part of the neighbor's driveway is collected in these basins.  These basins filter and sink the rain into the ground instead of contributing to the storm surge and pollution.

Patchy lawn #Before
Reworked sizing for split basins

Laying out plants

Fresh Rain Garden Install   #After

Soil Quality Restoration (SQR) was done on the remaining turfgrass later, and additional native plantings are planned for next season.

Abundant Design can help with all your stormwater needs, link for more info-

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Invasive Species

The words "Invasive Species" can bring up a lot of feelings and even arguments... 
"My yard, my choice!"   to  "Kill 'em all! ...with RoundUp!"

Different people may even have different meanings when they say it.  For example, some people consider aggressive native plants to be invasive.  They can spread readily by rhizomes and self seeding.  Most Goldenrod species definitely need to be managed in manicured landscapes, removing flower heads before they go to seed, and dividing clumps that are encroaching into areas they aren't wanted.  However Goldenrod is also an important Fall food source for pollinators.

When I use the term Invasive Species it is meant for aggressive, non-natives that disrupt natural ecosystems by out competing native species.  Invasives can reproduce rapidly or sometimes have life cycle differences that give them an advantage over native species.

Most people are familiar with Bush Honeysuckle (Amur & Tartarian), one of the worst offenders across the Midwest.  Its lifecycle helps it outcompete native shrubs because it keeps it leaves longer in the fall getting just a little more energy and time to grow.  It forms dense, shrubby, understory colonies that eliminate native woody and herbaceous plants.  The berries are not edible for people, but birds readily eat them distributing seed everywhere.  Look for seedlings under trees and overhead utility wires and by fences.  Initially introduced as an ornamental, its planting was even formerly encouraged along fence rows to prevent erosion and for wildlife habitat.  

Trevor displays his honeysuckle trophy
love using the stump bucket to remove invasive honeysuckle!

Another plant widely used for erosion control along highways and in agricultural grassed waterways was Reed Canary Grass.  It lays flat and conveys water quickly, however it is hard to manage and no longer recommended by conservation agencies.  Lying flat under the snow it provides little winter wildlife cover and forms dense stands that reduce biodiversity.

Japanese Barberry is another invasive species widely used as an ornamental.  Tough as nails, but even sharper, these "bullet-proof plants" are often seen in new construction with Spirea and Boxwoods.  Like the Honeysuckle, Barberry lifecycle allows it to leaf out in the Spring earlier than native plants shading them out.  The small berries can be eaten by birds which spreads their seed.  They can also spread by rhizomes and their roots can interfere with the growth of other plants.

Barberry is a nasty one, with painful and irritating thorns

Barberry at Browns Woods in West Des Moines

One of the most beautiful, and highly invasive, ornamental shrubs is Burning Bush or Winged Euonymus.  I love the color, and we had a nice row along our home when we moved in.

Brilliant, but Invasive, Burning Bush

Easily propagated, hardy and beautiful, it is a staple of the landscaping industry.  I eventually removed ours with machinery, but seedlings and remaining roots continued to resprout for some time.  This makes established colonies of exotic burning bush very hard to eradicate. The photos below were also taken in the Fall at Browns Woods. You can notice many of the surrounding plants are dormant, while the burning bush is just starting to change color and drop its leaves (giving it a life cycle advantage).

A US Native Burning Bush, the Eastern Wahoo, is unfortunately lesser known so most nurseries and greenhouses only carry the exotic variety.

Here's a recent episode of the Small Farm Sustainability Podcast from Iowa State University

Here is even more information on Invasive Species from ISU Extension and Outreach

We also found some bittersweet on our walk in the woods...

Use of invasive species in landscaping contributes to their spread into natural areas. Avoiding these species is the first step to help control their invasion.  When it comes to invasive species, the old adage is right...

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

That's a pile! Invasive Honeysuckle

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Keeping Rootstocks in Check

Suckers growing from the rootstock

Grafted fruit trees are wonderful additions to the landscape.

Grafting lets us know which variety of fruit we are growing, assuring we get our favorite flavors and other qualities.  This top part is known as the Scion wood and is grafted onto a known rootstock.

The Rootstock is the part of the tree that will grow in the ground, and also chosen for its characteristics.  Rootstocks can be seedling grown for economics but are typically cloned with reproducibly known qualities.  These may be chosen for size, disease resistance or performance in a specific soil type.

While trees are young, "root suckers" and other branches on aggressive rootstocks have an easier time growing as the graft scar takes some time to heal completely.  This reduces nutrient and water transfer, hindering the scion's ability to grow until it heals completely.  These branches and suckers can sometimes grow rapidly and overtake the slower grafted portion.  If left unchecked this can eventually cause the grafted part to atrophy and die, losing your chosen variety.

