‘There is nothing more crucial to a home garden than bees’
We’re chatting with our Flow community from all over the globe about what makes them (and their bees) tick!
Below, we speak with Paul Jones from Brecksville, Ohio, USA. Paul’s a passionate lifelong gardener who educates families in the art of the green thumb via his project thegardeningdad.com. His focus is on sharing the joy of growing home produce and making gardening feel more accessible (and fun!) for everyday families.
You're a passionate gardener and educator – what inspired you to pursue this path?
I've spent my entire life around gardening. Helping my grandfather and father in our family gardens served as my inspiration and motivation to continue our family tradition when my wife and I purchased our home about 10 years ago. I have fond memories of gardening from an early age and have had priceless moments being able to continue those with my children.
In addition, I have always loved teaching and coaching those around me. I often heard my friends and neighbors tell me how they would love to eat fresh fruits and vegetables from their garden but had no idea where to start. Thegardeningdad.com project combines my expertise in gardening with my love of helping those around me.
How important are bees to a home garden? Have you always kept bees alongside your gardening activities?
There is nothing more crucial to a home garden than bees. I have found that there are a lot of people scared of bees due to a lack of knowledge, and they try to keep them away even though they don't realize how gentle and beneficial these creatures are. Once they learn more about them and see them on me and around the hive they have a much different perspective of what bees mean to us and gardening.
Growing up we never kept bees... [but] once I began keeping a pollinator garden, beehouse, and beehive I noticed not only a dramatic difference in the amount and quality of crops I was able to harvest but also the number of bees that would frequent our yard. It is always amazing watching them go from flower to flower and truly have an understanding of how important they are to our ecosystem.
What do you wish you'd known before you started growing your own food – any tips for our readers?
Before I started growing my own food I wish I knew just how easy it was. The thought of prepping, planting, caring, harvesting, etc. can seem overwhelming to someone just starting, but gardening is very easy and fun!
My biggest tip is to just try gardening. What's the worst that can happen? If you are tight on space, start with gardening containers. If you live in the suburbs then plan what your garden should look like now and in the future.
And if you want to give yourself the best chance for success then get a beehive! It won't add much more time, money, or energy to your gardening, but will provide more benefits, quicker.
You focus on sharing knowledge to help families get into the garden. How do you and your family like to garden (and beekeep!) together?
Gardening and beekeeping have quickly become one of my family's favorite hobbies. In late winter, my 5-year-old daughter plants all the seeds and waters them every day. In the summer my son loves pulling weeds and eating fresh green beans. And my Australian Shepherd, Sequoia loves herding our chickens. My wife and I love watching the bees fly from flower to flower and we are always excited to see the honey forming in the hive.
What's been the biggest benefit (wellbeing, connection, financial, etc) from gardening for you and your family?
The biggest benefit that gardening has provided to me and my family is the ability to eat healthy, fresh produce while having fun and taking pride in knowing we grew it ourselves. It is something I have been able to enjoy with my father and grandfather and now get to experience with my family. Best of all is to see the pure joy my children get being outside and enjoying mother nature.
Just as important, gardening has allowed us to eat fresh produce daily at an unbelievably reasonable amount of money (pennies on the dollar) while inflation continues to fuel our community's grocery bills.
Tell us about your Flow Hive setup – which hive model do you have? How has your experience been so far?
I currently own the Flow Hive Classic. Setting up gardening tools and supplies seems to get harder and harder due to a lack of instruction manuals. Not the Flow Hive. It was incrediblyeasy to assemble… the wood was of fantastic quality, and the hive is even better than expected.
We've had the hive for 4 months and it has been amazing to watch our bees go in and out and begin filling up the hive with honey… it’s not only going to continue to make beekeeping safe, but easier and more fun.
We speak with the Meier family of Mulberry Lane Farm in California, about their program “Upside of Downs”. Ron, Karen, Tom and Steve, along with a number of volunteers, run “The Upside of Downs” program, providing people with a healthier lifestyle and a more inclusive perspective through farming, seed-saving, beekeeping and sharing experiences. We also hear from Jon, a passionate educator and their mentor beekeeper, who has been helping along the way and upskilling Ron.
We speak with Lori Harris of Salt Creek Butterfly Farm in Western Springs, Illinois, about her work as a butterfly conservationist, educator and Flow Hive beekeeper. Lori's passionate about protecting pollinators and inspiring curiosity about nature in children and adults.
We chat to lavender farmer and Flow Hive beekeeper Kirby Bivans from the Old School Farmstead in Wisconsin, about what led the Bivans family to embark on this colorful endeavour and how bees have become a vital part of their business.