Gardens to Assist Birds, Bees and Butterflies

The Community Garden articles generally discuss growing vegetables, but did you know that the flower beds surrounding the vegetables contain a very intentional mix of plants? We wanted a nice screen for the vegetable beds, but we also wanted to incorporate fruit trees and native plants into the edges of the garden. We have pomegranate trees, persimmons, kumquats, and figs to name a few of our fruit trees. And we planted food and nectar plants for butterflies and insects. Our milkweed is quite popular with the monarch butterflies!

The Upper Texas Coast has around 340 species of birds that either live in or migrate through the area and more than a dozen species of butterflies. Providing habitat and food for them helps them in their migrations. In addition to birds and butterflies, the native species also attract pollinators and beneficial insects that allow our vegetables to prosper without the need for insecticides or chemical fertilizers.

Attracting birds, bees, and butterflies to your own yards is not complicated. The Katy Prairie Conservancy (katyprairie.org) website has helpful information for getting started and has published a list of nine native species they encourage you to plant in your gardens. Houston Audubon (birdfriendlyhouston.org) has a page with a pre-planned garden for birds, bees, and butterflies that also includes a list of recommended plants. Both organizations have a list of sources for these native plants.

Katy Prairie Conservancy advocates the planting of “pocket prairies” in sunny locations to help ameliorate the loss of our native prairies to development. MD Anderson and Rice University both have pocket prairies as do the University of Houston (Shasta’s Prairie) and University of South Texas (Father Meyer’s Prairie) I would encourage you to walk by the Spears home at 4108 University Blvd. They have made a pocket prairie from the lot adjoining their home. I went by last summer, and a stunning amount of butterflies and dragonflies were enjoying the habitat. These are all large installations, but a pocket prairie can be any size. A small bed in a sunny location will work, too. The Katy Prairie Conservancy site has helpful guidelines for making pocket prairies look like an intentional part of your landscape rather than like a wildscape.

Native plant beds can also foster an interest in science and biology for your children or your own hidden inner scientist. Count and identify the number of insects and butterflies in the area before you plant the natives. Then document how many appear after the plants are established and blooming.  iNaturalist.org will help you log and identify plants, birds, and insects:. If you don’t know the name of what you have seen, submit a photo and users of the site will help you. It also has an interactive map which shows what has been identified around you.

If many people plant small stands of native plants, it will add up to increased beneficial habitat for wildlife and preserve our Texas heritage.  Want to get involved in the Community Garden? Questions? Contact us at sspcgarden@gmail.com

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Urban Harvest & SSP Community Garden present Cultivated Cocktails

 

Urban Harvest and Southside Place Community Garden rang in the Italian tradition to Houston with Cultivated Cocktails, a fundraiser benefitting both non-profits. Aperitivo cocktails, passed and stationed hors d’oeuvres, and Roman street-food-inspired pizzas from Pizza Motus were served. While this was supposed to be an  al fresco event in the garden, the weather did not cooperate. So we partied inside the Southside Place Community Garden Clubhouse on Garnet.

WHERE

Southside Place Clubhouse

WHEN

Friday 10.19.18 | 6:00 pm

 

Southside Place Community Garden Photo courtesy of Urban Harvest

Three of Houston’s top mixologists Christine Nguyen (Nancy’s Hustle), Sara Keck (Coltivare), and Josh Alden (Mongoose Vs Cobra)  created unique cocktails featuring fresh ingredients – each with an Italian twist. Attendees picked their favorite cocktail during the Cocktail Tip-Off.  All tips went to  benefit both Urban Harvest and Southside Place Community Garden. In addition to the cocktails, wine and beer will also be provided.

