Outstanding Dinner in the Garden October 22, 2017

Get Tickets for “Outstanding Dinner in the Garden” here

October marks our fourth annual fancy dinner party in the garden. In 2014, we had the perfect party in the garden. Set outside in October when the weather is typically nice, we set up a long table, dressed in white linens, with simple natural decorations. We hired noted chef and caterer Soren Pederson, who didn’t even blink when we told him we had no kitchen, no water and no electricity. He set up his own cook shop on the open lot. We strung up some paper lanterns, greeted guests with a pink cocktail and passed hors d’ d’oeuvres, poured some wine, and Soren and his waiters served us until well after sunset. Some guests remarked, “This feels like a wedding! We should do weddings here in the garden” and even “I’d be happy if this were my wedding!”

outstanding table missyIt was so perfect, we hired the same chef to develop and cook another five course menu in the garden in 2015. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. Torrential rains and street flooding forced us inside the fire station making for a unique dining experience—unforgettable but less than perfect. In 2016, we had another picture perfect-party outdoor with no rain and a great turnout.

This year we will again greet guests with cocktails under the pergola. Chef Soren Pederson will again fire up his gas stoves and whip us up something fantastic. Dinner will be served family-style by attentive waiters. Special wines will be paired with each course. Not wanting to burden the firemen again, this year we have the Southside Place Clubhouse reserved as an emergency backup location.

If you missed this fundraising party the last threenyears, hurry and buy your tickets because we are sure to sell out. Cost of the tickets are $125 per person. Tickets are available here:

Get Tickets for “Outstanding Dinner in the Garden” only on Yapsody

Click the link above to pay through Paypal or mail a check made payable to SSPCG to 3739 Harper, Houston TX 77005 A portion of the ticket price is tax-deductible, as we are a 501c3 charitable organization. Truly, this is the most outstanding party of the year.

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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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Here comes the big one: Garden Bash April 23, 2017

Click here for Auction Brochure 2017. Presents for Mother’s Day! This year–our 5th year!–it will be bigger than ever with activities for the kids, a silent auction and wine pull, and a potting station to plant your own container garden. Food catered by Molina’s and Moellers Bakery. So mark your calendar for April 23 4:30-8:30 for the casual event of the season. Rain out date March 7.

Email jbabcocktx@gmail.com

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Good Times at the Event in the Tent

Fun night in the tent! The tent was leftover from a party on a Friday night in February. The residents let us “double-dip” and use the tent the following Sunday. Good thing because the rain chances were high. Turned out to be a great night with mild weather,   a good turn out and some tasty wine and food. John Curry was on hand strumming and singing his eclectic mix of tunes. Beviamo Distributors and the new Rosinka Wine Bar poured Bordeaux, Tannats, and even an Amorone! The Churrascos-to-go food truck was serving giant meat sandwiches and French fries.  A portion of the wine and food truck sales will be donated to the garden.

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Wine Tasting Event in the Tent Feb 19, 2017

Here we go! We are having the kick-off wine tasting party in the garden on Sunday February 19 4:30-7:30. A garden member is having a party in a tent Friday

with a big, white tent and donated it for our use on Sunday night.  This is a free party where guest taste wine, listen to live music, and buy wine for themselves or to donate to the garden. The wine donations are the back bone of our big, family-friendly party on April 23, 2017. We’ll be pouring wine and auctioning off bottles at our wine pull. A fantastic food truck (self-pay) will be there serving huge meat sandwiches, french fries etc.  A fan favorite, John Curry, will be singing and playing guitar. Come for the wine, for the music, for the food or just to hang and talk to your neighbors. This even is free but we’ll be collecting dues ($25 per person per year) and donations. Find us in the tent, rain or shine!

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Bocce ball, anyone?


Garden Games for Grown-ups, Southside Living Magazine, January 2017 issuescreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-9-43-42-pm

Can you believe that our community garden has been in existence since February, 2013? We have accomplished a lot since then, building nine beds, a pergola, and a shed. Now as we embark on Year #4, we are moving forward to beautifying the lot and perhaps installing some exciting new play things for you.