In the video we'll visit the Food Forest at Drake University to demonstrate sucker pruning on a young grafted American Persimmon tree.

Branching and suckering of the rootstock is one way to lose your grafted variety from trees and you will be left with lesser quality fruit, if any fruit at all.  Removing these vigorous suckers is necessary for the long-term health and productivity of the tree.

Friday, May 19, 2023

New Planting Care Guide

Our customers want to take the best care of their projects once we finish an installation.  We often share care and watering tips with them on site, but sometimes they are at work, on vacation or away for any number of reasons.  Also, many prefer to have the directions written out for them as it can be easy to forget, or stressful wondering if you forgot something important.  

Here are our suggestions for taking the best care of your new plantings.



Over the next few weeks and months water and observe as necessary until the tree is fully established.  

  • Water daily for 1-2 weeks; then 2-3 days for 3-12 weeks; then weekly until established
  • Apply 1-1.5 gallons per inch of trunk caliper* at each watering
    • For fruit trees, stay closer to 1gal/inch especially if in heavier or clay soils unless you see signs of drying

*Caliper refers to the diameter of the trunk 6" above the ground (or 12" high if larger than 4" caliper)

A smaller tree will take nearly a full growing season to become fully established.  A 2" tree may require two years to become fully established on its own while a 3" tree may need three years. The larger the tree, the bigger the shock so continue to be diligent in keeping an eye on things even long after the initial planting.

Although not always accurate, you can guess the reason for stress by where you see wilting leaves - Wilting higher in the tree can indicate not enough water and if wilting or browning occurs lower in the tree it may signal too much water.  Adjust your watering plan accordingly.


Over the next few weeks and months water and observe as necessary until the plant is fully established.  

  • Water daily for 1-2 weeks; then 2-3 days for 3-12 weeks; then weekly until established
  • Apply 1/4 to 1+ gallon at each watering depending on container size (#1-5)

Typically a smaller plant will take nearly a full growing season to become fully established.  The larger the shrub, the bigger the shock so continue to be diligent in keeping an eye on things even long after the initial planting.


Over the next few weeks and months they will need watered as necessary until the plant is fully established. 

  • Water daily for 1-2 weeks; then 2-3 days for 3-12 weeks; then weekly until established
  • Apply 1/4 to 1/2 gallon at each watering depending on plant/container size

Typically perennials will take a growing season to become fully established. 

Sprinklers can help cover large areas

These Tripod Sprinklers are great!

Along with these instructions, watch for indicators that help determine if you need to adjust watering.  Especially hot or windy conditions will require more watering.  Rainy weather will allow you to reduce the amount of watering, or even skip a day.


Mulch, including rock, helps keep the soil cool and retain moisture.  Organic mulches, such as wood chips, will break down overtime building the organic matter and quality of your soil.  Our projects are usually mulched during installation.  However you may wish to refresh the mulch after a couple years.

Too much mulch or piling mulch against a trunk can be a problem.  Leave a few inches between your mulch and the trunk to prevent fungal infection.  Mulch deeper than 4" can also keep water from reaching the soil and roots during lighter rains, as well as other problems.

Avoid the "Mulch Volcano" and think of using more of a flattened mulch donut.


Pests like rabbits and deer can really do a number on young plantings.  Even if a plant is described as resistant, rabbits and deer don't read books!  A wire cage or tree guard may be warranted.  During the winter, protection can be even more important as many typical foods are dormant or under snow, causing deer and rabbits to eat things they wouldn't normally eat.  Male deer will also rub their antlers on younger trees during the fall rut.  This can damage the bark on unprotected trees allowing pests or disease in, or even break off a young tree entirely.

With the right care your new plants will be off to a great start providing years of enjoyment.  Whether it's a new shade tree for the patio, new berry bushes by the garden or a whole food forest, you can give your project the best chance of success with these simple tips!  

Best wishes on your new project!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

New Video! Wheelbarrow?

Yes, there is a new YouTube video we just posted!

Well, it isn't that exciting, but it will help if you have to haul your wheelbarrow over to a friend or family member's house.  Or maybe you are the new kid on a landscaping crew and want to show the guys you know a couple tricks.

I hope to be putting more content out as we document more of what we are doing.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Creeping Charlie - Killer Recipes

Creeping Charlie, or ground ivy, is one of those weeds that just won't quit.  It was brought over from Europe by settlers that thought it would make a nice ground cover for shaded areas.  And that it does well, thriving in moist and shady locations!  

