Roots 'n' Shoots: January 2015

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, 31 January 2015

Parsley: How to Grow - Herb of the Month

Parsley stats/requirements at a glance

Ease of Raising:
5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave
2/5 – Minimal, twice a week
1-2/5 – Full sun or partial shade
1/5 – Minimal (3Ds: Dead, damaged and diseased)
1/5 – Minimal (at least during the growing season)
Time to Harvest:
2/5 – Soon, 1-2 months when sown
Frost Hardiness:
1/4 – Very Hardy (can’t take black frost)

Culinary, Medicinal & Pollinator attractor
Most Problematic Nemesis:
Carrot fly, die-back with over-watering
Container Plant:

Petroselium sativum
Gemeine Petersilie Tafel 438
Flora von Deutschland,
├ľsterreich und der Schweiz
Kurt Stober Online Library

Quick intro

Parsley is one of the best known herbs and most widely used in a variety of dishes, such as soups, salads, stews and incorporated into sauces, condiments and garnish. Apart from its slow germination time, parley is very easy to grow and you do not have to give up valuable planting space to have it in your garden.


Parsley is native to Europe and the Mediterranean often used by the Greeks and Romans. It arrived in England during the 16th century and slowly made its way across the globe where it has become naturalised in many regions.

Science Stuff

Parsley belongs to the Apiaceae family of aromatic herbs. Also known as the Umbelliferae family, due to their inverted umbrella clusters of flowers, which includes coriander, carrots, fennel, dill, lovage, angelica, chervil, celery, parsnips and anise.

Flat leaf parsley
Petroselinum crispum var neapolitonum
Two types of parsley exists, those mainly used for their leaves and another thick rooted variety eaten as a root vegetable much like carrots or parsnip. The leaf varieties include Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum var crispum - Historically Petroselinum sativum) and French/Italian/Flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum var neapolitonum). The tap-root forming variety is known as Hamburg or turnip rooted parsley (Petroselinum crispum var tubersonum).

Root parsley
Petroselinum crispum var tubersonum
Leaf Parsley
Petroselinum crispum var crispum

Growing & Pruning Parsley

Parsley can be purchased from your local nursery as a seedling ready to harvest once home. Else you can raise it from seed by directly sowing it into the garden. Parley, like most Mediterranean herbs, grow naturally in nutrient-poor gravel like soil, therefore you can literally plant it in places where other plants won’t grow. I used to grow mine in pots, but this year I tossed some seeds into the sparse soil cavity between my garden beds and the pavement where all manner of weeds used to grow and drive me insane. The parsley sprang up and overran the whole strip completely smothering any remaining weeds. So as I mentioned you can have parsley in your garden without giving up prime growing places!

Anti-weed parsley border

Parsley prefers a full-sun position; curly parsley would like to be sheltered from the harsh midday sun whereas flat-leaf parsley are more robust and will thrive in a full day sun position. Parsley is very susceptible to overwatering and a light hand with the watering can will be welcome.

Parsley doesn’t require pruning to keep its shape, but any flowers can be removed to increase the life of the plant as it dies after seed maturation.

Other Tips

Parsley is biennial, meaning it will only last two years in the garden. The first year it will grow lushly with lots of leaves. The second year it will send out flowering spikes and die. You can leave it to go through its natural life cycle, sowing a batch for the first 2 years, after which it should self-seed and always reappear for years to come.

Parsley has more Vitamin C than an orange (190 mg/100 g) and getting in your daily dose should keep flu at bay. It can be used as a hair rinse to kill head lice when the crushed seeds are infused in hot water for 10 minutes and strained. Parsley should not be used medicinally by pregnant ladies.

Harvesting & Storing

To dry parsley simply cut off copious amounts of leaves, gathered in bundles and strung upside down from their stems. Once completely dry simply remove the leaves and store in a glass jar.

Seed Saving & Propagation

Parsley flowers are a favourite amongst beneficial insects. Large amounts of tiny white or yellow flowers are carried in clusters known as umbels. Once umbels form seeds, they can be covered in a paper bag to prevent loss of seeds. When these are dry, the seeds are rubbed off into a glass jar and can be stored for 3-5 years.

