Roots 'n' Shoots: January 2014

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Thyme: How to Grow - Herb of the Month

Thyme stats/requirements at a glance

Ease of Raising:
5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave
1/5 – Minimal, weekly (especially in a container)
5/5 – Full sun
1/5 – Minimal (3Ds: Dead, damaged and diseased)
1/5 – Minimal (at least during the growing season)
Time to Harvest:
1/5 – Immediate (purchased a seedling) to Soon (from seed)
Frost Hardiness:
1/4 – Very Hardy (can’t take black frost)

Culinary, Medicinal, Pollinator attractor & Predator sheltering
Most Problematic Nemesis:
None, some die-back with over-watering
Container Plant:
Yes (preferably grown in the garden rather than container)

Wild Thyme
Thymus serpyllum
Flora von Deutschland ├ľsterreich und der Schweiz
Kurt Stober's Online Library
Quick intro

Thyme is the quintessential herb for me and when I hear the word herb, thyme comes to mind with its tight clustering of leaves, minute flowers and great aroma. They are lovely to add to savoury dishes such as meat dishes, soups, casseroles, stuffings, stews and is likely best known for their addition to bouquet garni seasonings. They are very useful in the kitchen and vegetable garden as well as ornamental gardens due to their hardy nature and thriving where other plants perish.


As with its other aromatic cousins, Rosemary, Sage and Oregano; Thyme originated in southern Europe and the Mediterranean countries. Its name was derived from several different ancient languages, but the original was Greek ‘thuein’, which means to ‘burn’ or ‘sacrifice’, as it was customary to burn/use thyme during funerals or religious ceremonies by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. During the Middle Ages, knights were bestowed thyme to bring them courage.

Science Stuff

Thyme belongs to the Lamiaceae family of aromatic herbs along with rosemary, sage, oregano, basil, mints, marjorams, balm and savory.

Common or Garden Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is the most well-known and widely used. Several other wild and scented thymes are available, such as Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus), Caraway Thyme (Thymus herba-barona), Orange-scented (Thymus ‘fragrantissimus’) Spanish sauce (Thymus zygis), Broad-leaved (Thymus pulegioides), Winter-flowering (Thymus hyamalis), Cilician (Thymus cilicius), Creeping (Thymus quiquecostatus), Spanish/mastic (Thymus mastichina) and lastly, Conehead Thyme (Thymus capitatus). The easiest to find are common, lemon and creeping thyme.

Lemon Thyme
Thymus x citriodorus
The citrus scented thymes include lemon, orange and lime thymes. The caraway thyme has a potent caraway aroma produced by the same chemical, carvone. The wild thymes (Thymus serpyllum), creepers and woollies are more suited to ornamental use.

Thyme plants contain thymol essential oil highly regarded for its antiseptic properties and it exceptionally useful for treating stomach ulcers and even aging! The oils assist with digestion and breaking down fats.

Growing & Pruning Thyme

Seedlings are the easiest means of raising thyme, but you can try your hand at sowing seeds.

Well drained soil and a very sunny spot is essential for growing healthy, vibrant thyme. Over-watering or water-logged plants will die back, therefore no standing water in saucers if you are growing it in pots.

Lemon Thyme
Thymus x citriodorus
Thymes are very hardy to high temperature (30oC), but does not appreciate it too cold (below -12oC). Thyme will die off when it gets too cold, if you want to harvest from it during such as time,  make sure to dig your thyme up and bring it inside for the winter freeze.

Other Tips

You can plant basil with thyme in the same pot, where the basil will suck up any additional water that the thyme might not want. Also thyme can be combined with other water-efficient plants to limit watering.

Thyme is very hardy and can grow in any soil, including those that are very nutrient poor. This characteristic makes thyme excellent for rockeries, planting between stepping stones and other dry places in the garden that require plants. They are tolerant to being stomped on and the delightful scent they give off when trampled does make for a wonderful experience J.

Depending on what you like thymes come in upright varieties and creeping (matting) varieties, both will do with some minimal pruning if they become scraggly.

Thyme is evergreen and can be harvested throughout the year, but can be dried if you prefer its milder taste, else pruning cut-offs can be given to friends and family J

Thymes are replaced every 3-5 years to ensure strong flavoured leaves for cooking.


Harvesting & Storing

Drying thyme: Simply save the pruned leaves and dry on a paper/cloth towel indoors for a few days in a dry (airy) place. Once dry they can be stored in glass jars.

