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)
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.
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.
The Calabaza squash has attractive mottled leaves.
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.
The row of onions is being harvested now.
Blackberries are easy to grow and were planted in many areas of the garden. Warm, sweet and delicious picked right off the vine.
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.
Shady ins and outs and places to rest along the way.
Dr. Randall has a lot of success growing Sweet potatoes in a raised mound. He propagates new vines from harvested potatoes.
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.
Tomato cages made from concrete wire mesh are stored flat and reused each season.
Nothing goes to waste including old yogurt containers cut and fashioned into makeshift identification tags.
Letting parsley go to seeds attracts many beneficial insects.
Figs trees produce well here in Houston.
Along with Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) which is an exotic fruit that is harvested in late summer.
More spent plantings going to seed.
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.
Every garden has weeds and this one is no exception. Dollar weed can be a challange to eradicate once it takes hold.
Crinums and hibiscus growing in a bed near the back patio.
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.
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.