Flat leaf parsley flowers
Petroselinum crispum var neapolitonum

Parsley can be very slow to germinate, so much so that the Romans believed that the seeds had to travel to the devil and back 7 times to ask permission to germinate! Seeds are sown when the soil reaches 20oC (68oF) and usually take 3 weeks to germinate, but has been known to take up to twice as long. It is better to sow the seeds directly into the garden as transplanted seedling often bolt (go to seed).

My Parsley

Curly: Usually grown under other herbs in order to get that midday shelter.

Curly leaf Parsley
Petroselinum crispum var crispum

Flat-leaf: Growing between the plots and pavement – and thriving!

Flat leaf parsley
Petroselinum crispum var neapolitonum


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, 17 January 2015

Sustainable, Productive and Economical Vegetable Gardening (Part 3): Integrated Organic Gardening

My vegetable garden is entering its fifth year and it has been a long journey of trial and error, many a dead or diseased plant and lots of research into various facets of food production along the way. As I have mentioned many times, organic gardening principles are not properly integrated and do not provide any guidelines towards developing a production system that fits with what you have available.

Here is a picture I designed to convey some of the most important factors in proper food production i.e. a vegetable garden not concerned with aesthetics, but providing food with the least amount of input in terms of the money, time and labour involved (cuz believe me; truly productive systems based on sustainable practises are not what most people consider beautiful J ).

Integrated Organic Gardening

I am briefly going to discuss each concept I have above and will do follow-up articles concerning each section throughout the year. This system is based on my own experiences and research into various aspects of food production, including commercial agriculture and strict-organic principles. Mine aims to find a model suitable for backyard gardening enthusiasts with full time day jobs and tiny budgets! J

Integrated Organic Gardening (IOG, if you like) is the proper management of your garden in order to maximise outputs (food, satisfaction and sense of achievement) with minimal input (money, time and labour). This is by no means ‘easy’ as most people will put it, it will require you making time and there will be disappointment, but most things worth doing take effort and dedication to reward you with accomplishment (and lots of food in this case too!). Vegetable gardening is lots of fun and part of the final reward/result is the fact that you know how hard you worked to accomplish this (as most hobbies should do).

Now part of proper management is meticulous record keeping. This can be terribly boring to start with and I would suggest leaving this initially so that you can get stuck into growing things and eating them right off the plant first. You can then start taking a few notes here and there and expand this system once the vegetable growing bug has bitten you! This would involve plans for the garden and later a sketch of what you actually did plant or keeping score of how many tomatoes you received from each cultivar and which you enjoyed the most to eat so that you can plant them again the following year. Record keeping is important, but if you forget to write a few things down or fall out of the habit its OK – it is not like the garden will stop growing because of it!

My Garden Journal (simply an A5 croxley book) and additional info on
Will explain my exact plating strategy in the follow up posts! J

The overall success of the vegetable garden is highly depended on the food you grow. Do not grow food that you do not enjoy eating. Firstly, it takes up valuable space, soil and nutrients in the garden and secondly, you would not look after it as well as something you are looking forward to eating! The big lesson here is to start small. Begin an herb garden then the next season add some tomatoes and root vegetables. Thereafter try some crazy new cultivars of tomatoes (I would recommend the black fruiting varieties) and dig out an additional section for the squash plants. By starting small and adding on each season prevents the whole thing from overwhelming and discouraging you. Also aim to grow plants purpose bred for your climate, such as those available from local seed manufacturers – online purchases or exotics run the risk of being ill-suited to your climate and subsequently will be riddled with disease and would likely produce poorly.

My vegetable garden December 2014.
Conservation Agriculture is my main practise here and everything is growing like it would on a abandoned sidewalk! LOL!

Water supply is a huge concern, especially in hot/arid climates. If the weather isn’t generous enough to water the garden for you and your municipal water doesn’t come cheap – then other sources become a must have. There are many different rain water collection systems on the market and coupling these to a drip irrigation system will give you the most bang for your litre of water! Water use is maximised through mulch (a dead or living cover to prevent water loss through evaporation from soil), ollas (ceramic water containers which release water as needed) and planting water efficient crops (some tomato cultivars are more water efficient than others and most herbs use the least amount of water in the garden).

