Organic Gardening: Beautiful Easy Herbs with Laurence Sombke

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Event Date: 06/08/2000.

Love fresh herbs but just can't seem to grow them at home? Join Laurence Sombke, author of Beautiful Easy Herbs, for an in-depth discussion on making your backyard or windowsill into a chef's dream.

The opinions expressed by Mr. Sombke are his and his alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Greetings all and welcome to WebMD Live! Our guest this afternoon is Laurence Sombke. Sombke is a garden expert who appears on television, radio, and at gardening events nationwide. Sombke also is a garden writer for the New York Daily News. His latest book is entitled Beautiful Easy Herbs: How to Get the Most from Herbs--in Your Garden and in Your Home. Can one find your columns on the web?

Sombke: I have my own web site, www.beautifuleasygardens.com.  I hope in the near future the newspaper will start posting them at nydailynews.com. Herbs are the easiest garden plants to grow. And in my opinion, they are also the most useful, flavorful and healthy.

Moderator: Great! I would like to ask the first question. Do herbs need preparation and care that differs from vegetables?

Sombke: No, not really. herbs are so easy. All they need is plenty of sunshine, at least six hours per day. They are not attacked by bugs and they don't get diseases. Even the most novice gardener can grow herbs like a pro.

Moderator: Here is a question from a WebMD member.

mold28_webmd: Is it best to grow herbs from starters or from seeds?

Sombke: For annual herbs like dill, basil and arugula, seeds are quite easy to grow and quite cheap, but seedlings from the garden center are faster and not very expensive.

tenuli_webmd: Are there sources for heirloom herb seeds? I'd like a wider variety of basil than is carried locally. Can you recommend any good sources for ordering organic savory and lovage plants and/or seeds?

Sombke: Probably the best organic seed catalogues are www.seedsofchange.com and www.cooksgarden.com. 

Moderator: Can herbs and vegetables occupy the same garden space?

Sombke: Absolutely. That is how I like to grow them anyway. Some people believe that growing them together actually creates a symbiotic relationship that defends the vegetables from insects. Give it a try.

tenuli_webmd: If you were going to have just one window box of herbs, what would you have (what combination)?

Sombke: I would fill a window box with rosemary, thyme, chives, parsley, and nasturtium because I like to cook with them, because they are all compact plants except nasturtium which I would grow because the leaves are edible (they taste like watercress) and because they bring a bright fun color to the pot.

tenuli_webmd: The basil plants I've grown the past few years have been plagued by something that is making the leaves curl under. Do you know what it might be and how to treat it organically?

Sombke: I have heard about this problem with basil. I don't have this problem and I think it is because I use organic methods. I make sure there is plenty of natural organic compost in the soil, I don't use any chemical pesticides, the plants are in full sun, I don't plant them until the weather is fully warm. If you follow all of these tips, I think you will avoid this basil problem, too.

she-rah_webmd: Regarding basil plants, where is the best spot on the plant to pick off the leaves when I need them for cooking?

Sombke: I tend to pick them off from the top of each branch, pinching them back, so that the plant gets bushier than ever.

mold28_webmd: Are there perennial herbs?

Sombke: Yes. Thyme, winter savory, sage, mint, oregano, tarragon, chives, wild strawberry, sorrel, lemon balm, lovage and lavender are all perennials.

she-rah_webmd: How do I get seeds and starts that haven't been genetically modified. Are they labeled? I sure don't want to be eating roundup!

Sombke: As far as I know at this time, herbs are not genetically modified. Corn and soybeans and other big production crops are the target of this new science. There is not enough money in herbs for big business to get involved.

she-rah_webmd: In the fall, how do you recommend trimming the perennial herbs? Last year I trimmed mine down to between six and 12 inches.




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