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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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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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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Read about our “rained in” garden party in Southside Living Magazine

Southside Living June 2016photos by Fabiana Cuggioni


click here to open in a separate window Southside_June_2016_Pag_10-11

Rain Dampens the Party but Not our Spirits

 By Julia Babcock

 The problem with having garden parties in Houston is that we are subject to the ever-changing weather patterns of Texas. Months of strategizing, shopping and scheduling went into our 4th Annual outdoor garden party benefit. We were optimistic that, the week after an epic flood, we had a break in the weather. Chance of rain was estimated at 20% on Sunday morning April 24. My iPhone showed a sun and cloud icon on the weather app. The tents were popped. The tables were set. The cakes were delivered. The wine and beer were being iced. The food was cooked and on its way. We were ready to roll. Unfortunately, what rolled is was a thunderstorm, coming at exactly the wrong time, shortly before the party start time.

I had written in previously promising that there would be no rain this year. I was wrong. We had no good rain out plan because we expected a large turnout of kids and families. But once again the City of Southside Place firemen came to the rescue and moved the firetrucks to the driveway so we could set up the food and drinks in the fire station. Molina’s arrived with campechana and chips. The Union Kitchen donated salad and Edloe Deli provided the King Ranch casserole.

We expected only a stalwart few neighbors to attend, so the silent auction was put on hold until a later date. The do-it-yourself container gardening booth was also waylaid. However, as you can see from the photos, we had a good turnout! Vicki Piper led a nutrition lesson for the children and they tasted kale smoothies. We moved outside to the pergola as the rain let up and stayed well past sunset. Families brought Tupperware to take home leftovers and the remaining casserole and cake was fed to our beloved firemen the next day. We didn’t formally take tickets but raised about $1,000 in donations at the door, so overall, it was a successful fundraiser.

When the weather cooperates, outdoor parties in the garden are fantastic, joyful, memorable events but, like planning an outdoor wedding, there is an inherent risk. Is it worth it? I think so. What we need, however, is a rain plan to circumvent the hour or so of “analysis paralysis” before the party deciding what to do. Next year, perhaps we can have an extra Sunday in May saved as a rain out date, reserve the courthouse lobby or clubhouse in advance, or just plan on using the fire station once again if we haven’t burned our bridges with our firemen–no pun intended. Next year, if there is rain for the third year is a row, we’ll be ready.

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

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

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Blame the Rain Party May 22 5-7pm

Silent Auction Party May 22 2016bubba's

Silent auction & picnic to benefit the Southside Place Community Garden

Our annual outdoor party got rained out in April, so we postponed the silent auction to another SUNNY day. Join us in the garden for wine & cheese, beer, Bubba’s burgers food truck (see Bubba’s Texas Burger Bus Menu here MENU)

And check out all of the silent auction items in this pdf: auction brochure 2016 Here’s just a sampling:

  • Interior Design: Comprehensive design services for 1 room of winning bidder’s choice. Design will include: scale of room, complete space planning, and selection of all fabrics, materials, and pieces to complete room in a visual presentation. $3,500 value. Generously donated by Julie Rhodes Fashion & Hom www.JulieRhodesStyle.com
  • Zoom! Teeth Whitening: If you are interested in a brighter smile up to 6 shades whiter in just 1 hour, Madden Dental has the technology for you with Zoom! In-office whitening.  $600 value
  • Glow Medical Aesthetics: Reveal Brighter, Tighter, Glowing Skin with Glow Medical Aesthetics. This package includes Sublime Skin Tightening Treatment, Botox (20 units in a single area), SkinMedica Lytera Brightening Kit (travel size) and Visia Complexion Analysis andictures.   $750 value. glowhouston.com
  •  Southside Season Pass Membership: Do you love spending hours at the pool and tennis courts?  Did you know a Season Pass also gives you a 25% discount on the rental of the clubhouse, pool and pavilion?  $250 value.
  •  Lam Bespoke: Beautify your home with a set of 3 agateware cache pots and a gorgeous orchid drop-in from Lam Bespoke. $165 value
  • Tiny’s Number 5: Dinner for two at a local favorite – Tiny’s Number 5. A $150 value.
  • The Rooted Garden: 4’ X 4’ raised bed kit valued at $450. therootedgarden.com
  • Astros Tickets: 4 Club Level seats to watch the Astros take on the Seattle Mariners, July 6, 2016. Parking pass included!
  • Alira Sp & Salon: Goddess for a Day Package for Two! Couples massage, season fruit facial, Kerastase hair treatment, with mimosa. Expires 8/31/16. A $400+ value
  • Wine Pull: No bottle is valued less than $35 with most bottles valued over $50.

Join in the fun and bid! Don’t miss out on more wonderful items including a family photography session, closet organization services, home décor, flower arrangements, gift certificates, massage package and more! Bring your checkbooks or credit cards (+3% fee) and place your bids for the chance to win some of these fabulous goods, wines, and services.

Silent Auction Party FLYER May 22 2016bubbas burger photo


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Big Garden Party Bash April 24, 2015 4:30-8:30

April 24 2016 flyer

4th Annual


Garden party

To Benefit the southside place community garden

Party with your neighbors to celebrate our growth!

Join us for another fabulous outdoor party on the garden lot. Music, food, drinks and fun for the whole family. DIY container planting! Ladybug release! Silent auction! Bring your checkbooks! $20 per adult, payable at the garden gate. Kids are free!

