Roots 'n' Shoots: August 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, 30 August 2014

Spiders: Biological Control - Garden Critter of the Month

Spiders at a glance

Value to Gardener:
5/5 - Pest Controller!
Danger to Humans:
4/5 – Some are very poisonous
5/5 – They’ll arrive in your garden

Quick Intro

Most people shriek at the sight of a spider and try their very best to stomp it out of existence. I believe that spiders have the worst reputation as terrible poisonous scary things (apparently 50% of  women display symptoms of Arachnophobia!), but if you just let them be, they are super garden helpers who are the fundamental front-line in biological control and the battle against pests!   

Kunstformen der Natur
Kurt Stubers Online Library

Science Stuff

True spiders fall within the Araneae order amongst the other spider/scorpion look-alikes in the class Arachnida. Spiders are distinguished from the other orders by virtue of several characteristics, such as:

ü    Spinnerets: Modified appendages at the rear of the abdomen that manipulate silk produced from the silk glands.

ü    Enlarged pedipalps in males: These look like little “boxing gloves” and have evolved to transfer sperm to the female during courtship.

Spider Morphology

Spider anatomy

Several families of spiders exist within Araneae. In general, the garden biological control agents are of the smaller type and likely not deadly poisonous, except Widows and Sac Spiders are very poisonous, so just steer clear of these.

Black widow and Sac spiders


Spiders occupy several niches within the environment and are found at various layers (for example, canopy habitats; where they wait in ambush or they are found running between the grasses and actively hunting prey).

The most common method of prey capture is through trapping, such as webs. Spider webs can be occupied singly (usually a large female, sometimes accompanied by a smaller male, such as orb web and tent spiders). Whereas others construct huge web structures that span entire forest clearings where multiple social spiders tend to the web and prey is shared, for example as with social community spiders. Ground dwelling spiders may burrow and ambush prey, such as baboon spiders or tarantulas, whilst wolf spiders run and actively hunt for prey.

For every ecological level in the garden, from the ground, the lower plants, shrubs and trees, there are spiders that occupy each of those levels. They also come in a variety of sizes, where small jumping spiders or spiderlings hunt small pests (such as aphids or whiteflies) and larger species can deal with larger prey, such as leaf hoppers and caterpillars. Therefore, spiders provide a full spectrum biological control on flying and crawling pests.

Crab spiders, green (top left), white (bottom left) and pink (right). Ambush species
Thomisus species
P.S: Small flies on the bee are known as jackal flies (Milichiidae), they eat any mess from the spider

Hairy Field spider, web spinning species
Neoscona species


Spiders are considered to be predators, but as with most of nature’s creations there are exceptions. Some species’ spiderlings (these are small spider nymphs, during the second stage after hatching) feed nocturnally on nectar. Others may feed on dead insects (scavengers) and pollen.

Predatory spiders are considered generalists and unfortunately don’t differentiate between pest and beneficial insects. In general I find that spiders catch beneficials (bees or ladybugs) far less than pest species, such as aphids, flies, leaf hoppers and stink bugs.

Small jumping spiders eating an aphid (left), fly (top left) and one giving me the evil eye (bottom right).
Ambush species
Salticidae spp.

Large jumping spider eating a leaf hopper
Salticidae species
Another Spider Tip

Providing places for spiders and maintaining them are very easy. You would want some strong sturdy plants, such as basil or dense clumping ones, such as Sterlitzea or Bougainvillea that provide plenty web space. Additionally, do not disturb these areas too often as this leads to a decrease in the overall spider population.

My main spider colonies consist of semi-social garbage line and hedgehog spiders that live in the Sterlitzea where they construct several layers of webbing. I don’t disturb them too often which means I have a permanent pest trap in my vegetable garden.

Garbage line spider
Cyrtophora species

Hedgehog spider
Cyrtophora species

Something Interesting: Spider venom biopesticide!

