11 Quick Tips for Starting a Bountiful Garden

gardening tools on wooden bench in yard

We’re so excited to host this article written by Carrie Spencer of Thespencersadventures.net – her family has worked towards a self-sufficient homestead and we’re lucky to have her share the insights they’ve gained from their family adventures on the mini-farm!

So, you’re ready to start a garden, but you’re not exactly sure of what all is involved. While keeping a few plants in your home can be simple enough, planting a full garden is another story. Below, Prime Bees Apiary in partnership with The Spencer Adventures has provided 12 practical tips and resources for anyone who is looking to lay the groundwork for a productive garden:

Laying It Out

The first step of planting a garden is determining the best layout for the crops you want to grow. 

  • Choose a site for your garden that provides exposure to sunlight and access to water.
  • Hire a surveyor to ensure your garden isn’t crossing into your neighbor’s property. 
  • Determine what crops you want to grow (e.g., fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc.).

Getting the Right Tools

As with any project, having the right tools will prove invaluable in maintaining a bountiful garden. Here are a few types of tools to invest in:

  • Garden hoes are used to root out weeds, prepare beds, and break up soil. 
  • Rakes will help you keep unwanted leaves, dirt, and mulch out of your garden. 
  • You need a good shovel for digging holes and creating new planter beds.  

Irrigation Methods

Needless to say, your plants will need water to stay healthy and thriving. There are several different irrigation methods to consider for your garden:

  • Using a sprinkler system is effective for large gardens; they use less water than furrow irrigation but lose a significant amount of water from evaporation. 
  • Furrow irrigation is very effective for gardens that contain rows of raised beds; this type of system must be installed when you plant the garden. 
  • One of the easiest irrigation methods is to use a soaker hose; though they are not known for distributing water evenly on hillsides, soaker hoses lose very little water from evaporation. 

Caring for the Soil 

Finally, it’s essential to figure out ways that you can maintain the health of your soil. Here are some ideas:

  • Test the soil to determine what nutrients are missing. 
  • Fill in your soil’s nutrient gaps by spreading a fertilizer. 

As you can see, there’s a lot to starting a garden! But it can also be one of life’s most rewarding projects. Consider the tips and resources above as you plan out your garden, and keep researching other steps and techniques that could help you develop and maintain the healthiest garden possible. 

Gearing Up For a New Year

Setting goals in beekeeping isn’t always as straight forward as setting goals for yourself in other aspects of your life. There are a lot of variables you just can’t control. However, as we gear up for 2020, we hope to grow our apiary, continue to work closely with farmers to pollinate plants and add additional pollination stops for our bees, and further our education.

We have been so lucky to have made the connections we’ve made with amazing beekeepers, scientists, and farmers.

The future of beekeeping and farming is to work more closely together in order to achieve the greatest common good. We’ve seen such good work done on this by organizations such as Project Apis M. and with individuals coming together to talk through issues and reach solutions. There’s a great deal of trust when we send our bees to a farmer’s property. They need the bees and the bees need the nutrition from these plants. While there’s so much room for improvement, we’ve seen farmer’s being more thoughtful of bees than ever before. From thoughtfully avoiding harmful chemicals to using chemicals at appropriate times (when the bees are not actively pollinating), farmer’s are making the interest of bees a priority.

I’m hopeful and anxious to see where this synergistic movement takes us. From regenerative agriculture to genetic resistance in honey bees, I look forward to a future filled with less synthetic chemicals and even more thoughtfulness by farmers, beekeepers, and consumers.

I guess we’ll see how it all shakes out, eventually!

TBA Update – December

Wow. I am truly blown away by the support and feedback
I’ve received in the wake of the amazing 2019 Convention. I feel
honored to be TBA President and am grateful for the supportive
executive committee I have around me. I have huge shoes to fill
in place of Blake Shook and Chris Moore who have been kind
and humble mentors to me in business and leadership. We have
an amazing team assembled that is ready to get to work!
We had record attendance at our Convention of around 400
people and raised $13,245 for the Texas Honey Bee Education
Association to use towards youth education programs. I know
THBEA has big plans for the future and these funds will help
them to take on larger projects. I saw many new vendors as well
as some of our long-time supporters and I really enjoyed learning
from our out-of-state experts as well as our Texas beekeepers.
Watching the growth of the events, the Honey Show, and the
membership over the past few years has been inspiring and we
owe it to the hardworking volunteers that have been tirelessly
devoted to improving all aspects of TBA. In fact, those teams
already have rigorous notes on how to make the next event
even better so be sure to watch for upcoming Summer Clinic

Looking back on the event, I was reflecting on some of my
favorite moments and they all had something in common. The
moments when beekeepers were laughing and sharing ideas,
experiences, and stories with one another. At one moment
on Saturday, there was even a room full of natural beekeepers
discussing the future of beekeeping with commercial beekeepers
and it gave me so much hope for our industry to see everybody
working towards a common goal of healthy bees and a
sustainable beekeeping industry. I’m hopeful and encouraged that
bringing people of different ideologies together is a great way to
accomplish big things for bees and beekeeping in the future.

