Terry Hershey, longtime Urban Harvest supporter, honored by Audubon Texas

Audubon Texas and Houston Audubon Society will co-host the first annual luncheon benefitting Audubon’s new Texas Women in Conservation Program in Houston in February 2015. At this luncheon, an inaugural and esteemed group of outstanding women leaders in today’s conservation movement will be presented with the Terry Hershey Texas Women in Conservation Award for their work throughout Texas.
Terry Hershey has devoted and invested substantial passion, time, energy, and resources in significant conservation projects in Houston and throughout Texas. Mrs. Hershey is a former member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and a founding board member of Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association, Houston Audubon Society, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, The Park People, and Urban Harvest. She also is a past board member for Audubon Texas, National Audubon Society, National Recreation and Park Association, and The Trust for Public Land. In honor of this well-known “force of nature for nature,” Audubon is honored to name its Texas Women in Conservation Awards for Mrs. Hershey.
Urban Harvest is thrilled to see such a devoted supporter honored in this way.

Growing Community Engagement

          Hi, my name is Michael Little. I am a freshman at the University of Houston, and a member of the Bonner Leader Program. That's all good and fine you might say, but what exactly is the Bonner Leader Program?

            In essence, it is a program that provides students with the opportunity to serve their communities by working with various organizations in a mutual effort to better their communities. The program understands the importance of community involvement and places emphasis on the practice of learning through service.

            The program was founded in 1990 by Corella and Bertram Bonner as a scholarship program that provided financial assistance to students in exchange for them performing community service. The program has since grown, with active chapters in universities across the country. The University of Houston chapter is currently in its first year of service. This summer, incoming freshman who had been accepted into the Honors College at the University were invited to apply to the organization. From the pool of applicants, myself and 29 other students were selected for the program.

            As for my role in the program, I am serving as an intern for Urban Harvest, an organization that works with the community to organize community gardens, farmers markets, and school programs. With Urban Harvest, I am helping teach a class of children at a local elementary school with Urban Harvest visiting garden educator, Sherry Cruse. The children are able to learn about different plants, as well as soil, weather, and sustainable living by working in a garden on their school grounds, maintained by Urban Harvest in partnership with the school garden team.

            I am also helping manage the community garden at the University of Houston. We are in the process of renovating the garden, and hope to turn it into a place where students can relax and socialize, while at the same time providing a physical example of the importance of sustainable living. Those are my main two projects, though I also volunteer at various other events sponsored by Urban Harvest, as the occur.

            Over the next four years, I will continue to serve as an intern at Urban Harvest. During this time, I will continue to help manage the campus garden, and also have plans for creating a second garden on campus, as well as redoing an existing rooftop garden on the campus. I will also continue to build my relationship with the Urban Harvest team, and work on many more exciting projects as the opportunities appear.

By Michael Little

Urban Harvest Bonner Leader Program Intern 2013-2014

Editor's note: Michael is one of three Bonner Interns from the class of 2017 who have selected Urban Harvest as their organization for community engagement. Michael will periodically blog on the student gardening projects  happening in the Peck Elementary School Community Garden.  



Celebrate National Food Day!

Celebrate National Food Day (Oct. 24, 2013) with Pumpkin Seeds, aka “Pepitas”

Let’s celebrate National Food Day (www.foodday.org) with pumpkin seeds! Pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the same family as cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber and squash. Long-valued as a great source of zinc, pumpkin seeds are recognized for their diversity of antioxidants by providing a wide variety of forms of vitamin E.

Super seeds!

  • Pumpkin seeds are a great source of the mineral zinc. Although there is little zinc in the shell/seed coat/husk, there is a very thin layer directly beneath the shell pressed up very tightly against the shell. Unshelled pumpkin seeds contain about 10 milligrams of zinc per 3.5 ounces while shelled roasted pumpkin seeds (seed kernels) contain about 7-8 milligrams. Zinc helps the body’s immune system, cell division, clotting, healing wounds and various aspects of fetal development.
  • While pumpkin seeds are not a rich source of vitamin E, recent studies have shown that pumpkin seeds provide vitamin E in a wide diversity of forms. (source: www.whfoods.org)

Simple Seed Snackin’

2 cups raw organic seeds (1 medium organic pumpkin)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Coarse sea salt

Cut a medium pumpkin and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place in a bowl of warm water and wash pulp from the seeds. This may take several changes of water and a bit of “massaging” to release seeds which will float to the top.