          

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It’s tomato time!

photo credit: David Elkin

My favorite time of the year in the garden is tomato time. The promise of home grown tomatoes is, in fact, the major reason I became involved in the garden. Yes, I am enough of a kid at heart to experience a thrill every time I harvest carrots and other root vegetables. I like the mystery of wondering how big they are beneath the soil. And despite my husband’s loathing, I love the summer okra, too. But hands down, tomatoes are my favorite!

photo by David Elkin

This year our tomatoes were babied with hand watering every day by Jim Sowers so we have a bumper crop. By the time this goes to print the harvest may be winding down in our garden, but you should still be able to find some home grown tomatoes at the farmers’ markets. Other than sliced and garnished with a drizzle of good Spanish olive oil and a little salt, my favorite way to enjoy my favorite tomatoes is to make gazpacho from them. I’m sharing my family’s favorite gazpacho recipe from the August 2002 issue of Gourmet magazine. Splurge on some good serrano and manchego to accompany the soup for an easy and refreshing meal during the dog days of July.

 

CLASSIC ANDALUSIAN GAZPACHO

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 (2-inch-long) piece baguette, crust disca

      photo by David Elkin

      rded

    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (preferably “reserva”), or to taste
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
    • 2 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
    • 1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Andalusian hojiblanca)
    • Garnish: finely chopped red and green bell peppers

 

PREPARATION

    • Soak bread in 1/2 cup water 1 minute, then squeeze dry, discarding soaking water.
    • Mash garlic to a paste with salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash with a large knife). Blend garlic paste, bread, 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, cumin, and half of tomatoes in a food processor until tomatoes are very finely chopped. Add remaining tomatoes with motor running and, when very finely chopped, gradually add oil in a slow stream, blending until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute.
    • Force so
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Plant-it-Forward, Southside!

Teresa and Pat O’Donnell are new members of the Southside Place Community Garden. And do they know something about gardening! They are the founders of Plant-it-Forward, which teaches new Texans how to become urban farmers.

Last week, we got to sit in on a Plant-it-Forward training session with farmers from the Congo, Cameron, and Darfour and then see Farmer Roy’s garden and farm stand (1318 Sul Ross, 77006).  We highly recommend a trip to the farm stand and garden on  a Saturday morning to buy fresh veggies and help a good cause.

 The story of the founding of Plant-it-forward is inspiring and can be viewed on Tedx  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLTggYKknZw (or just google Teresa O’Donnell/TED talks on YouTube).

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Children in the garden

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Garden Party Sunday April 22, 2018 4:30-7:30

Can you believe this is our 6th big garden bash? Come this year and see the new developments on the second lot. We have a putting green, paths and a curved bench that elevates the vacant lot to a beautiful green space, suitable for picnics and garden parties!Food will be catered by Molina’s with cake from Moeller’s bakery. An ice cream truck will be on hand. The talented John Curry will be singing and playing guitar. Tickets are $20 for adults; kids are free.

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DIY Container Gardening

Article by Patty Tilton appeared in Southside Living Magazine June 2017

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Got Grit? Southside Place Community Garden gets new Board members

There’s a book and TedTalk by Angela Duckworth about “grit” that seems apropos of the Southside Place Community Garden Board. Not grit as in grit and grime, although we do get pretty dirty on Saturday work days. I mean the personality characteristic of grit.

SS Living Magazine Jan 2018

Grit (noun): Perseverance and passion for long-term goals.

It’s been almost five years since we embarked on the Southside Place Community Garden, a project built with sweat equity and grit. One of the original Board members, Bryan Baker, filed our application to become a 501c3 and we threw our first fundraiser in May 2013. A lot has been accomplished since then. We installed eight raised beds, planted a certified butterfly habitat border designed by Amy Bryant, and added an herb garden. The shed and pergola, designed by Joe Przybyl, were built with the help of corporate donations solicited by Lisa Roy, Kay Browning, and Linda Burdine. Linda Elkin took over Operations, making the master plan of each season’s planting. Our Treasurer, Patty Tilton kept the balance sheets and kept us all accountable. Linda Burdine kept Board meeting minutes, serving in the role of Secretary. We, as a team, purchased the furniture for the pergola, Kay Browning, being a former child care center director, took charge of Educational Outreach, bringing teachers and kids into the garden for lessons in biology and volunteerism. As a gritty team–and with the help of a growing army of garden members–we got things done.