Most spider venoms are deadly to insects but not harmful to vertebrates. This initiated research into spider venom based pesticides as bee-safe alternatives to chemical insecticides (specifically neonicotinoids). 

Lynx spider, active hunter
Oxyopes heterophthalmus

A particular protein found in the venom of the Australian Funnel Web Spider, Hadronyche versuta, targets the calcium-channel in the insect central nervous systems, causing paralysis. This protein is combined with another ‘carrier’ protein (the result is known as a fusion protein) to stabilise it and allows the toxin to be used as an oral pesticide. This potential biopesticide can be used against Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Coleoptera (beetles) and Diptera (flies). Researchers suggest further evaluation of this biopesticide on other beneficial Hymenoptera, such as bumblebees and parasitic wasps.

The development of biopesticides in conjunction with pollinator toxicity tests might provide more environmentally friendly alternatives to the conventional pesticide - and a more sustainable approach to farming!

For the original scientific paper (free and downloadable from): 

False house button spider, female, egg sac and male
Theridion species


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! 😆

Monday, 18 August 2014

Roots 'n' Shoots Birthday (Blogiversary) Post #3

It has been three years since the start of Roots 'n' Shoots in August 2011 - WOW - that is about as long as a undergraduate degree in Science or longer than most peoples' relationships ... LOL! Anyways, this is the annual B-day post (apparently a blog's birthday is a blogiversary! At least B-day works either way!). This is a post where I allow myself to go off on a tangent, write about crazy unrelated stuff and if it ends up being an entire post without anything informative, then... *meh*

First off I would like to send a shout-out to Blooming Blogs! I love the new magazine format for blog display and that it updates automatically when I post - very convenient which means I can spend more time on post writing than updating third-party sites :)  Also Blooming Blogs has helped Roots 'n' Shoots grow a lot more than my first sign-up to a social garden site, Blotanical.

I have booted Blotanical from my site since they had decided to abandon their users and not respond to their problems - for instance - Google feedburner stopped working for my blog back in 2012 (as it did for most other Blogs as well). I did not notice until 6 months later when my Blotanical profile wasn't updating. I tried all kinds of ways to re-activate my account there (becuz they shut you down after 3 months if no posts update) but to no avail... I emailed Blotanical sometime last year (exactly on 28 June 2013!) and they did not respond. So after 6 months of not replying I removed them from Roots 'n' Shoots considering that they have forgotten to care about their members, who are the foundations of any blog or website! I have had more visitors and support from Blooming Blogs than Blotanical ever did! Thanx Blooming Blogs!

Tiny time capsules
Rose moss seeds

OK, so that is off my chest, now second rant - or not really a rant, more like an observation. Many other gardening blogs become ghosts round about their 3-4 year mark, mostly due to their writers suffering from what is known as "Blogger Burnout". I have seen this happen to gardening blog the same age as mine! Blogger Burnout occurs when blogging is no longer a source of relaxation or entertainment and merely becomes another chore on your to-do list. This is quite sad as most of these writers never take up their blogs again, and those who rarely do find that by that time they return to their blogs that all of their readers have left as well... I really do feel for these fellow bloggers, since maintaining a blog is a lot of work;

(1) decide on what to write about [this is not always readily apparent!],
(2) research, research and more research,
(3) get some good quality, free photos or diagrams [Hah! As if!] - else take/make your own,
(4) *wait for screen loading*
(5) write the post,
(6) edit the post [fix all those blatantly obvious grammar/spelling errors you missed the first time],
(7) get the pictures in the correct format and size [this can be the most time robbing stage, but it needs to be done and I will stay strong!],
(8) upload pictures,
(9) *more loading* - *sigh*
(10) add any attributions or references,
(11) double check links and
(12) publish! [Woo-pee! Made it! Now over-zealously check blog every 5 minutes to see who is reading the new material by hitting the refresh button multiple times]...  ;-P

Here is my hypothesis to the cause of Blogger Burnout: blogging too much!!! Yes, you won't think that it is a bad thing to do so many posts as it generates traffic to your blog, but posting too often leads to writer fatigue, inspiration loss and de-motivation... and sadly the associated blog becomes a ghost...