No rain in sight

Pest can become a major problem be they of the insect, bird, mammal or plant kind. Sustainable practises are hard and frustrating to adapt in the beginning stages as you do not receive the same benefit of instant/total pest annihilation. Many environmentally friendly pest control efforts take time to work and only reduces pest problem to a manageable level, meaning a low-level of pest will remain in the garden. I have several articles pertaining to this already and will write another with a more holistic setting later.

Backyard organic gardening involved pollinators, pests
predators and prey on the micro scale!

Soil and plant health are fundamentally linked – I cannot stress how important this is. I understand that many of us (including myself when I started gardening) do not fully appreciate the truth of this statement. Soil is the medium in which crops grow, gain their nutrient, water and it provides a foundation for biological interactions between the soil fauna (earthworms, microscopic worms, insects, arthropods, fungi and bacteria) and the plant roots. The biological interactions amongst the soil fauna and with the plants are crucial to provide nutrients and plant disease resistance. If your soil is lacking in nutrients, simply lining it with fertiliser (organic or not) is not sufficient as your plant will likely be prone to disease as nutrient only do not provide the plant with resistance. Adding decomposing matter (in the form of a mulch and compost) to the soil drastically increases soil fauna and these guys help sort out the pathogens/pests by either outcompeting them or simply destroying them. Again soil fauna reduces plant stress and disease to a minimal level; therefore you will have the odd sick plant. Please see my conservation agriculture post as an introduction to Soil Health and what you can do to improve it.

Fungi are an essential part of the soil fauna

So that ends the article for this round and I will finish off by adding a few links to each relevant concept for easy reference. Please remember that I will also write new articles on each topic listed in the topmost picture as well with the aim to provide you with tools to optimise food production whilst limiting the amount of soil working, pest combat and weed pulling on your side. Mother Nature has all the systems in place and if you allow her to steer your garden while you supervise in the backseat, you will be able to have a fully-stocked garden with minimal heartache.

Previous articles in this series:

Part 1: Vegetables Worth Growing
Part 2: Conservation Agriculture

Garden Management Systems:

Post: Planting by the Phases of the Moon
Post: Lunar Gardening (Revisited) & Biodynamics
Post: Conservation Agriculture


Posts: Vegetables
            Winter Leafy Veg
            Sweet Potato

Posts: Fruits
            Tamarillo (Tree tomato)
            Squash & Pumpkin

Posts: Herbs

Page: Edibles


Page: Watering

Post: The Living Mulch

Pest Control:

Posts: Garden Critters (Biological Control)
            King Crickets AKA Parktown Prawns
            Praying Mantis

Posts: Pests
            Scale Insects
            Eggplant Rust

Page: Garden Helpers
Page: Pest Control

Post:  Pesticide Resistance Mechanisms & Prevention
Post: Insectary - Beneficial Insects and the Garden Security Force

Soil Health:


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

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year Post: International Year Events 2015 & Garden Update

So the first day of the new year has arrived and once again we take a look at what this year has been dedicated to as well as updates from my garden(s)!

1. International year of Light (2015)

Without light life would not have existed. Photosynthesis is the most important chemical reaction that occurs naturally in all green plants and we are reliant on light for the food we produce. The topmost picture represents total photosynthesis of the world by both terrestrial (plants) and aquatic (algae) sources.

International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies

I am fairly sure that I don't have to rumble on about this subject as we are all aware of how it touches each part of our everyday lives, from food production, to energy generation as well as medical, science and technological marvels!

2. International year of Soil (2015)

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations is leading the awareness campaign for the education and preservation soil. They have made a cool infographic for easy reference:

International Year of Soils

I have also done a set of articles to promote the proper management and conservation of soil fertility in the vegetable garden, please see:

1. Soil structure

Soil profiles and my soil story

2. Composting

Instant Composting
Vermicomposting (Earthworm compost)
Composting Page

3. Management practices

Conservation Agriculture (related to Vegetables worth growing as part of the Sustainable, Productive and Economical Vegetable Gardening Series)
Lunar Gardening Revisited & Biodynamics
Watering methods

Garden Update

The garden(s) have gone through quite the upgrade in August 2014. With spring in sight and all its promises of bulk-harvest also predicted a more ominous event: HAIL!