Thyme scented oil: Similar to rosemary and oregano, thyme can be heated in oil (no boiling, only smoking oil, else the oil is destroyed and become heart-unhealthy J Boiling oil also destroys the aromatic oils form the herb). The oil is allowed to cool a bit (so that you retain heat as the sterilising agent, but not too hot that it will break the glass container you want to store it in J). The thyme leaves are removed and the oil is poured into a glass bottle (the leaves will become mouldy if left in the oil). This oil is especially useful for meat and savoury dishes! Or use as is with breads – Yum!

Seed Saving & Propagation

Thyme flowers are always a hit with the pollinators in the garden and their small form makes them very cute. Garden thyme makes lovely lilac flowers, but you get bright pinks, whites and purples as well!

Thyme tisane

Seed collection: The flower clusters are harvested when dry and separated (rub with fingers to release 4 ‘nutlets’ per flower) before storing in a glass container. Seeds are likely viable for 1 year only. I would also assume that the seeds require stratification (cold winter period of 1-6 months) as with the other herbs to break seed dormancy – a refrigerator works well at 0.5-5oC (33-41oF). Seeds are sown in a sunny position when the soil has reached 20oC (68oF) and germination takes up to 4 weeks.

Many of the aromatic herb family members can be propagated by the division of large plants. Any divisions should immediately be replanted at a different locations – that is to say if you want more than one J. You divide the plant by cutting straight down the centre (you can decide on the appropriate tool, such as scissors – a spade works well too!). Creeping thymes will easily split, but I am not too sure about the uprights. Stem cuttings can also be rooted in the appropriate rooting hormone during spring and summer.

My Thyme

Garden Thyme: The reliable go-to for cooking.

Garden Thyme
Thymus vulgaris

Lemon Thyme: Wonderful for adding a bit extra to meat dishes and grows far better than the garden thyme.

Lemon Thyme
Thymus x citriodorus


Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! ­čść

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Propagation: Alternatives to Artificial Rooting Hormone - Honey as Rooting Hormone

As part of being a gardener striving for natural and more wallet friendly alternatives I was on the lookout for a substitute to artificial rooting hormone.

I had several problems with the store bought stuff:
1)                  They give you so much that I can’t possibly use up everything before it expires.
2)                  You get three different kinds, one for soft-, semi- and hardwood cuttings! Why not make a universal one?

So I set out to research alternatives to rooting hormone and found two (1) being Honey and the other (2) Willow. Now I don’t have access to willow, but I can get a hold of honey… This lead me to thinking what would be the most efficient type of rooting hormone and I started some experimentation. I am going to go all ‘sciency’ now J


So let’s review the possibilities (hypotheses):
1)                  Are alternatives to rooting hormones superior in their rooting capabilities?
2)                  What can I use as a substitute for willow in the experiment for comparative purposes?
3)                  Do I use organic or processed honey?
4)         Will there be any difference between the organic and processed honey results?

Now let’s set up the experiment:
1)                  I will use basil cuttings to compare rooting efficiency as they root in water and I will be able to see the rooting process in a glass of water.
2)                  I will have one control, which is the basil cutting in water (this acts as the base-line for comparison to the other ‘experiments’).
3)                  The experiments are: (1) Artificial Rooting Hormone, (2) Processed Honey, (3) Organic Honey and (4) Aspirin as a substitute for willow.

For the exact details of each:
1)                  Artificial Rooting Hormone: Bayer Seradix B No. 2, semi-hardwood cuttings
2)                  Processed Honey: Eleures radurised pure natural honey
3)                  Organic Honey: On tap blue gum.
4)                  Aspirin: Compral (100 mg Paracetamol, 400 mg aspirin) contains aspirin (salicylic acid), which is a product of willow bark.

Rooting Hormones and water

OK! So here are my recipes for each of the experiments. In order to keep everything the same I made 100 ml solutions (liquids) of each and dipped the cuttings into each for 30 seconds. After which the cuttings are placed in a glass of clean 250 ml tap water. The control cutting was placed directly into tap water with no dipping in either solution.

Recipe for Artificial Rooting Hormone
1)                  I took the 2# rooting hormone powder and diluted it 1:1 with water to get essentially a 1# solution for the basil cutting.

Recipe for Honey Rooting Hormone (Processed & Organic) – this is a standard one found all over the Internet
1)                  Boil 2 cups of water
2)                  Add a table spoon of honey
3)                  Cool & dip cutting into solution

This is stored away from light (or in a dark brown glass jar) and will keep for 2 weeks. To make less, you can add 6 ml of honey to 100 ml of water.

Recipe for Aspirin
1)                  Added half a tabled (one tablet is 400 mg of aspirin) to 100 ml = 2 mg/ml solution.