This is one of the reasons why Roots 'n' Shoots features at most 2 posts every month, which is usually 1 Profile post (How to Grow) and 1 Extra post (Different Garden Topics). I am very committed to these two posts each month and additional posts do creep in when something exciting happens (such as the Earthquake earlier this month!) then it goes over the 2 post limit. The 2 post limit does not only keep me sane and prevents all my time going into blogging, but keeps me inspired and motivated to write.

Yes I have my Blogger Blues, where I find myself staring at the screen not sure where to start or what to write, but I tediously manage something informative. Then before I know it I have found my writing mo-jo and I am slamming posts out on the keyboard like no body's business! This is when I have to be well disciplined not to post them all in one go cause I think they're sooo cool, but to put them away and schedule them to come out every 2 weeks for the next few months. This means Roots 'n' Shoots is pumping out informative, well written (hopefully; seeing that I got all those blatantly obvious mistakes) and picture jammed posts while I can get on with my day job and with life in general  :) So, I am sure that my Sanity-Saving-Post-Scheduling-Method shall exile any Blogger Burnout from spoiling Roots 'n' Shoots in the future... I found a lovely post relating to the topic and agree with many of the items listed there. Hopefully Roots 'n' Shoots will also see its 10 year mark and beyond by virtue of being a Generous Blogger.

Honey bee on Garden Heliotrope

Staying with blogging; here comes the ranting section specifically about the Blogger format that Google developed but stopped improving. *Sigh* I sometimes admire at Wordpress sites or 'own' domain websites and see all the cool functionality there and I think to myself, now why did I not do that instead of a blog? Don't get me wrong - blogging, post writing and sharing my discoveries I really enjoy, but I would like my blog to be a bit more pretty and functional. For instance, I love the Wordpress layouts and themes, they always seem so professional and I have tried on various occasions to get a similar effect on Blogger - but I end up with a huge mess and colours/fonts clash the heck out of one another! So Roots 'n' Shoots has its original colour/font scheme since its initiation as this is the most eye pleasing and easy reading combination that I also like... Bah! Then there is the layout problems, especially INDEXING!!! I am OCD and fanatic about filing: Everything needs to be neatly organised and filed under topics for easy reference and time efficiency (reason why I like Pinterest!), but that 'Blog Archive' widget thing on the left hand side does not represent this in the least. It is the most un-user-friendly and tedious device ever! Go ahead, try it! Grrrr.. So my attempt at making it easier for you guys was to place the Index & Info Page at the top, which has resolved some of my filing issues as well given all the restrictions of Blogger... If any of you fellow Bloggers have come up with another solution, please share! J

Anyways, something very exiting is that my research project is more aligned with my vegetable gardening endeavours than before, which means I will be able to maximise my research for both my project and my blog - Kazam!, which means working smarter and not harder. Bwah ha ha!

I have noticed the large appreciation for my 'Sustainable, Productive and Economical Veg Garden' related blog post and shall be writing more on that topic in the near future. I want to emphasise the need to grow your vegetables economically, so that you can save money (even make money, by selling produce maybe?) by having one and that this is not an ornamental garden where heaps of money is thrown at aesthetic appeal - it is a working home unit and I will share with you how to maximise production and minimise costs in a well managed vegetable garden. Of course is should be neat, tidy and pretty, but that is all achievable on a shoestring budget and some creative savvy! (Like, did you notice my shroom rock that I painted up top? - Free garden ornaments seeing that I had the paint on hand anyways... tee hee!).

My attempt at a Garfield inspired bird deterrent painted rock!

All in all Roots 'n' Shoots is here to stay and I am moving my gardening practices into an even more organic and sustainable direction - so, keep on dropping by for informative how-to's, creative projects and join me on my vegetable gardening journey!

