Mother’s Nature: Gardening & Wisdom With Lisa King
For Lisa King, spring is a great time to celebrate life. This year, after such a bitter winter, that’s especially true. Lisa shares her thoughts on gardening, family and getting outdoors.
Lisa King stands in the middle of her garden, wielding a yellow, child-sized rake. Spring is finally here, and she’s surrounded by leaves and broken stalks, but what Lisa King sees is a garden being born anew. She kneels to touch a green shoot just poking out of the soil.
“It’s amazing, the life that’s coming up,” Lisa said. “For me, every spring is a time of great celebration of life. This year, after our bitter winter, that’s particularly true.”
Later this spring, a special celebration will take place in Lisa’s garden. Her daughter Elizabeth will be married right here in less than two months. There is a lot of work to do, but Lisa is confident.
“This garden will be completely transformed in six weeks for Eliza- beth’s wedding,” she said. “I keep telling her, ‘How can something so ugly become beautiful in just a few weeks?’ But it will be. Things grow so fast.”
Beautiful flowers aren’t the only things growing fast these days. Weeds grow quickly, too. Lisa’s advice to gardeners is to get out now and get at them. Not only does it feel good to be in the sun after a winter cooped up inside, but the weed control you do now will impact your garden all year long.
“Right now is a great time to weed your garden”, Lisa said. “After the freeze and thaw, everything lifts. It’s the easiest time to weed, and that’s what I’ve been doing. Some weeds are very invasive. They overwinter well, and they’re already blooming by the middle of April. I have one invasive groundcover that would take over my whole garden if I let it. I’m not sure what the scientists call it, but I call it Satan. It’s hard to get rid of. You really have to work diligently, especially in the springtime, to get it out of your garden, or it will take over the whole darn thing.”
Lisa also points out that early spring is a great time to separate your perennials: “Perennials always do better if you separate them in spring,” Lisa said. “People don’t realize that. Otherwise, they will outgrow themselves. Once they come up out of the ground and start to show some life, you can dig them up, divide them, and move some to another part of the garden or give some to a friend. The ground is still moist, the days are not too hot, and when you move them, they will really do well.”
Another early spring gardening task is starting flower seeds for annuals.
“Oh, it’s not too early to start seeds,” Lisa said. “You can direct seed your bachelor buttons, dianthus, and asters. One thing people don’t realize is that you can plant your sunflowers very early in the spring. Trust me, those seeds won’t come up out of the ground until the time is right. You know how I learned that? From the birds. They eat those seeds and drop them every spring, and wouldn’t you know, I watch those sunflowers come up year after year.”
Remember that child-size rake Lisa is wielding? She’s using it to clear out her beds.
She’s found the little rake surprisingly useful, and it’s become a favorite of hers. “I have a large weeding rake, but the rake I really favor the most is the kids’ rake,” Lisa said. “I bought four for my grandkids, and those are the ones I’ve been using all spring. The small size of the rake gives me a lot of control, and I can get into small spaces without pulling too much out. Also, the kids see me using the rakes and it looks like fun, so they want to join me. The other day, Lily (4) started teaching William (2) how to mulch.”
Lisa’s grandson William is with her here in the garden today, exploring the beds and searching for his grand- mother’s ducks. Feeding the ducks is one of William’s favorite hobbies right now, and Lisa takes his hand and heads to the pond. Today, the two ducks she brought home late last fall dove into the water of the pond for the very first time. The ducks are drying out now in a patch of sun and are eager to eat the bread William is offering. Meanwhile, Lisa talks about her philosophy of childrearing.
“After a long winter, kids have had enough of the inside air with the heat on and the windows up. They need to go outside!” Lisa said. “Our nation is a little bit lazy about taking the time to raise children to do things both inside and outside the house. Get outside and get into the garden with your kids! You can put mulch down and let your kids rake it into place. Of course it’s not going to be perfect, but you can always go over it again. They say to stop and smell the roses. Stop and show your children the new green buds poking out of the garden. Show them how to care for them. That way, someday, they will stop and smell the roses, too.”
The ducks are headed back to the pond, and Lisa and William head that way with them so that they can inspect the waterfall that Joe made for Lisa last winter. She just turned it on today. She shakes her head.
“Isn’t that beautiful? I never thought I’d have a waterfall,” Lisa said. “You know, waterfalls don’t make money. I guess the boys just got softhearted.”
If you look carefully, in the corner of the pond is a frog the color of mud and stone. Lisa says that in the summer he’ll be a brilliant green and blue.
“Two nights ago, the bullfrogs croaked their mating call,” she said. “In my book, as soon as they start croaking, winter is finally over. They don’t call for their mates until the warm weather is here to stay.”
*A version of this post originally appeared in Freedom Farms Magazine