However, Creeping Charlie also grows well in sunny locations and can be an unwelcome invader to grass lawns.  It spreads by both seed and vining stems which root about anywhere it comes in contact with the ground. These vining stems can even hitch a ride under lawn mower decks that move from yard to yard.

Creeping Charlie running stem with roots

The leaves are rounded with scalloped edges and have a somewhat strong smell when cut or crushed.  Many people think it smells minty and pleasant.  It can be used to make teas, added to salads or cooked in soups.  Although I will likely pass, I don't like it much.  I do sort of wish I had saved and potted a little bit when I removed it from our yard.

Unlike a lot of my posts about plants, this recipe is for controlling them in your lawn, specifically Creeping Charlie!

     More foraging info for those interested can be found here- 

Creeping Charlie blooming with its small, bluish funnel-shaped blossoms

Enter Boron

Boron is a necessary micronutrient for plant growth, helping with sugar transport, cell division and seed development. Without enough boron in the soil, plants may appear healthy but will not flower or fruit.  The balance of too little or too much between plants and boron is a delicate one, and heavy boron soil concentration can be toxic to plants.  Luckily for those who have a this weed problem in their lawn

Creeping Charlie is very susceptible to too much Boron.

This recipe for controlling it originally came from Iowa State university.  They removed the article initially, as many people were killing their lawns permanently.  It has been republished here, with plenty of warnings.

Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

I've added some steps to help increase effectiveness, and reduce the risk of killing your grass with Boron toxicity. First you'll need to rake out as much creeping charlie as you can. Aggressively go after the running stems as they will try to regrow.  A stiff tined garden rake works very well for this part.

Next, I recommend starting with just half strength (5oz Borax) of ISU's recipe below

Recipe for Borax control of ground ivy on bluegrass
     (Caution: apply over recommended area to avoid toxicity symptoms)
Treats 1,000 sq. feet:
Dissolve in 4 oz. warm water to help dissolve the borax
Dilute this premix in 2.5 gal. water


If the Creeping Charlie returns to your lawn, you'll need to rake the rhizomes out again.  It should definitely be less this time, and then use a 2nd half strength application.

If it happens to come back again, it should at least be in sporadic patches and way more manageable with patience and a bit of maintenance raking.

Recent articles claim long term control with Borax is limited, but my anecdotal experience says it really helps get ahead of it and you can keep it under control with a little diligence.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Backyard Retreat & Woodland Adventures

Dry play yard, decorative and functional stream
with a woodland adventure area behind

Wet + Shade + High Traffic

These things never lend themselves to a healthy lawn...  A lawn is definitely something the homeowners wanted out of this project for their kids' soccer and football games.  But in addition to the lawn, they wanted a space for creative play, keeping or expanding the existing vegetable gardens, increasing the numbers of edible berries and plants, all while doing it in a natural and earth-friendly sort of way.

Before pics-

Heavy shade, traffic and excessive moisture
make turf grass struggle to thrive

Deeper shade and low growing branches
Garden space, with bland spirea along the house

These bushes on the back window were lanky and just not very interesting, they were hoping for something better, maybe even edible.  The blueberries they already had were doing great!  We decided on a trio of 'Regent' Serviceberry for variety, a hardy native that also produces delicious berries.

This area was also in heavy shade from a maple tree with an expansive canopy.  Grass had always struggled along this access area in and out of the backyard, too.  Maybe we could use the 'problem as the solution' and just take the turf grass out of the equation for this part of the yard?


The shade was hindering the lawn from drying out, but the cause of the initial wetness was downspouts pouring into the yard, shallow slope preventing proper drainage and a large amount of runoff from a neighboring hillside.

We could reroute the runoff from both uphill and the downspouts, utilize the city rebate program and create multiple spaces for adventurous play, pollinator habitat and a natural feeling space that felt more like a nature park than the suburbs. 

Many shrubs had volunteered along the back property line, including dogwood, mulberry and highly invasive honeysuckle.  We removed most of these, except a few pagoda dogwood that happened fit where they were.
I love using the stump bucket to remove honeysuckle!

We raised the canopy on the evergreens to open up the feel, leaving some climbing rungs for tree borne adventures.  You can also see the grading for the swale that will push water to the rain garden and away from the lawn.

A designated walkway - the "jungle path" as the kids called it - was made using a darker shade of mulch, which will allow traffic in the area but keep the new plantings from being trampled.
Tripod sprinklers kept the newly installed plants and sod
hydrated during the long, hot and dry peak of summer.