BTW - I have expanded my 'social networking' (me being impaired in that area and such)... So, I have set up several accounts. Most function as news reels for blog posts and will make it easier for those of you already on those platforms to get my updates there, this would be: My Twitter Account. Others I am more active on an will include additional garden related info beyond that on Roots 'n' Shoots such as MyFolia Account and Pinterest Boards. You can also sign up directly as a follower to my blog given you already have a Google, Yahoo or Twitter account. If those don't do it for you; I have a RSS Feed with which allows email subscriptions and accommodates other feed readers. My ProjectNoah account is purely for wildlife spottings.

Please feel free to subscribe to my blog as a follower or to a feed reader/social networking site:

Direct Blog Subscription: Check out my Blog Follower or Follow Posts Your Way! widgets (left hand side at the top).
RSS Feed: Feed Reader at
Email: Use the Follow Posts Your Way! widget with email subscription (left hand side at the top).

Twitter Account:
Pinterest Account:
MyFolia Account
Wildlife spottings in our area: My Project Noah account @

Also, if you like my content I have a myriad of ways to share them (below each post or page) with your friends and family. Else you can simply 'vote' for them using the reactions supplied at the end of the posts.

A last THANK YOU to all my readers, even though many of you don't comment or follow I can see your continuous presence and support on my blog stats! I would like to make a special mention of Dani @ Eco Footprint ~ South Africa for the shout out on her blog earlier this month; it was fully appreciated, thanx! Over at Dani's you will find many ways to as well as tips and tricks on how to do off the grid living!

Thank you to all my readers once again, as I enjoy posting informative articles for your delight!

P.S: On the 24th of August is World Kitchen Garden Day! Head over to Kitchen Garden International to check out some ideas on how to celebrate this day!

World Kitchen Garden Day

TTFN - Ta-Ta For Now!

The Shroom

Posts mentioned in the article:

Starting a Productive and Economical Vegetable Garden: vegetables worth growing

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: Twitter, Pinterest, RSS 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

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Earthquake hits Central South Africa!

Libanon Mine of Sibanye
near Westonaria, South Africa
South East of Johannesburg in the Earthquake zone

At 12h44: Wow! We just had a tremor run though Roodepoort (near Johannesburg, Gauteng) at approximately 12h25! Seems that this isn't the first time that a tremors or earthquakes have struck. There have been a few in the past as well, this one was felt by some of my friends in Pretoria (South) as well and likely originated from an old mine shaft that collapsed, (maybe the Brixton one again, not sure!).

Updates to follow!

At 12h55, alright from the people coming in on this post (from my blog stats), it seems people felt this in:
Cape Town
East London

At 13h00: The reports are in!

Time of occurrence 12h22

Earthquake of 5.3 magnitude! (Amended to 5.5 by experts at a depth of 10 km)

Centered in Orkney, 120 km Southwest of Johannesburg! An area with many gold mines. At around 13h15 South African gold miners with head offices in Johannesburg and Sandton advised that they had felt the earthquake at their head offices but have so far received no reports of damage from their mines. 

Earthquakes and deep level mining does not bode well and I hope that no mine workers will be injured.

Seismometers measure earthquakes according to the Richter magnitude scale, which quantifies the amount of energy released by an earthquake - more specifically total moment energy.

Measuring at 5.3; today’s earthquake can be described as ‘Moderate’. It can cause damage to building with poor construction and everybody will feel its tremors. On a global scale, approximately 500-1500 of these earthquakes occur per year. Only earthquakes that reach above 7 cause great damage to buildings and are classified as Major (around 7) and Great (above 8). Earthquakes of magnitude 8 release an equatable amount of energy to 6 million tons of TNT!

Earthquake hits central South Africa
Google maps platform ©
Red marker: Earthquake origin at Orkney
Blue maker: Roodepoort, Gauteng


Reuters Africa
3) International: USA Today

At 14h45: Can we expect aftershocks from this Earthquake event?


After some research the short answer is: YES.

