Gardening for the soul

First Posted: 4/25/2014

Tucked away in the tiny town of Clarks Summit is long-time resident, Susan Vinskofski’s own secret garden. An avid gardener for 40 years, Vinskofski’s interest in gardening began early in life.

“I was very interested in gardening as a child, but when I was 16 I read a book about gardening and proceeded to dig up my parent’s backyard,” she said, “they were so supportive and didn’t bat an eyelash. … I’ve been gardening ever since. … it’s who I am is to garden.”

Vinskofski’s first garden was mainly vegetables, but now she maintains apple trees, grapevines, and strawberries, just to name a few. Once a resident of Scranton, Vinskofski described the process of pulling up her “roots” and relocating to Clarks Summit a challenging one.

“It’s hard to start all over, but it was around that time that a transformation in my garden occurred, that’s when I discovered a form of gardening called Sheet Composting, you didn’t even so much as pull out a blade of grass,” she said.

Sheet composting is a gardening technique that requires no digging and very little weeding.

“The things that keep people from gardens are digging and weeding, and this method just eliminates both of those,” Vinskofski said. “I love that this form of gardening is something I can physically do without breaking my back.”

After Vinskofski introduced sheet composting her garden, “My garden just exploded. It was a few years even later that I really began to get interested in the nutrients in food and this way of gardening was a way to get nutrient dense produce…organic soil just makes your vegetables taste better,” she said.

A firm believer in organic gardening, Vinskofski has never used pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers in her gardens. If there’s a problem, Vinskofski will seek out a natural method.

May will kick off Vinskoski’s busiest time of year as hundreds of seedlings in her basement await planting. Harvesting from stretches from July through September.

On average, she will have 20 different vegetables growing in the garden at one time. While everything has a season, Vinskofski continues her gardening year round.

“Brussel sprouts stay in the garden all winter long,” she said. “Christmas morning we would go out and pick fresh brussel sprouts.”

Along with all the fresh produce, another benefit Vinskofski reaps is getting an up-close view of the progressions of the seasons.

“Something about being out there is very calming, this is what I was meant to do, seeing the transformation is amazing … every year is so different,” she said. “There’s always a new vegetable or new method to try, like how I went from digging a garden to layering and building.

“When I’m in the garden, that’s when I feel like I’m most ‘me,’ it’s something I have to do, it gives me great joy,” she said. “It’s a real happy place for me.”

In addition to her garden, Vinskofski began a blog called Learning and Yearning.

“I hardly knew what a blog was when I started it, the only blogs I ever saw were philosophical. … This could be a journal of some of the things I do, I never dreamed it would go farther than my friends,” she said. “Starting it was a way for me to record things I do and share those things with my friends.”

What began as a hobby soon turned into a part-time job and now, Vinskofski said she has around 40-50 thousand visitors to her blog. Included in her blog are recipes, what foods might require special preparation, and her love for foraging wild foods.

From the blog sprouted an e-book titled, “The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil.”

“An absolutely gorgeous book, it’s packed with fantastic information,” Vinskofski said. “I don’t know how to say this without sounding proud, but there’s no e-books out there that look like this.”

Once she finds a publisher, Vinskofski has plans on publishing her book in hard copy.

Besides praise and support from friends and readers, Susan also receives it from her family. Her daughter, Jessica Vinskofski, 35, still marvels at the things her mother can do with some dirt and a few seeds and remembers the many years spent digging and weeding alongside her.

“As far as her garden, it’s amazing and I’m in awe of it,” she said. “She always adds more to it every year.

“She’s been doing it since I can even remember, that is my mom.”

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