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Urban Harvest Garden Tour Part II – Dr. Bob Randall

Our Urban Harvest garden tour continues at the home of Dr. Bob Randall, Urban Harvest founder. He has been living at his home for 30 years. When I opened the car door, I saw this galvanized cistern on the street side of the house. It was large… about 8 feet tall. I had no idea that there were two more on the other side of the house. This organic garden uses a total of 3 cisterns to collect rainwater to irrigate the beds and fruit trees. (You can find the cisterns at Texas Metal Cisterns in Buda, Texas)

A group of people standing around a tree.

We gathered at the front of the house and Dr. Randall gave us an informal tour. The first thing I noticed is the absence of a  LAWN. The entire front yard is filled with meandering paths, fruit trees, vines and flowers planted to attract insects. The elevation of the yard is tiered with raised areas to allow the ground to soak up as much of the rainfall as possible before heading to the street.

A man standing next to a water tank in a garden.
A man standing next to a large metal water tank.

Around the back of the house is a sprawling collection of raised beds no more than 8 inches tall. Along the fence are grape vines and blackberry bushes.

The first few beds were filled with an assortment of bush beans, Calabaza squash, onions and peppers.

A garden with a lot of plants in it.
Hot peppers growing in a garden.
A garden with a fence and lots of plants.

The Calabaza squash has attractive mottled leaves.

A green plant with white spots on it.

Dr. Randall shared a useful tip to keep animals and birds from disturbing newly sprouted seedlings. He places used pieces of wire fencing over the beds until they the seedlings have a chance to get started. Birds love tender sprouts.

A man is standing next to a raised garden bed.

The row of onions is being harvested now.

A wooden fence in a garden.
A group of people working in a garden.
A group of onions growing in a garden bed.
A group of white onions growing in the ground.

Blackberries are easy to grow and were planted in many areas of the garden. Warm, sweet and delicious picked right off the vine.

A tree in the middle of a yard.
A tree with berries in the middle of a yard.
Blackberries on a branch with green leaves.

Many think that you need a lot of room to grow corn, but a 4 x 4 foot area can produce a lot of sweet, crisp ears.

A garden with corn and other plants in it.
A man in a hat standing in a field of corn.

Shady ins and outs and places to rest along the way.

A bench in a garden.
A raised garden bed with dirt in it.

Dr. Randall has a lot of success growing Sweet potatoes in a raised mound. He propagates new vines from harvested potatoes.

A group of people standing around a raised garden bed.
A group of plastic cups with carrots in them.
A small plant is growing in the dirt.
A group of people standing in a garden.

Beds are made from just about anything available. Concrete blocks are Dr. Randall’s favorite material to use. It doesn’t rot, it’s easy to install and move if needed.

A concrete block is sitting in a garden bed.
A garden with a lot of plants in it.

Tomato cages made from concrete wire mesh are stored flat and reused each season.

A garden with a lot of plants in it.
Tomatoes growing on a vine in a garden.

Nothing goes to waste including old yogurt containers cut and fashioned into makeshift identification tags.

A note is attached to a wire fence in a garden.

Letting parsley go to seeds attracts many beneficial insects.

A bush in a yard with a fence.

Figs trees produce well here in Houston.

A bench in a yard with a tree in the background.
A close up of a plant with large leaves.
Figs are growing on a tree with green leaves.

Along with Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) which is an exotic fruit that is harvested in late summer.

An eucalyptus tree in a garden.

More spent plantings going to seed.

A garden with a variety of plants in it.

A small apple tree with a plastic tree limb spreaders trains the horizontal branches to grow at the proper angle to reduce vigorous growth and increase yield. Behind the apple tree is a pomegranate tree (small orange flowers) in the background.

A tree with red berries and green leaves.
An apple on a tree with a red string attached to it.

Every garden has weeds and this one is no exception. Dollar weed can be a challange to eradicate once it takes hold.

Clovers growing in the grass next to a concrete wall.

Crinums and hibiscus growing in a bed near the back patio.

A plant with white flowers and green leaves.

Dr. Randall shared that he hasn’t tilled the beds since the 80’s. He layers the beds with compost annually and does not pull out spent plants by the roots. He cuts them off at the base and lets them decay in the soil undisturbed. A new planted bed is ready for the summer growing season.

A garden bed with some plants in it.

Dr. Randall ended the tour by passing out some heirloom seeds and plants to share with those gardeners who wanted some. I left with some sweet potato vines, a Bolivian sunroot, and some Calabaza seeds.

10 thoughts on “Urban Harvest Garden Tour Part II – Dr. Bob Randall”

  1. Your last two posts have made me wish I had taken the class. Gary and Ray live in my neighborhood, they have been on the Westbury Garden Club tour several times. What a treat it must have been to see Dr. Randall’s house. It was nice to see the cisterns, I have been researching installing a water collection system at my house, but I haven’t found a good source for large cisterns yet.

    1. Jacqueline D'Elia

      Thank you. I believe he mentioned it came from the Austin area, maybe Buda or Dripping Springs. I’ll see if I can find out where he got his cisterns.

  2. Thanks for such a great post about Dr. Randall’s garden – it’s great to see it after reading his essential book on Houston Gardening.

    1. Jacqueline D'Elia

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Later this week there will be another post from the garden of Diana Liga, Urban Harvest Permaculture Diva.

  3. We live about 15 minutes from Dripping Springs and many of our neighbors have purchased rainwater collection systems from this company.

      1. It’s too bad that Houston hasn’t caught up with Austin on these kinds of services. I doubt I can get the Green Guys to drive 200 miles to my house. 🙂

  4. Wonderful way to live! I am doing my best in Alvin on 2 acres to raise food to eat, flowers to nourish the soul and not waste time on unimportant things–like a green lawn.
    Thanks to all who participate and encourage others in living a healthy and natural lifestyle.

    1. Jacqueline D'Elia

      Thanks Amanda. How are you dealing with the drought this year? It has been tough on my garden.

  5. I am home scale farming in Willis and even my most hardy plants are wilted. Lost 4 large trees. My girlfriend has a working farm in Montgomery and half her crop burnt. I have not had a good crop since 2007. Breaks my heart! This is a lot of work to see it fry. I am building a sunshade over things like tomatoes to see if that cuts down on the blistering. Still composting like crazy.

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