Magnitude 5 (M5) earthquakes can generate aftershocks minutes after the initial event that can last for days. These will be with in a 10 kilometre radius from the epicentre These follow a precise sequence and there may be 10 aftershocks of magnitude 4; 100 of magnitude 3; 1000 of magnitude 2 and so on, which by then would no longer be felt by people. Also most of the aftershocks occur hours after the initial event an soon dissipate, likely ceasing on the second day.

Aftershocks were felt mostly in Gauteng:
Reference: Aftershock Studies

At 16h00: Tectonic events and the Witwatersrand Basin

There is a large and complex formation of rocks around the Witwatersrand area. It has one of the largest gold reserves in the world as well as numerous other rock series such as quartzites and ironstones, collectively known as the Witwatersrand Supergroup.

In this area is the largest concentration of South African gold mines including some of the deepest, most of which are 120 kilometers from Orkney.

Mponeng: Near Carletonville and is 2.4-3.9 kilometers deep. It is the deepest gold mine in the world!

TauTona: Also near Carletonville, 1.85-3.45 kilometers deep. It is the second deepest gold mine in the world!

The geological area around the Witwatersrand Basin is prone to tectonic events due to underground movements and fault lines. Reference: The Witwatersrand Basin South Africa: Geological framework and mineralisation. 1995. Robb L. J. and Meyrs F. M. One Geogolical Reviews: 10. 67-94.

The Witwatersrand Basin had generated a tectonic earthquake and several mines in the vicinity could have been effected as well. Such as the Great Noligwa (1.5-2.6 km deep), Kopanang (2.1 km deep) and Moab Knotsong (2.6-6.3 km deep). See diagram for mines near Orkney below:

Witwatersrand Basin Mine Locations
Source: Mineral Resource and Ore Reserve Report 2013,
AngloGold Ashanti

At 18h30: Are more earthquakes imminent? Should South Africa expect another earthquake in the future?

Yes, many factors indicate that this area might generate more earthquakes in the future due to tectonic plate movements. Therefore it becomes a question of WHEN and not IF.

The Witwatersrand Basin is likely susceptible to tectonic activities from the African Plate fault line, which extends through middle (more to the Eastern side) of South Africa and in the earthquake zone. The plate on the Eastern side (Somali African Plate) is moving away from the Western (Nubian African Plate) and will likely generate more earthquakes in the future. Please see the following map and blog post: World Maps of Fault Lines and East Africa: The Next Continent.

At 19h00: Earthquake awareness for Africa and What to do when a earthquake strikes!

Scientists have been calling for greater awareness of the occurrence of earthquakes in Africa due to the shifting plates. The Millerton fault in the Cape has the potential to generate magnitude 6 earthquake. The key to earthquake management is to be prepared and stay safe rather than earthquake prediction.

The key thing is when you are indoors and an earthquake strikes is to avoid being thrown or hit with falling objects. Therefore climbing under and holding onto your desk is the safest place indoors.

If you are outside then move away from buildings or walls and stay in the open. When an earthquake occurs while driving, move off the road and stop the car avoiding overpasses or other large objects that may fall over.

After the earthquake, check for fires and check that the phones are working. Be aware of stored objects in cupboards as they might fall out.

For more information on how to prepare for, what to do during and after an earthquake see the following websites:

How to Protect Yourself During an Earthquake
Be Prepared Before, During and After an Earthquake

Other references:

Cape Town Earthquakes: Review of the Historical Record by C. J. H. Hartnady
Scientists Call for Earthquake Awareness in Africa

On 6 August 2014 at 13h00: News about the chances of another earthquake have been aired.

Again it is a matter of when and not if. We can expect one of the same magnitude in the future due to the mining activities in the Orkney region that disrupts the geological statues of the Witwatersrand Basin and the African plate fault lines. ... Seems like my initial thought that mining was involved in some way was correct...

See News bulletins (the first with a video from a Geosciences expert):

Another earthquake of equal magnitude expected: expert
Quake triggered by mine activity - expert

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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