Get Planting Date Right for Home-Grown Tomatoes

By Bob Randall, Ph.D.
Originally published in the Houston Chronicle

"In the several decades I have been vegetable gardening, I have had many failed crops. Tomatoes, however, never fail. Year after year we have a huge crop of fantastic ones in May and June, and a nice crop in November and December. Just when the fresh tomatoes are gone in June, it is time to plant seeds for the fall crop, and just when the fresh tomatoes are gone in winter, it is time to plant seeds for the spring crop. Sounds nice, right?"

Read Bob's complete article here. Also, download a copy of "Ten Tips for Growing Top Tomatoes" based on Bob Randall's book, Year Round Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers for Metro Houston.

Remembering an Urban Harvest Founder

Terry Hershey, 1923-2017

We at Urban Harvest are immensely grateful to the contributions Terry Hershey made to our organization over the years, to turn a vision into a reality. Below, Dr. Bob Randall shares the impact Terry Hershey had on the success of Urban Harvest.

To read more about her incredible life, read her obituary on, in the Houston Chronicle, or read about her in David Todd and David Weisman’s book The Texas Legacy Project: Stories of Courage and Conservation (Texas A&M 2010)

"Terry Hershey accomplished so much in her life that I am always pleased when her role in founding Urban Harvest is mentioned. For Southeast Texas, it is literally difficult to find a single 20th century environmental organization or a significant piece of public land she didn’t improve in a major way. Her efforts for Urban Harvest were monumental. It is easy enough to spell out what she did, but a much more difficult task to characterize her role in early leadership.

"In 1989, her late husband Jake Hershey wrote an article in the Houston Chronicle arguing that too many inner city children were unaware of nature—plants, animals, earth, and land in general. At the time, I was heading the newly formed Interfaith Hunger Coalition Community Gardening Program. Since we were working on efforts to connect children with land in their neighborhoods, the VISTA Volunteer who worked for me and I put together a packet of information for Mr. Hershey. We got a reply back from the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation that the packet had been forwarded to Mrs. Hershey “who was much more involved with these issues.” There the matter rested until Terry Hershey ran into me maybe three years later at a Citizens Environmental Coalition Meeting and explained that after researching community gardens nationwide she was ready to lend her support. That was Terry—study carefully, then follow up with action.

"She was involved in many national, state, and local parks and wildlife organizations, and thought that community gardens, even if our first goal were to improve diet, would be an outstanding addition to many parks. Her principal thought was that park community gardens would bring adults together several times a week and build community across demographic barriers of age, language, education, and income.  Many parks missed adult visitors, especially elders. And this created generational gaps where children often had few informal land learning opportunities or good role models.

"To a former college professor like me with little non-profit or organization experience, Terry was a miracle.  After working on countless organizations for decades, she knew exactly what was needed to help things get to the next level. After meeting with my two part time staff and myself in our tiny Hunger Coalition cubicles, and viewing some of our gardens, she declared that the vision was excellent, but it needed much more funding. Terry and Jake had considerable wealth, but compared with environmental needs, if not a drop in the bucket, theirs was perhaps a cup in a bucket. What Terry knew was that lots of people have some spare cash and are willing to support good ideas attached to well-planned efforts and good results.

"One of her first ideas was to see if Wendy Kelsey would support the vision and possibly work for the effort. She introduced us. I showed Wendy our gardens and Wendy signed on to the project. Terry brought several potential funders to our offices, but the parent organization we worked for, Interfaith Ministries, moved in other directions. In May 1994, Wendy, Terry, and I –together with Suzy Fischer, Léonel Castillo, George McAfee Jr., Mark Cotham, and Ellen Mitchell founded Urban Harvest.

"Wendy, George, and I were the first staff, and Wendy during her seven years of employment was effectively Associate Executive Director. She did a long, long list of work at the highest level; logged in countless hours, and made the thing happen. Terry and Wendy together were in charge of funding the organization and deserve full credit for the existence of Urban Harvest beyond an idea. Without the meager salaries George, Wendy, and I accepted in the beginning, it never would of happened. And without Wendy and Terry relentlessly explaining to all who would listen why they should support us, none of what is today Urban Harvest could have happened.

"Among other things, an organization Terry founded, The Bayou Preservation Association, provided us free offices for 18 months from 1994-1995 and another organization she helped found, The Park People, became our fiscal agent. They vouched for our financial credibility in our first years until we could become, as planned, independent. Without their amazing help, there would be no Urban Harvest.

"I hope this gives you the picture. Because Terry had helped so many organizations, not just with money or ideas for funding-- but with good advice and thoughtful, helpful effort, she was a master at networking—organizing organizations to help each other. That is no doubt she did similar things for many more organizations.

"Over the years, I spent many days interacting with Terry and sometimes Jake. Terry was a voracious reader and as a philosophy major in college had a breathtaking understanding of a huge range of issues. She read a lot of science and spent a lot of time outdoors. At one point she introduced me to a book by a specialist in wild rivers and their mismanagement. I was surprised to find that parts of the book required knowledge of differential calculus.

"Terry loved what Urban Harvest does and we all loved Terry. The likes of Terry Hershey will not be seen again."


Dig in With Us!

  We are hosting garden workday opportunities at our school partner sites to grow healthy communities, reconnect to our food, and have fun digging in!  

Sat. January 21st from 9:30-11:30am. Activities: Garden clean up, habitat work, and setting up a container garden bed.