Stream installed, fescue sod going in for the final touch

A rain garden captures the runoff and sinks it into the ground
instead of flooding the neighbors and storm sewer system

Remember the shady access way where grass struggled?  We created a woodland garden with a limestone path for access.  We were lucky and could use mostly reclaimed limestone steppers found under the volunteer shrubs.  The nearby downspouts were routed to this space where native shade loving plants won't mind the extra moisture - including ferns, sedges and wild geranium.  A couple gooseberry shrubs won't mind the shade either and provide a seasonal snack for adventurous young explorers.
Shade tolerant access path planting

In addition, the front planting island around the flagpole was overgrown with a massive burning bush (also invasive), volunteer mulberries and plastic edging that had seen better days (no before picture).  Tumbled granite added an updated and durable edge to this bed.  All of the existing vegetation was removed and replaced with Midwest native plants, like an Aronia bush and New Jersey Tea tree.  Butterfly milkweed, rudbeckia and echinacea were among the flowering forbs, with switchgrass for height and textural contrast in the center and fronted by lower growing clumps of prairie dropseed.

The shade on this project was very welcome during this summer's heat!

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Best of Houzz 2023

Thrilled to share that Abundant Design is a Best of Houzz 2023 winner!

We’re so proud of all the team has accomplished and honored to be recognized for the hard work we put in on behalf of our clients.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Epic Permaculture Backyard Retreat p2

Not many projects bring in so many elements onto one property.  This was an ambitious project and one that checks a lot of boxes by integrating stormwater management and permaculture guilds with traditional landscaping elements!

Permaculture design provides a wonderful toolbox to integrate all of these elements into one cohesive design.

Part 2 of this project summary will focus on the productive parts of the backyard.

From the deck you can see many of the elements in the backyard-

    • Fruit guilds 
      • trees and berry bushes with productive and/or beneficial perennial plants
    • Annual garden, compost bin & herb spiral
      • rain barrel (for the best water) right by the garden
    • Patio & firepit
    • Waterfall
Overlooking this new productive and relaxing backyard space

The site had a very challenging slope that was difficult and dangerous to mow, with poor soil quality, erosion and soggy areas.  We finished this amazing residential project last season.

If you missed Part 1, read that here

Enhanced rain garden and dry stream bed.

This water feature is a feast for all the senses and could provide a drink for pollinators and beneficial insects like dragonflies.  The surrounding prairie planting provides habitat and attracts pollinating insects necessary for fruit and vegetable production.

Pondless waterfall with prairie planting behind

Moving down the slope, the stream separates the lawn from the peach and bramble guild.  Bee balm and thyme are companion planting powerhouses; they attract pollinators, are a beneficial part of foraging bees' diet and have antimicrobial properties that may help prevent diseases in vulnerable fruit trees.  The yarrow in the understory also attracts predatory insects, like lacewings and syrphid flies, that keep pest species in check.

Peach trees with black berries, raspberries and other
companion plantings.

Constructing the herb spiral-
 also high on the customer wish list

Herb spiral with historical salvaged bricks, rain garden
overflow stream in the background.

Herb spirals are often found in permaculture gardens and something the customer really wanted to include.  A spiral pattern is one that repeats in nature and depending on the herb spiral's size can induce microclimates that can be targeted with herbs that appreciate them.  Herbs are generally quite resilient and do well in these raised systems which can be too dry for typical vegetables.  We positioned this one near the edge of the lawn for easy access and near the annual vegetable garden.

Looking across the raised keyhole garden beds
as the sod was being finished.  With the amount of
earth sculpting, sod was needed for the small lawn.

Before - Garden space
The vegetable garden was originally located where the new patio is.  It was moved to open up the center of the yard while still keep it accessible.  It also allowed us to move all of the gardening space together.  The "keyhole garden bed" was rebuilt trying to salvage as many plants as possible.

Keyhole garden beds with composter behind.
A rain barrel is on a stand behind the stairs.

The composters were moved from the shed/rain garden area here where garden and kitchen waste are easily added; and finished compost will be handy to amend the soil in the garden.  

We also moved a rain barrel from the other side so that rainwater from the downspout is captured under the deck right near the garden for use.

Native pollinator beds were already established, we just added the 
planting space on the hardest to mow areas - between the tree guilds.

Apple guild view from below

The apple guild includes rhubarb, gooseberries and currants.  Strawberries were used as a productive ground cover, along with pockets of clover for nitrogen fixation.  The tree spacing allows a good deal of sun through for fruit production but does provide shade in the afternoons which strawberries appreciate.  The swale on contour captures runoff from above hydrating the plants below.  The access paths (dark mulch) also follow the contour to prevent erosion and make them easier to navigate.

Apple guild, view from the deck -
you can just see the compost bins and garden at the bottom

Now for the understory plants to fill in!  I'm really looking forward to revisiting this yard as it develops.

#fruitguilds #raingarden #prairie #pollinator #herbspiral #keyholebed #compost