Live music by singer-guitarist John Curry

john curry


Food generously donated by Molina’s

The Union Kitchen

Edloe Deli


BYOB + wine, beer + SlimRita’s samples provided


Cake kindly donated by Moeller’s Bakery

Cash-only ice cream truck


Do-It-Yourself Container Gardening


Silent auction!


Fun activities for the kids: ladybug release, worms, nutrition education!


Garden party flyer april 24 2016 2pg

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Wine Tasting and Sale in The Village News

See full story about our upcoming party Sunday March 6 4:30pm  at: http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=444cdada-beb3-4050-aa22-24ac1231927e&pnum=0

viaalge news1



viaalge news2Thanks, Ben!

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It’s Spring Party Time!

Last year's wine tasting

Our 2nd Beviamo Italian Wine Tasting is scheduled for March 6, 2016

The Southside Place Community Garden is not just about growing vegetables, it’s also about growing community.  One of the benefits of having a beautiful outdoor space is that we can use it as a gathering spot. Currently the Southside Place Community garden receives no funds from the City nor does it charge a membership fee. All of the money needed to build and maintain the garden comes from fundraisers and donations. Now that we have a fancy pergola donated by Lovett Homes, we can hold stylish events in the garden with ease.

may 2015 garden party3

Last year’s party ended early due to rain.

Our first spring event is a free laidback wine tasting and sale under the pergola on Sunday March 6, 4:30-7:00pm.  Beviamo wine distributors will be pouring a selection of Italian wines. You buy what you like for yourself and, if you are feeling generous, buy one to donate to the garden. This wine sale precedes the big, family-friendly garden party on April 24. Your donated wine will be served or allocated to the “wine pull” at the silent auction at the April 24th party. Cheese and light snacks will be served. In case of rain, the event will be moved to a neighbor’s house.


john curry

Singer John Curry will perform again April 24, 2016

Our second spring even is the fourth annual Southside Place Community Garden Party on Sunday April 24 4:30-8:30pm. Not to be confused with the fancy, white linen, adult-only party in October, this casual p
arty is for the whole family. There will be food provided by local restaurants and this is a BYOB event, although some donated beer and wine (see above) will be provided. Like last year, we’ll hold a silent auction, nutrition education for children, a ladybug release and book reading in the sunflower circles. New this year is a container planting station where you can create your own container garden for you to bring home. Guitarist and singer, John Curry, will be entertaining us with his tunes. Cost for this event is $20 per adult payable at the garden gate. Kids are free. Unlike last year, we have unanimously decided that this year THERE WILL BE NO RAIN. We have no backup plan to move this multifaceted party indoors, except maybe to scurry inside the fire station again.may 2015 garden party4

Join the Southside Place Community Garden! Membership is free. Work days are the first and third Saturday of each month, which are 9am in the summer and 2:30pm in the winter; and the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 8am.  No gardening experience or knowledge necessary. Email jbabcocktx@gmail.com to join our email list serve. Also you may join our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/476972015691263/

Garden party flyer april 24 2016

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What Motivates Our Volunteers?

This month, I interviewed garden volunteers on why they volunteer. Although the general benefits of a community garden appear to be self-evident, our volunteers have a variety of reasons for participating. Many people may find it difficult to make the trek to city hall at 9am on Saturday mornings. We all have busy lives and can come up with multiple reasons why we can’t come on any given work day—I’m sleeping in, need more coffee, don’t feel like getting dirty, etc. But here are some reasons why our committed garden workers do keep coming.

Worker Bees

Emma Eggleton of Jardin Street often brings her children to the garden to educate them on how vegetables grow. She said that the benefits of volunteering are “to get my kids involved and see where their food comes from and get them excited about eating vegetables.” She said that after learning how to grow cucumbers, they planted some at home. The children now have cucumbers in their lunch box. They also learned that tomatoes sometimes look like green apples and hopefully, too, that apples do not grow on bushes. Emma also appreciates the community aspects of the garden, which is different than growing vegetables in your own back yard. Coming from Perth, Australia, she was used to living in a tight community where they had communal chickens, which she likened to caring for communal vegetables. Note that she is not the first person to propose adding a chicken coop to the garden!

Another devoted garden member, Shala Farhat, lives in a townhouse and does not have the room to garden. Clearly a talented cook, Shala has harvested carrots, herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans from our garden and cooked them all in creative ways. Shala thinks that in addition to playgrounds and parks, it is critical to teach kids that “this is where the vegetables come from and not the grocery store. Everything tastes much better when you grow it.” She said “it is really important in urban areas, that we have vegetable gardens…Houston needs to have more places like this where we can grow stuff that you can actually use.” She suggested that more of our city parks include areas for raised beds. Shala is aware of both the individual health benefits and the environmental impact of the garden. She said, “It’s important being out in the environment, meeting new people, getting some sun.” In addition, the garden “has to be close enough because if you have to drive 20 miles, what point is that? You should be able to walk or bike to it.”

We do encourage all Southside Place residents to walk or bike to the garden, bring their kids, participate in the work days, and harvest what you can use. Work days are the first and third Saturday of each month, which are 9am in the summer and 2:30pm in the winter; and the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 8am.  Perhaps you will find for yourself more benefits of community gardening.

Post Oak making teepee

Join the Southside Place Community Garden! Membership is free. Open to all—not just Southside Place residents. Just email jbabcocktx@gmail.com to join our club. Also you may join our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/476972015691263/


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