After last year's terror hail storms, one throwing 8 cm monsters had me completely paranoid with visions of a flattened vegetable garden. Luckily we only received the tail end of the storm, but next season we might not be so lucky. During the whole winter I had been brain storming on how to protect the garden from falling ice stones that would still be economical and durable. Hence after some research and calculator exercise we came up with a pretty feasible solution: Shade netting.

You don't need to by full rolls meant for carpools if you have a small garden to cover: we got some off-cuts at an amazing price (R25 per meter on Gumtree unfortunately we only found this after the main garden upgrades so only the pumpkin patch got the benefit of this saving). Shade netting, weather-proof nylon string, wall hooks strong enough to support a boat (LOL!) and some manual weekend labour =

Main Vegetable Garden Upgrades August 2014
For the shade netting upgrades we paid about R1000
with the shade netting being the most expensive purchase (R53 per running meter)

We opted to cover the main garden's beds (which are about 80% of our total food production that the hail all-but destroys when it comes down) and the fruit trees (seeing that soft fleshy things and heavenly ice stones don't mix). We used a 20% shade netting which is robust enough to handle the hail and offers some shade to the vegetables during the scolding summer heat. With the anti-hail system in place we upgraded the rain-collection system as well with a purchase of another tank.

It is an absolute gargantuan at 10 000 L! Our first tank at 1000 L is completely dwarfed - the new tank was purchased as our family doesn't trust that the government/municipalities would be able to supply fresh water in the future (many places in South Africa are already having semi-permanent water interruptions without any warning). Therefore the 10 000 L would supply valuable back-up water and can be used for gardening activities in the mean time.

The main garden has gone bonkers since, with the switch to organic liquid feed and conservation agriculture management. I had and explosion of earthworms in the main garden due to my no-tilling system and other critters have swarmed to the garden as the insectary came in nicely this year.

Main Vegetable Garden December 2014

To the Pumpkin Patch!!!

So, we basically built a shade-netting greenhouse complete with door (LOL!). Again 20% shade netting offcuts, threading, screws and treated-droppers gives you a vegetable cage with attitude! The top left photo was the cage still under construction and the right is where it has been completed. The brick path did not cost us anything as we had left overs from a previous project. Behind the cage we have an alfalfa patch (the shrubs eaten to ground level by the chickens in the bottom photo), which is about a year old now. We also decided to try our hands at some maize (on the right in the bottom photo) and we planted our large pumpkins in between the maize plants (zucchinis went into the cage).

Pumpkin Patch Upgrade October 2014
Tank = 5000 L

Vegetable Cage October 2014
The cage cost R 1000 to build, excluding bricks and soil
(Greenhouses this size would easily cost R 20 000+)

The plants love it here and I have strategically placed insect attracting herbs around the cage as well, which has been a huge success seeing that it is swarming with insect activity.

Pumpkin Patch November 2014
I apologise for the dark photos - the cage isn't the easiest thing to photograph!

Vegetable Cage November 2014
(the un-planted area is an on-going attempt at growing asparagus from seed...)

The upgrades have worked a charm, although my maize and vegetable cage plantings need a bit of revision (too many small/bantam cultivar maize and zucchinis in the cage tend to flatten all plants around them...). Therefore next year I will do more large maize cultivars and the zucchinis are moving outside along with the other squash to the maize plot!

I will likely to a follow up post to this one with the plans and costs of building the cage as well as a few smaller structures should you wish to protect smaller vegetable beds.

Previous related posts:

Want to see what it looked like last year? See: New Year Post & Garden Updates 2014

Want to see what it looked like originally? See: About: This Blog


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

Absolutely Gorgeous Beautique

Absolutely Gorgeous Beautique
Your beauty, weight loss, slimming and skin care salon of choice! Products with International Shipping!