Gardener goes old school with organic gardening in Buffalo

front garden on Lasalle Avenue in Buffalo NY

“We’re from New York City,” said Shawn King. “It’s all concrete there. When we got here and saw all this land, we just started planting.”

She and her husband, Lew-Jean, have lived for 27 years at 166 Lasalle Ave., Buffalo. I visited them on July 13 during the Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk.

“We’ve always had a garden,” Shawn said. “The love of gardening was instilled in me by my grandmother.”

hydrangeas in garden in Buffalo NY

In the front yard, a neat arrangement of flowers accents a Japanese cherry tree, decorative pine, burning bush and several rose bushes.

As you stroll down the driveway, the gardening style gets more eclectic. On one side of the driveway, Lew-Jean, who has taken a recent interest in gardening, has plants in various pots and containers. Lew-Jean likes sunflowers, too, which are beginning to bloom. On the other side of the driveway, Shawn has her plants in a garden bed.

“I love hydrangeas,” Shawn said, and she has a lovely group along the driveway, which you can see above. A new one this year is the pink one at the far right called ‘Invincible Spirit’, which helps raise money for breast cancer.

“I had a little scare this year, but it turned out to be benign, so that’s a special little plant for me,” she said.

garbage cans with holes used as composter in Buffalo NY

Shawn tries to garden organically, using manure and compost.

“I try not to make a lot of garbage for the planet,” she said. “I go old school.”

She uses garbage cans for composting and she’s trying an experiment. Since plant material needs air to break down, she drilled holes in a plastic garbage can. which you can see at left, to see if that would speed up the decomposition process.

Though the Kings have a smallish city lot, Shawn packs a lot of food plants in among the flowers. There are four apple trees, a peach tree, a currant bush and a mulberry bush. There’s also a fig tree in a pot that goes inside during the winter.

She grows purple tomatillos, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, collard greens, kale, beets, peppers, tomatoes and three kinds of cucumbers.

malabar spinach and beans on trellis in Buffalo NY garden

Below is Malabar spinach, which is a vining plant with magenta stems. Shawn gave me a taste– It’s delicious and tastes just like the common spinach, but has a much thicker leaf. Growing next to it on the right is pole beans.

wooden container garden with strawberries in Buffalo NY

Many of the plants grow in boxes that Shawn made herself, including the one below that has strawberry plants that are fruiting now.

Herbs that Shawn grows include sage, parsley and basil.

Tip: If you grow mint and it gets out of control, pull out the extra plants and throw them on your lawn. When you run over them with the lawn mower, Shawn says, it smells so good!

Shawn and Lew-Jean King and friends on patio in Buffalo NY

In addition to serving as a place to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers, the King backyard is a place for entertaining friends and family. The deck with its umbrella table is a great gathering spot. Seated on the steps are Lew-Jean and Shawn with Amir Wallace, 5. In the back row from left are Douglas Frazier, Janet Frazier holding Ka-mari Frazier, 5, and Tiffany Moore.

The Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk, named for the first chancellor of the University at Buffalo, covers the area of Buffalo and Amherst around the UB South Campus. More than 70 gardens were included on the walk.

In conjunction with the walk, Extravaganza 2, a community event with refreshments, was held in the community garden at 73 Tyler St., Buffalo. Nickel City Indie Market, where local artisans sold their wares, was held across the street.


See articles on the Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk from previous years:

Broken pipe prompts Buffalo gardeners to create grassless yard

Vintage patio furniture is a highlight of Eggertsville garden

Medians get makeover on Minnesota Ave. in Buffalo’s University Heights

Grassless yards make Eggertsville property a mow-free zone

Eggertsville gardener still dealing with aftereffects of October Storm


There are six garden walks coming up this weekend. Get all the details on our Upcoming Events page.

Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21

Lancaster Garden Walk

10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

You can see the listing of gardens here. Event programs are also available in the Lancaster/Depew Bee and you can pick up programs starting July 18 at Two Chicks and a Rooster, 732 Aurora Street, Town of Lancaster, and at Petals to Please, corner of Central Avenue and Pleasant, in the village, Village of Lancaster.

Saturday & Sunday, July 20 & July 21

Ken-Ton Garden Tour

This self-guided tour will take place on Saturday & Sunday, July 20-21, from 10am-4pm. The night tour, “Saturday Night Lights,” will be held on Saturday, July 20, from 8:30-10:30 p.m. A map and garden descriptions will be available online at

Saturday, July 20

Town of Amherst Garden Walk

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pick up maps at the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main Street, Amherst NY 14221, and Menne Nursery, 3100 Niagara Falls Boulevard, Amherst, NY. Maps are available from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, July 20

Williamsville Garden Tour

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pick up maps at Williamsville Village Hall, 5565 Main Street, Williamsville, NY 14221.

Saturday, July 20

West Seneca Garden Walk

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pick up maps at the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center, corner of Union Road & Clinton Street, West Seneca.

Sunday, July 21

South Buffalo Alive

9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The donation is $2 and the tour is self-guided. Pick up maps at Tim Russert’s Children’s Garden, 2002 South Park Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14220, next to Dudley Library.

Photos by Connie Oswald Stofko

2 Comments on “Gardener goes old school with organic gardening in Buffalo

  1. Lew and Shawn, I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. You’re such fun people and you have lots of good tips to share, too!

  2. Hi Connie,
    Thanks for the very nice article. We enjoyed having you over an appreciate your support.

    Lew and Shawn

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