Mayor Pat Patterson suggested to the garden board that we consider installing a bocce ball court. Bocce is an old Italian lawn bowling game that has become popular with the hipsters. Construction of a bocce ball court is simple, similar to building a simple raised bed. Wooden rails rim the perimeter of a long rectangle filled with crushed granite and topped with a smooth layer of oyster shell flour. A bocce ball set contains eight colored, four inch diameter balls and one smaller white ball, called the “jack” or “pallino.” The winner of a coin toss throws out the jack near the far end of the court. That same person or team rolls the first colored ball, being careful not to cross the fault line at the 3 meter mark. Then the next team throws. The team whose ball is farthest away from the jack now bowls its remaining three balls, trying to get as close to the jack as possible. Then the second team bowls its remaining three balls. The team closest to the jack gets a point, the game switches to the other end and the game continues until one team reaches 12 points. Easy! And apparently it’s so fun that it’s addictive!bocce-ball-set

Architect Joe Przybyl designed a bocce ball court and presented his plan at our annual open garden meeting in October. Let us know what you think about adding a bocce ball court to the community garden lot. If you want to see a bocce ball court in action, check out the backyard of the Brooklyn Athletic Club (but ours will look nicer). If this idea is approved, we’ll need your help with construction and light maintenance of the court. Who knows, maybe we’ll soon have our own Southside Place Bocce Ball League!

Email jbabbocce1cocktx@gmail.com to comment on this bocce ball court idea. Or drop by. Work days are the first and third Saturday of each month 2:30pm; and the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 8am.

facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/476972015691263/

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Handicapped accessible gardens

Here’s an article about the accessibility of our garden, published in Southside Living Magazine, 2016.


From its inception, the Southside Place Community Garden was designed to be an inclusive facility, allowing direct participation for people of all ages and abilities.  The raised beds have wide top ledges so that they can serve as seating for gardeners. A concrete ramp was added to the parking lot with a gradual grade.  The distance between the raised beds allows for wheelchair access. Crushed granite was chosen in lieu of bark mulch to provide a wheelchair-friendly surface, even after heavy rains. Little did I know that the garden’s actual wheelchair accessibility would be put to the test by me.

On a pleasant Saturday morning, I was out for out for a run around Rice Village, a route I’ve done innumerable times. The weather was unusually nice for August and many neighbors were out walking their dogs, running, having breakfast at Le Peep, and enjoying the unseasonably cool morning. Perhaps I was on autopilot running this familiar route because as I crossed Kirby at University Blvd., I was hit by a car. I suffered six broken ribs, and broken sternum, a broken foot, a nasty cut on the forehead and a concussion. The broken foot prohibits walking and the broken ribs prohibit the use of crutches, so I am wheelchair bound for six weeks. This provide an opportunity for me to experience firsthand how accessible the garden truly is.

The Lukats lent me the use of their GoGo electric scooter, a highly maneuverable and powerful motorized cart. It allows me the freedom to get from Jardin St to the garden quickly. What I discovered is that it is difficult to access the garden from the front path. There is no curb cut at the path and there is edging material in the way. However, the scooter has no problem getting into the garden from the parking lot, as the concrete ramp was designed specifically for this purpose. Once in the garden, making a left turn is not an option due to a veritable wall of landscape edging stones blocking the path. Taking a right requires driving over the grass, which is considered to be a wheelchair accessible surface except when it is saturated. The most difficult place to access are the compost bins in the rear of the lot but the motorized scooter can travel over grass and gravel with aplomb.  Unfortunately, there is no access under the pergola because the rise of the concrete foundation is too high. Nor is there access to the shed because it has front steps instead of a ramp.

My new (selfish?) goal is to improve the accessibility of the garden. The curved, front path can be continued for easy access, perhaps with a curb cut at the street. A ramp of crushed granite could allow wheelchair access under the pergola. The landscape stones, leftover from the days before we had a concrete foundation, will be removed. Long-handled tools can be provided to gardeners in wheelchairs, even if they cannot get into the shed. With slight modifications, the garden can be a wheelchair-friendly place to be enjoyed by all. While my injuries are not permanent, my dedication to making the garden a handicapped-accessible space is.

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August is all about the okra!

SSLiving August okra

Community gardening in Houston in the summer is limited due to the intense heat, limited variety of plants and travel plans of volunteers.  Our work days tend to be under-attended and the operations committee can struggle with the watering schedule. The prospects of a vacation in the mountains is more promising than tending raised beds in August. After all, we are in the same gardening hardiness zone as Algeria, bless our sweaty little hearts.  Nonetheless, the Southside Place Community Garden remains productive even during these sweltering months in the city.