                         Hogg Middle School, 1100 Merrill St.

Sat. January 28th weare excited to dig in with partner with Sideline Serve  to host hgh school athletes and their coaches int the goal of 1 day 1000 volunteers to serve in the Houston area! Join us at one of the following sites from 9am - 12pm for family friendly winter gardening activities: Veggie bed clean up after the freeze, pathway mulching, winter gardening tips, planting,  and habitat work.  

  • Blackshear Elementary, 2900 Holman Street

To attend, please RSVP to


Add Zest and Detox with This Versatile Citrus Fruit Tree: Why I Love To Grow Grapefruits

By Carol Burton

With the holiday season behind us, you might be thinking about detoxing from all those indulgent lunches, brunches and dinners that bring families together. January is the perfect time to bring back refreshing, delicious and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice into your daily routine. And there's nothing better than picking the fresh citrus straight from your own garden.

I must admit, however, that I overlooked grapefruit when I was a novice gardener.

I had the usual favorites of the best sellers from Urban Harvest's Annual Fruit Tree sale, which this year is on Saturday, January 14 from 9 am to 1 pm. Everyone’s favorite citrus are the sweet and tangy mandarins and satsumas. On the other hand, I did not care for grapefruit due to the slight bitterness from nangarine flavonoids.

The Rio Valley of Texas has specialized in producing sweeter pink fleshed grapefruits with the Rio and Ruby Red varieties. With more gardening experience and the aim to add more variety to my garden — and thoughts of satisfying the taste buds of my family members who did not care for too sweet fruit — I purchased a Ruby Red grapefruit tree five years ago. Week after week, during the holiday and winter season, this easy to care for and productive tree has been a delight in my garden and on my breakfast table!

A grapefruit tree makes a visual statement in the yard and enhances wildlife. It is a large tree and the growth habitat is upright. It adds to the biodiversity of the environment and is a pleasure to see the tree become a home to a family of doves. It is also a host plant for the swallowtail butterfly. I have a tiny yard and keep mine lightly pruned to stay compact.

At this year's fruit tree sale, we will also offer a dwarf grapefruit which is excellent for patio gardens. Grapefruit trees are the most cold hardy citrus and fares fine in the lower 20s. I do not have to worry when our temperatures start to dip below freezing. I leave the fruit on the tree for nature’s perfect storage and when you pick it on a cold day, it is surprisingly nicely chilled!

On holiday mornings, I gather a few as a ritual to greet the day. I pick a few for the breakfast table, snack, garnish or salad!

For two glasses of juice, harvest four grapefruits. One medium size Rio Red grapefruit produces about one cup of juice. Just ½ cup of a grapefruit provides 70% of a daily serving of vitamin C. Slice the fruit in half, pick out seeds and then squeeze on a juicer. Pour into a visually appealing wine glass and enjoy!

If desired, garnish with a slice of grapefruit, fresh mint, or a slice of kumquat. Explore the nutritional content of grapefruit and recipes here at the USDA’s website.

Consider a grapefruit tree and ring in your new year with a healthy morning ritual for years to come!

For more information about this year's Fruit Tree Sale, visit our Facebook Event Page

A fruit that's at home in any recipe: Local farm-to-table chef dishes on gardening, fruits and zesty mellow yellows

Local farm-to-table chef Soren Pedersen, who is a regular at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market at Eastside, works magic with seasonally fresh ingredients. As a stalwart believer of sourcing from local and sustainable farms, the friendly chef also grows fruits and vegetables in his own garden.


His favorite fruit tree? Read on for our friendly chat with Soren. 


Q: What satisfaction do you get from growing, harvesting and eating your own fruits?


Soren Pedersen: I have always enjoyed growing fruits, vegetable and fresh herbs. To grow and nurture a small garden is very calming for me. Through gardening, I can feel seasonal changes even though Texas almost skips a couple of seasons. And thankfully so, enabling us to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in Houston. 


I have only been growing on a small scale, but enough to go out a pick a few tomatoes, lemons and fresh herbs for a nice piece of fish on the grill. I can't help feel pride and accomplishment. 


Q: What's your favorite fruit tree and why?


Soren Pedersen: The Meyer Lemon — no question. It’s a beautiful tree, easy to care for and usually carries lots of fruit.


Q: What does the fruit look like?


Soren Pedersen: I started my tree from a small pot on the patio, then planted it in my garden. It’s a beautiful lush green tree, which I had over a period of 5 years until we moved. Today, the tree is about 6 feet tall! Confession: I still pass by every once in a while to keep an eye on it. It started carrying fruit after the first year and gradually increased to the point when I was able to share some with the restaurant. 


Q: How do you prefer to eat it. Raw? In a recipe? Cooked?


Soren Pedersen: The beauty of a Meyer Lemon is that it can be eaten in many different ways, from fresh off the tree to preserving it for the winter months. Either way, it provides a nice refreshing balance to any dish. I use Meyer Lemons in dressings, on fresh fish especially grilled, for pesto, to make marmalade and even just a zesty glass of lemonade to cool off during the summer months.


Q: How does it taste?


Soren Pedersen: Well-rounded citrus, lemon flavor with a soft touch of sweetness without over powering any other ingredients.


Q: Where can I get one?


Soren Pedersen: Of course at the Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale on Saturday, Jan. 14.


For more information about this year's Fruit Tree Sale, visit our Facebook Event Page

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