Formerly a long-term resident of Hawaii, Jonathan Vrban recently moved to Las Vegas as part of a transition to working in real estate. Jonathan (Jon) Vrban is an avid traveler who enjoys creating exotic dishes in his own kitchen using homegrown fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Growing an herb garden is a simple and affordable way to inject fresh flavor into your cooking. Adding an interesting herb can transform a boring chicken dish into something spectacular, and side dishes such as potatoes can come alive with the creative addition of herbs. Planting an herb garden offers the opportunity to expand beyond what is available in the supermarket. For example, you might plant any one of 30 varieties of basil, among them the lovely purple opal basil or the delicate globe basil.
An herb garden also requires relatively little space. It can be planted on an apartment balcony in pots, or even on a kitchen windowsill. In addition to the culinary benefits, the actual practice of gardening or tending to herbs has health advantages. Gardening is proven to relieve stress, while the smells associated with a fragrant herb garden can be calming and relaxing.
Dr. Jonathan Vrban has a strong interest in gardening and botany, and likes to spend time in the garden when not working in the health care field. Jon Vrban enjoys being outside in his gardens. One popular type of home garden for gardeners like Jonathan Vrban is the vegetable garden, which can put healthful, delicious food on the table.
New gardeners often make some small mistakes that accumulate over the growing season. These tips will make sure your garden isn't beset by pests or poor growth.
Quality soil and fertilizer is important. Soil full of microbes and earthworms will pay off at harvest time, and organic fertilizers are better at attracting these living things to your garden than chemical varieties. A handful or two of compost will help on this front as well. Make sure it has aged properly, and be sure to apply it a few weeks in advance, as compost needs time to truly become a part of the soil.
Never over-water plants. Read the instructions on the seed package to determine how much moisture is needed for each vegetable type, and how often it should be watered, and trust that just a little more than recommended is not going to help. And remember, an under-watered garden is much easier to salvage than one that has been over-watered.
Finally, when your vegetables start to ripen, keep an eye out for overripe or otherwise unhealthy specimens. These often attract pests, so get rid of them quickly so that vegetables that are still healthy will remain so.
Dr. Jonathan Vrban is a medical practitionioner who has spent a lifetime helping his patients. Away from his professional activities, Jon Vrban engages in various outdoor activities, including gardening.
Research has shown that the benefits of gardening far exceed improving the aesthetic value of a person’s home or providing fresh fruits and vegetables. Individuals who regularly garden have been documented to experience lower levels of stress and to enjoy heightened mental clarity.
Additional studies have indicated that gardening might reduce the chances of serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and colon cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further note that engaging in moderately intense outdoor activities, including gardening, for at least 150 minutes per week can mitigate the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression, and premature death.
Other health benefits related to gardening have been far more specific. For example, the Multiple Benefits of Community Gardens study found a 10 percent increase in local green space to have health benefits on par with reducing a person’s age by five years. Gardening also has tangential benefits. For example, any activity that exposes a person to fresh air can lower the likelihood of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Exercise that stimulates the legs and arms, meanwhile, can help prevent coronary disease.
Dr. Jonathan Vrban, a Family Medicine practitioner, worked his whole career helping his patients and educating new medical residents. In his free time, Jonathan Vrban enjoys maintaining his yard as an amateur gardener.
Repotting plants is a skill all gardeners must learn at some point. It can be especially useful to repot plants in the late winter or early spring, when plants prepare themselves for springtime growth spurts. However, gardeners should not repot plants simply for the fun of it. Rather, they should remain vigilant for one or more signs that a plant is ready for a new, larger home.
Any plant that has ceased growing may be a prime candidate for repotting. Related physical indicators include a generally pale color and weak, straggly petals and leaves. Another visible sign is the appearance of a plant’s roots. If the roots have grown thick and tangled in a tight circle at the bottom of a pot, the plant should be repotted to allow the roots to expand. Similarly, if roots have begun to sprout from the bottom soil, potentially exceeding the parameters of the pot, gardeners should search for a larger pot.
In the event that a gardener waters his or her plants only to discover that the water has run to the bottom of the pot and drained without being absorbed by the plant, repotting is advisable. Any plant kept in a pot without drainage holes at the bottom should be repotted immediately. Finally, if a plant has grown top heavy and consistently falls to the side, a new, roomier pot should be secured for it.
After living and working in San Francisco, Dr. Jonathan Vrban looks forward to the next chapter in his life. Outside of work, Dr. Jon Vrban spends time managing his tropical herb gardens and compiling his recipes into a cookbook. He studies classic recipes before he writes his own recipes. He is a home chef and a self-professed perfectionist. Jon will retest a recipe countless times, writing all of his changes to the recipes before giving it his stamp of approval.
First-time gardeners interested in introducing a few herbs to their garden have a number of options to choose from. Basil is one of the simplest to grow and comes in dozens of styles, making it an easy pick for amateur gardeners. Basil benefits from being planted in full sun, and once grown can be used in foods as diverse as pesto and cinnamon. Chives are just as easy to handle as basil, if not more, as they can thrive in small container gardens. Sunny, well-drained soil will result in chives that can provide dishes with a light onion flavor. Lastly, gardeners seeking the tangy flavor of dill should begin planting straight away. Dill, like many easy-to-grow herbs, benefits from full sunlight. Should the gardener allow a few seeds to ripen on the plant, dill will self-seed for the following season.
Jonathan Vrban, D.N.P., began his career in health care in 1985, when he completed training in radiological technology in Springfield, Missouri. In the years following, he earned several nursing degrees, including a Doctor of Nursing Practice, which he received in 2008 from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. When he is not attending to his professional obligations, Jonathan Vrban enjoys numerous activities, including travel, botany, gardening, and cooking.
Many cookbooks emphasize the advantages of using fresh spices and herbs in recipes, and many cooks honor that advice by maintaining gardens of the herbs they use most often. Many herbs can be grown quite easily in a home garden, containers on a patio or deck, or even in pots indoors, and it’s not unusual to see an herb garden of a dozen or so varieties. Oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage are popular in many Mediterranean dishes and can be planted together in a single large container so the cook can easily snip sprigs of all four. These four herbs will sprawl in their container and produce a visually appealing presentation, and frequent snipping of sprigs will ensure their lively growth.
Another favorite herb is basil, which pairs well with tomato-based dishes and salads. The leaves can be used whole, especially when cooking tomato sauces, but some cooks recommend chopping larger leaves. Chives, a member of the onion family, are generally chopped coarsely and used as garnishes on hot foods and soups and in salads; the purple flowertops are also edible. Other popular herbs that can easily be grown in a home garden are dill, tarragon, and cilantro.
Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jonathan Vrban maintains involvement in a vast array of professional and personal projects, honing his talents as a writer, chef, and gardener.