The Betty and Jack Friedman Holistic Garden allows people of all ages and physical abilities to discover the benefits of planting and picking their own produce
“Farmers are some of the most creative people in the world,” Joe Novak says as he slips the blade of his pocketknife into a fold of thin plastic tubing, slicing it into smaller sections that he will shortly transform into a clever, low-cost drip irrigation system that comes together in only a few minutes. A group of volunteers from the Rice community helps assemble the rest of the system that will water a stepped tetrad of raised planting beds that are among the many different beds Novak has installed in new holistic garden on campus.
Joe Novak, left, works with a rotating crew of volunteers in the new Rice holistic garden. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)
Here in a nearly half-acre site next to the Rice Media Center there are also beds of various heights for people in wheelchairs, vertical wall plantings and rain gutter beds for those without room for a full garden, African keyhole gardens and French intensive gardens to showcase global methods for maximizing productivity in small spaces. Other attractions include an orchard of fig and citrus trees adapted specifically for Houston’s climate, and rows upon rows of traditional beds filled with everything from cucumbers and corn to a half-dozen varieties of basil and 24 different types of tomatoes.
The Betty and Jack Friedman Holistic Garden — named in honor of the Friedmans’ generous donation through the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston — is being tended by Novak, fellow Texas gardening guru Sam Stamport and a diverse crew of volunteers: grad students, faculty and staff alike — even a few Rice spouses and their children. Some are recent transplants to Houston eager to learn how to garden in a new climate; others are lifelong gardeners …