On a personal note, As the beekeeping season comes to an
end it’s also a great time to take note of lessons learned and make
plans for the future. We’re still growing as a business and this
year we took more baby steps towards building our commercial
operation. The plans for the immediate future are to continue to
keep our bees growing in their boxes. With almond pollination
plans coming up, we came out of watermelons a little lighter
than we wanted so we have been getting the bees back on track.

As Blake Shook, TBA Past President, mentioned at the TBA
Conference in his industry update, consumers’ for honey bee
health is at an all-time high. This is a great thing and is apparent
in the attendance of sold-out theaters showing “The Pollinators”
movie as well as in everyday interactions with our customers.
This is a great opportunity for us to educate people about the
importance of honey bees to food production, how we care for
honey bees, how we advocate for all pollinators by promoting
forage and limited pesticide use and how we safely harvest honey
without harming the colony. These are talking points that we
can continue to use to better educate the people we interact with
every day while promoting the beekeeping industry.

Onward to 2020! We have a great executive committee filled
with passionate beekeepers who want the best for TBA, the
membership, bees, beekeepers, and the entire industry. There is
so much talent on the board and big ideas and plans to bring
even more value to all of you. I plan to attend the American
Beekeeping Federation Conference to bring back ideas for future
TBA conferences, information on the most current research
and market conditions and issues surrounding the beekeeping
industry. I look forward to sharing what I learn. Your board has
already shared countless emails and phone calls as we make plans
for the next year so be on the lookout for more updates!

Real Texas Honey

We decided to participate in the Texas Beekeepers Association, Real Texas Honey program in order to continue to promote locally sourced, raw and natural honey. This initiative is focused on verifying real beekeepers who make real honey, here, in Texas.

As participants, we had to apply and be accepted. They checked references and then we are given Real Texas Honey silver seals to place on our bottles of honey. The seals are beautiful, but the products it represents are so important. Selling honey in grocery stores often requires a blend of honey for many reasons – cost, logistics, consistency of flavor.

Real, raw, and unheated honey takes energy, time, and resources from the beekeeper – it’s seasonal, changing in flavor with the blooms, lightly filtered to maintain the beneficial pollen, and unheated to maintain the beneficial enzymes.

As more and more studies reveal adulterated honey, we are so excited to be a part of the program and help promote Real Texas Honey throughout the state of Texas.


L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness – Bee The Change

We had an opportunity to speak at the MSC on the Texas A&M campus to talk about honey bees and how they influence the world. This included an overview of trade, bees around the world, pollination, and why bees are so important.

Honey bees have been a part of civilization for 10,000 years – started with collecting honey from wild hives to beginning to keep bees for honey and wax collection. Beekeeping has grown as an industry in today’s culture by providing the key service of pollination to farmers. This act of pollinating requires moving hives into monocultural areas that bees do not otherwise frequent. Since bees need food supplies throughout the year – monoculture is not an ideal environment for them to thrive naturally. Beekeepers bring bees into the crop areas when food is available (during the bloom) and then take them back to areas where they can continue to forage throughout the year. This act of moving bees in and out of crop land is a way beekeepers can chase the bloom in a time when forage is dwindling.

Not only are bees necessary for promoting higher crop yields, but they are fascinating creatures that have encouraged people to continue to study and protect them throughout history. Honey bees are a highly monitored species and scientists and entomologists study the effects of pesticides, loss of habitat, and quality of genetic diversity for this species. Their ability to create an efficient home and their social behaviors have made them a source for inspiration as well. We like to believe this is part of why bees get so much attention today – they deserve it! They’re fascinating little creatures.

We talked about how bees are kept throughout the world and why beekeeping is such a well respected and necessary practice. We talked about the challenges bees face in today’s climate and what we can all do to help.

The students put on a great event with t-shirts, Texas friendly seed packets, informational statistics about honey bees, and friendly students who genuinely cared about getting the message across. We were so impressed and excited to be there.

Our discussions with the students at Texas A&M were followed up by thoughtful questions and a great reception for a bee themed exhibit in the Memorial Student Center. We felt lucky to be a part of such a well attended and great event – any opportunity to teach about bees is a pleasure.