All roots were recorded at the same initial length (this means it was said to be 'rooted' at the same length, this was @ 2 cm) and the experiment was done once the water control had rooted (as it was expected to take the longest amount of time to root).

Basil cuttings
The Results:

To my surprise the processed honey rooted first (12 days) and performed the best (longest roots and most roots by the end of the experiment). [I thought that the artificial rooting hormone would be first] The organic honey took 14 days to root with about half the number of roots and a 1/3rd of the final length of the processed honey's roots. The rooting hormone was about a week later (18 days) and had made two short roots by the end of the experiment. I think the Compral (aspirin) poisoned its cutting, because it died before any root formation on day 23. The control took its time and produced roots at day 37, the roots were minimal and less robust.

So, why does honey work better than artificial rooting hormone?

Well it has to do with the composition of honey. It is high in monosaccharides (simple sugars) such as Fructose and Glucose, as well as containing 18-20 of the 20 amino acids needed by all living organisms. This allows the cuttings access to quick energy and complete nutrition. The high sugar content lends to honey’s antiseptic (antibiotic) nature that prevents infection and promotes root growth.

The Conclusion:

So from the home-based experiment it is clear that grabbing some store-bought honey from the pantry is the best option for rooting cuttings. I think that this might be due to the higher sugar content of the processed honey and that it may have acted as a better antiseptic.

Honey as Rooting Hormone

So, I have decided to ditch the artificial rooting hormone and to make up enough honey every time I want to propagate. It is a shame that the aspirin cutting died, it would have been nice to compare the willow to honey, but I suppose I would have to leave that for those of you who have access to willow J It turned out to be a fun and interesting fact-finding home-experimentation...

BTW: I think that it would be a good idea to dip any grafts into the honey solution before grafting it to its final plant, to give it a good kick-start J I am going to try this with some nectarines and peaches…

-Me Out-


Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! ­čść

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year Post: International Year Events 2014 & Garden Update

Each year since starting my blog I check on the event or study field listed for the coming international year. The “International Year Of …” cycles try to engage and educate people around the world concerning various issues or subjects that require attention or are of interest. This year we have two topics applicable (in the sense of gardening and science!):

1)                  International Year of Crystallography (IYCR 2014)

Now crystallography is fairly self-explanatory, all types of crystals and precious gemstones come to mind. Crystallography involves the study of crystal formation and their properties.


The IYCR2014 also aims to bring awareness to the biochemical side of crystal making and studies, which is that of Proteins. Proteins have awe-inspiring 3D structures that assist with their function in living creatures. The study of protein functions therefore involves the re-construction of their 3D structure, which is not a simple task. So, biochemists make protein crystals, both in situ (inside a test-tube) and in sillico (inside the computer) J.

Protein composite
Molecular surface of several proteins showing their comparitive sizes.
From left to right are: Immunoglobulin (IgG) (PDB 1IGY), Hemoglobin (PDB 2DHB), Insulin (PDB 4INS), Adenylate Kinase (PDB 1ZIN), Glutamine Synthetase (PDB 1FPY).
Thomas Splettstoesser

For more information and dates of upcoming events see their website.
If you want to see some cool science 3D illustrations and animations check out SciStyle  – and for fellow scientists it’s good to have his details for upcoming projects that require modelling…

2)                  International Year of Family Farming (IYFF 2014)

Here is a topic that we all are familiar with and participate in everyday J. The IYFF tries to bring unity to families by encouraging them to ‘farm’ together or to create community smallholdings whilst ensuring a more sustainable future for all through organic practices.
For more information and dates of upcoming events see their website. The IYFF2014 is also supported by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

Garden Update

We have been having soooo much rain lately!!! So much so I am having problems with mildews, moulds and black-spot on several of my plants and the lawn is littered with mushrooms – a rare sight in our usually scorching climate. Yet when it is not raining the sun is still burning everything to a crisp…

With all the rain the garden has gone absolutely crazy! Including the pumpkin patch and the pumpkins they produce. We harvested 8 kg worth of squash on the 30th of Dec 2013, because of all the rain some have grown enormous… like my newest record-braking Boer patty @ 1.157 kg, which larger than your face – can probably throw discus with it J . The first record holder was a 613 g green boer patty, which is the same as the largest yellow one in the photo below (check it out @ my folia journal). 

Here are a few photos of the forest that is the vegetable garden and the jungle that is the pumpkin patch;

1st half of veg garden

2nd half of veg garden


Fruit Trees

Pumpkin Patch

Close Up
Onions & Potatoes also in the Patch

Flat White Boer
Starke Ayres 'Invincible'

Related Posts

How to Grow: Squash & Pumpkin

If you enjoy the content please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers or Follow Your Way widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! J

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