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Jackie Clay

We’ve got all our tomatoes in the main garden, caged and mulched

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

It’s a big job, getting all our tomatoes ready to grow; first we pull the WallO’ Waters off them, then weed each and mulch heavily. Then each gets a steel T-post and heavy duty wire cage. Because we have more than 100 tomatoes in the main garden, that gets to be a BIG job, taking several days. But finally it’s all done and Will is continuing on to mulch the rest of the garden. After that, there’s no more weeding all summer. That’s a huge blessing, for sure!

We have planted the heirloom Native corn, Bear Island Chippewa, in the main garden and Will’s Seneca Sunrise up in the berry patch as well as in the central garden. All are doing very well and will be “knee high by the Fourth of July” for sure.

Talking to a lot of people at different events, I keep hearing about how we’ll starve because of the decline in honeybees. Yes, I’m concerned about just why we’re losing them. (Chemicals? GMO crops? Climate change? Disease? Or a combination?) But I sure don’t worry about starving because of this possible loss. After all, honeybees are not native critters and Indians grew crops well before Europeans with honeybees entered North America. First off, crops such as corn are wind-pollinated, not insect-pollinated. Most importantly, there are hundreds of other insect pollinators besides honeybees. A great example was put before me this morning on my trip to the garden.

I have a big rugosa rose on the edge of our plum/cherry orchard, between the house and garden. The flowers are just opening and in the center of each one was a mass of activity. Mason bees, wasps and small flies clustered in the center of each bloom, busily gathering pollen. Will and I watched one mason bee dancing about for 15 minutes, gathering until its leg sacks were bulging full of pollen. Then he flew to a nearby flower and began again.

And these critters don’t just pollinate roses; we’ve seen them in our fruit trees, squash, pumpkins, and other vegetable crops. So let’s try to save the honeybees but don’t do it out of fear of starvation but for the love of these enterprising critters. — Jackie

8 Responses to “We’ve got all our tomatoes in the main garden, caged and mulched”

  1. Julia Says:

    We just got honey bees this spring so I don’t know if we will get honey but most of the pollination in my yard has definitely been mason bees & wasps over the years.

  2. L. Bryant Says:

    Jackie, I really enjoy your column. I think that what you missed in the concern over the loss of honey bees is that they are an indicator species. Honeybees have been around for thousands of years and the last 20 years has seen losses of 50-70%. I realize that they are not native to the US however, they are more easily monitored over our native pollinators. If they have those declines then the concerns for the native pollinators of the same family is if they have had similar losses.
    In addition, honeybee losses in parts of the world where they are native have seen losses in the same percentages. The loss of any species changes our world forever in a negative way.
    As a biologist and a honeybee keeper I think that “concern” equals understanding and education. When a populace becomes educated on these effects on the environment then positive changes can occur!!

  3. Zelda Says:

    Mason bees are more valuable than honeybees as pollinators because they can fly in lower temperatures, resulting in more hours of pollination work. I have both as well as bumblebees and some smaller critters and wasps doing my pollination. My flowers look like Jackie’s photo. Everyone welcome.

  4. Anita Says:

    I too have seen many other pollinators in my garden along side the honey bees. Wasps are very prevalent here in western CO. We also have bumble bees, cutter bees and hummingbird moths.

  5. Jackie Says:

    L. Bryant,

    Good point.

  6. deb motylinski Says:

    I think Will is an amazing man. With you and him there is a synergy. One plus one equals three. You are a great team and I so much admire your attitude and positive thinking. It seems like Will pitches in wherever there is a need. Is there a task that one or the other does not do or tries to avoid? Do you make lists or set goals, team meetings? Can you tell us, Jackie, about the behind the scenes goings on?
    Thanks, deb

  7. Anna Twitto Says:

    An interesting discussion about honeybees, Jackie. We have so many of them here that I haven’t been very concerned about the decline in their population, but then, I think we have some beekeepers nearby, so possibly we just have more bees than average in our immediate area. I wonder if anyone has tried to gauge how other species of the same family are doing in recent years, and whether their population is declining as well.

  8. Jackie Says:


    Will hates painting so avoids that. But he won’t let me up on a ladder any more so when necessary, he paints the high parts and I’ll do the rest. Heck, we never make written lists, set goals or have team meetings. We’re too busy…and too unorganized. I guess what we do is make mental lists of priorities and try to work toward getting things on that “list” done as they are most necessary.
    What we have learned is that because both of us have bad backs, etc. we can only work at certain tasks so long. I take my “break” by mowing lawn. Then I can sit down and yet get something productive done. (We not only have the front yard but large backyard, two orchards and some assorted patches of grass where the big equipment is parked.)

    Both of us take frequent breaks to get a glass of cold water and sit in the shade to avoid getting over-tired and discouraged. It’s a few minutes well spent and we usually do it together and talk about what each of us is doing. It makes the day more interesting as we usually work on different tasks, suiting our ability. For instance, I’m no mechanic or welder but I organize the garden well.

    Sure, there are discouraging days and nights. Like last night when it began to hail. But then there’s morning when the sun came out and we found no hail damage to our garden.

    We’ve learned to hang in there and not bite yourself because this or that is not finished or even started yet. Hopefully, by the grace of God, there’ll be tomorrow!


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