For salty seeds, add ½-1 teaspoon of sea salt to the water and let soak for an hour or more. Drain water and dry seeds on a paper towel.

Mix seeds with the oil in a bowl then place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Lightly roast them in a 160-170°F 75°C) oven for 15-20 minutes — the 20-minute roasting limit preserves the seeds’ nutrients & good fats. Sprinkle with additional seasonings if desired. Let cool and enjoy!

Be adventurous and try some new seasonings such as cinnamon, cajun salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, tabasco and other flavorful additions to these fall favorites.

Sweet Fall Favorite

What vegetable could be more iconic for fall than the sweet potato? 

"Some people call these vegetables yams. Other people call these vegetables yams. Other people call them sweet potatoes. Both are right," Said the Lousiana Sweet Potato Commission. Sweet potatoes make an excellent fall harvest. This versatile tuber is the ideal vegetable for the Houston area because it is easy to plant, low maintenance for lazy gardners during hte hot summer months and a powerhouse of nutrition. 

The sweet potato is a tropical vegetable native to South America therefore thrives in Houston's relentless heat of late summer. They are planted by slips, whcih are the cut and rooted vines of sweet potato. 

Rows 'a Slips

When planted in May and June, You'll find them over growing their beds come fall. They are a school garden favorite! These tubers prefer a sandy loam soil so the addition of sand and a little compost to your garden ed will increase the size and numbers of your harvest. If the soil is too nutrient reich,the tubers may stay small and stringy. They will tolerat a heavier, though still friable soil underneath the lighter mix. 

Sweet potatoes form a thick-ground cover and inhibit nutgrass and weeds, and be sure to control weeds before the sweet potatoes have covered the bed completely. They mature 100-140 days from planting. 

Photo avove: A school garden after summer.  The sweet potato vines are on the right. They grow into a lovely ground cover. Our tomaoes which were thriving in May and June are now kaput and the bermuda completely took over!

Harvest before temperatures dip below 50 degrees. You can check for readiness much likne an archeological dig by excavating gently without disturbing or nicking the roots. IF they are the desired size, then they are ready for harvest. 

Sweet potatoes are rated as the No.1 vegetabel in nutrition, beating out spinach and broccoli in nutrition comparisons accourdint to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Our favorite school garden recipe is to simply cut, spray a bit of olive oil and grill on a portable plug in grill. Then, add a touch of salt and serve. 

Grow sustainable healthy communities with us by enjoying locally grown sweet potatoes throught the fall and winter. They can be found at our Urban Harvest Farmers Market August through February.

Summer Soil Revitalization

Many of us neglect our gardens during the heat of summer months. Either we leave for vacation or we find the allure of gardening insufficient under the intense heat of a Houston summer.

Fortunately, the fall gardening season is upon us and the need to prepare our soils is here. Over the summer our soils become drier due to the intense heat, insufficient rain or lack of watering. When garden soils become dry the microbial activity of soil decreases. Just like most living things, microbes require a certain amount of water and organic matter. Ideally, you want to have an established population of beneficial organisms in your soil before planting. These organisms improve soil structure and soil fertility.

Below are four things you can do to improve your microbial activity and prepare your soil for optimal growing conditions.

1. Fertilize your beds with a balanced organic fertilizer. There are several you can get locally. MicroLife, a product of San Jacinto Environmental Supplies, is an example of a good balanced organic fertilizer that you can find at local nurseries. Be sure to follow the application rates for bed preparation listed on the back of the bag.

2. After you fertilize, add organic matter to beds that look low or appear pale and sandy. If you are good about seasonally adding mulch to your beds then you can skip this step. Screen any finished compost from the bottom of your compost bin or purchase high quality compost. You want to add about two inches to most beds.

3. Mulch all of your beds about two to three inches high. The mulch will help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperatures and when they break down; they add organic matter to your soils. Alfalfa hay is an excellent product for your vegetable beds. Although they come in bales like coastal hay (a grass), alfalfa hay is actually a legume and will provide more nutrients to your soil.

4. Finally, start watering your beds thoroughly. It seems odd to water an empty bed but when it comes to planting seeds or adding transplants you will see better results with beds that have been “revived” several days before planting.