What grows in Southside Place’s Zone 9 in the summer? Our most reliable and prolific plants have been okra, eggplant, melons, cucumbers and peppers but okra is always the bumper crop. Resistant to pests with stunningly beautiful flowers, okra grows at an impressive rate. It is possible that just one raised bed produces enough okra to feed the entire city. The last few summers, several neighbors have begged forgiveness for picking “too much okra,” believing that they are the only ones harvesting the pods. Of course, this can’t be true if several people are confessing the same thing. The fact is that we need more people to harvest the okra pods before they reach three inches long. Okra needs to be harvested at least every other day, so think of your harvesting as civic duty. Wear gloves because the tiny spines on the leaves and stems can irritate your skin. Cut the stem just above the pod cap with a knife. If the stem is too hard to cut, the pod is too old and should be tossed into the compost pile…not good eats. They get stringy and tough when they get longer than your middle finger. To store okra, put the uncut and uncooked pods into freezer bags and keep them in the freezer or you can pickle okra and keep it in your pantry.

Some people think that they “hate okra because it’s slimy” but I think that if you like green beans that you will like okra if it is prepared the right way. Roasting it on high heat in the oven makes for crispy okra sans slime. At the new Little Liberty restaurant in Rice Village, they cut it in half and coat it with chilies, basil and butter before “blistering” it in the oven. Sautéing okra with tomatoes and vinegar also counteracts the mucilage (the same stuff that runs out of aloe vera) of the pods. Okra also takes well to pungent Indian and Mexican spices. And who doesn’t like a pickled okra in their bloody Mary? Feel free to harvest the okra and send us your best recipe. Here’s is one below:

Okra with Tomatoes and Bacon

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 pound frozen okra, thawed and sliced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.
  2. Remove bacon from pan and sauté okra, onion, pepper and celery until tender. Add tomatoes, and pepper and cook until tomatoes are heated through. Add salt at the end.
  3. Serve garnished with crumbled bacon.
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Blame the Rain” Silent Auction Party was a Winner

Southside Living Magazine Article_July

SSLiving July 2016


Blame the rain for dividing our annual garden party into two fun parties this year. Our big, annual garden fundraiser slated for April was rained out at the last minute. While we served the donated food and wine, the silent auction Chair, Southside Place resident Kristine Martinez, made the call to hold off on the silent auction until a sunny day. She had collected over 25 goods and services from local businesses, including Julie Rhodes Fashion & Home, Alira Salon & Spa and Glow Medical Aesthetics, so that we may put them up for bid. Historically, our silent auctions have, aside from corporate donations, generated the largest deposits to the garden’s coffers. One successful silent auction can fund the maintenance of the garden for one year.

We finally got a break in the weather on Sunday May 22 so that we could hold our silent auction party outside in the garden lot. Residents Carolyn and Bruce Nichol had donated the use of their home in case of rain, which was a distinct possibility with our season of pop-up storms in

the Gulf. The sun scorched the party planning committee setting up tables for the party but there was adequate shade by the 5pm start time. It turned to be the best day of the season and our turnout was splendid, as you can see from the photos.

Because we had distributed the donated food on April 24, we served cheese, pretzels and nuts. Lest anyone go hungry, Bubba’s Burgers food truck sold buffalo and beef burgers from the parking lot. Bubba’s waived their minimum fee because we are a charitable organization. They were delighted to meet their minimum sales in the first half-hour of the party! No wonder, as the community garden is a wonderful place for a picnic. Perhaps we should have food trucks on site monthly, calling it “First Friday Food Truck,” “Third Thursday al fresco,” or something…with City Hall’s approval, of course.

The silent auction was wrapped up at 7pm with almost all of the auction items sold. Most popular were Bryan and Claire Baker’s donated Astros Club level tickets, which generated a series of competitive bids. We would like to thank the residents and local businesses who supported us in making this fundraiser a success, including: Lam Bespoke, Julie Rhodes, Glow, Soul Cycle, Madden Dental, Chandra Stone, Massage Heights, ArtVia, Kelly Gartner Style, Berings, Michael’s Cookie Jar, Define, Tiny’s #5, Mindful Meals, Natural Expressions, Pure Body, The Weekley Family Y, The City of Southside Place, Alira, The Rooted Garden, Avenu Fitness and their soon to open coffee shop, Boomtown, garden members Jennifer Anderson, Vicki Piper, Sally Lukats, Fabiana Cuggionni, Kay Browning, Bryan and Claire Baker, Patty Tilton, and most importantly, Kristine Martinez, auctioneer extraordinaire!

Join the Community Garden by emailing me at jbabcocktx@gmail.com.

Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/476972015691263/


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