Backyard Gardening and Beekeeping

The last days of summer are here. Fresh garden tomatoes are ending their run making way for the gourds and other fall dirt candies that crop up in the farmers’ markets. A friend had brought me some of those summer tomatoes from her sister’s garden earlier this summer and I wanted to see where these insanely tasty gems came from. I couldn’t imagine a garden the way my friend described it existing in a backyard in an urban Nashville neighborhood. I certainly didn’t believe that there were 60,000 bees living there either, so I went and observed it for myself.

Toney Baily, the next creator in my Creator Series, a massage therapist and Qigong practitioner who teaches local stretching classes, graciously allowed me to explore the organic garden, bee hives and property that she has created and maintains in the middle of a busy Nashville neighborhood; mostly off the grid, by the way. Nashville Electric Service pays her for the excess power created on her property by the solar panels installed on the roof. Her home is kept at a constant comfortable temperature both in summer and winter thanks to a geothermal system. Toney is a great example of living a more sustainable existence no matter the location.

Toney’s Tips For Beginner Gardeners

-Plan the size of your garden and what you want to plant.

-Determine what and where your water source will be. (Water barrels and how close are they to the garden.)

-Find the best sun spots for what you will be planting, keeping in mind some plants require lots of sun, while some don’t. 

-Make a plan for what you will do with the produce. Will you sell it, keep it and preseve it, give it away? My small garden produced tons of tomatoes. 

The bees were the most fascinating part of the day. I will admit that I was a bit nervous stepping into the hive area to snap some very quick photos. I asked Toney if she had ever been stung, because that should be anyone’s first question, really, when stepping into the home of 60,000 Italian (read feisty) bees. Her answer was surprising. Once. It was during a time when the queen had died and the hive was in transition. I learned that bees are incredibly social insects and that once, after seeing a fellow bee had died and fallen from to the ground, two workers moved him away from the hive. Apparently, in addition to being a good thing for our planet, backyard beekeeping is a fascinating lesson in behavior. Not only are they good for us, but as Toney said, we can be good for them:

“A benefit of backyard beekeeping for the bees is that we can give them a safe home so they can work. I’m thankful for the honey and the pollination of my plants.”

Interesting Facts About Bees and Backyard Beekeeping

-American bees have disappeared almost completely, for a variety of reasons, one being the use of pesticides.

-You can buy many types of bees to start your hives, including Italian and Russian bees. 

-Backyard beekeepers strengthen the bee gene pool by adding healthy local bees to the mix. 

-Eating local honey has been shown to relieve symptoms in allergy sufferers. 

-A honeybee population in your garden has a positive impact on not only your garden, but surrounding areas because of their nectar-gathering range. 

-Because of the diminishing bee population, even one hive can make a difference. 

Check out Toney’s stretching class offered at 9:30 pm on Tuesdays at the Tusculum Presbyterian Church on McMurray Dr.

You can book a massage with her (I’ve had one so trust me you want to) by emailing

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