photo credit: Ben Ballanfant

Soon we’ll be releasing the Southside Place Community Garden Board version 2.0. While it will be sad to see us founding Board members go, an infusion of new grit will revive the garden as we embark on developing the second lot. Claire Baker will take over as President, leading Board meetings and work with the Board, city and community to further the garden’s mission.  U.J. Bhandari will be the new Treasurer, keeping track of our donations and expenditures and filing our taxes. Pat Mullen will be serving as the head of Operations, deciding what to plant, where and when. Sally Lukats, formerly in charge of food pantry donations, will be in charge of Fundraising. The new director of Communications, Linda Elkin, will be sending out the emails to the garden members and (thankfully) writing the monthly column in Southside Living Magazine from now on.

Those of us stepping off the Board will likely remain active in the garden. It’s been such a rewarding experience to create such a lovely green space for the families of Southside Place and beyond. It brings us a sense of pride and purpose. If you have grit, we encourage you to get involved in the next phase of the Southside Place Community Garden.

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Battle in the Garden: Pumpkins vs. Okra

Normally, we have at least one bed with three foot tall okra by now. The beautiful yellow flowers foreshadow the rapidly growing okra pods. Residents and city hall workers come by daily to pick the okra pods. Stockpile them for a week in the fridge and there is enough for a side dish. Not this year. This year, our okra turned into pumpkins.

 It’s not a Cinderella story. We had

Southside Living Magazine

planted about seven okra plants in the large melon bed near the shed and blanketed them with compost from our compost bins. The okra starts were not strong and withered, save one. In addition, our compost did not get hot enough because it contained viable pumpkin seeds from last season’s Jack-o-lanterns. These seeds sprouted and pumpkin seedlings quickly overran the struggling okra plants.  Our okra bed is filled with fast-growing, orange gourds.

Turns out, the best time to plant pumpkins for Halloween is in the summer. Pumpkin is one of the few seeds we can sow in the heat of the summer in Houston. While not deliberate, we were delighted to have created a pumpkin patch for October. In the meantime, we’ll plant some new okra starts to see if they can take hold. We know that you need your fix of okra, and that fried or pickled pumpkin just doesn’t fit the bill.

P.S.: Shortly after writing this article, we had to pull out the pumpkins due to an infestation. And voila! We found the okra. We’ll have okra for your Bloody Mary after all.

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Silent Auction 4/23/17 our Biggest Fundraiser Yet!

Every spring we hold our annual garden party to welcome the community into the garden and recruit new members. It started five years ago in 2013 and now has become a tradition in the neighborhood. Every year we change the party up a little bit. In 2014, the big change was that the garden Treasurer, Patty Tilton, had the idea to add a silent auction to the event. That was one smart move. The silent auction has become the biggest fundraiser for the community garden, generating enough funds to keep the garden running for a full year.

For two years Patty Tilton ran the auction by herself. Last year, Kristine Martinez of John Daugherty Real Estate took over the reins. This year at the April 23 party, a team of four from Encore Real Estate ran the show: Melinda Gordon, Shannon Thompson and Ron Shimkus. City Council member Jennifer Anderson also helped out. This year, the event was the best ever. They solicited donations from 39 companies, running around town to pick up all the donated gift certificates, sunglasses, baseball tickets etc. They created spreadsheets, graphic designs, and table displays. They worked the tables during the party, collecting checks and swiping credit cards. In the end, all of the auction items sold and they netted $5,176 for the garden, more than our annual garden operational expenses.

We’d like to thank all of the auction donors for their generous donations and Shannon, Melinda, Jenifer and Ron for their hard work on the auction. Also thanks to all of the garden party-goers who bid on the gift certificates, wine, tickets, rug. Not only do you get a great deal on these fabulous items but you also help keep our garden growing!

 

 

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