Roots 'n' Shoots

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Friends of Free Wildlife


Friends of Free Wildlife
FFW

FreeMe wildlife rehabilitation centre was a volunteer organisation run by a board of directors, a small core staff and volunteers. The volunteers were the main workforce behind FreeMe and their hard work and dedication has facilitated the care and release of orphaned, sick and injured indigenous wildlife. They founded FreeMe back in 1997 in the north side of Johannesburg near the Rietfontein Nature Reserve and it was one of the only wildlife clinics in the area, since out veterinary clinics are not educated or equipped in dealing with wild animals. They used to collaborate with many veterinary clinics that treat the animals pro bono and organised drop-offs to be collected later and taken to FreeMe.

I myself had dropped off a few animals at the centre and kept an ear open about any news surrounding FreeMe. Little more than a year ago (November 2015) I had heard that the FreeMe volunteers had called for a resignation of 4 board members due to a dereliction of duty, which included the mistreatment of animals and the misappropriation of funds. The NSPCA (National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has received many complaints regarding the care and wellbeing of the animals at FreeMe. This lead to a temporary closure of the facility, which later had become a permanent situation.

Recently the Friends of Free Wildlife (FFW) had stepped in and taken over the role of FreeMe. They have located a property to house the facilities and are fully complaint to take in wildlife. They require some expansion and modification to the existing buildings, which you can support through donations.
I hope that they receive all the funding and support they require in no time, since we are all counting on them to rescue, rehabilitate and release our suburban wildlife!

Links of FFW:

Sign the Petition for the resignation of FreeMe board members

Why had FreeMe closed?

Donate


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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! πŸ˜†
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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Curry Tree: How to Grow - Herb of the Month

Curry Tree stats/requirements at a glance

Ease of Raising:
5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave
Water:
4/5 – Daily
Sun:
4-5/5 – Partial Shade to Full sun
Training:
1/5 – Minimal (3Ds: Dead, damaged and diseased)
Fertilise/Feeding:
1/5 – Minimal (at least during the growing season)
Time to Harvest:
1/5 – Immediate, yet slow growing
Frost Hardiness:
1/4 – Tender (can’t cope with mild frost)


Uses:
Culinary & Medicinal
Most Problematic Nemesis:
Aphids, Swallowtail Butterfly
Container Plant:
Yes

Curry Tree Flower buds
 Murraya koenigii 

Quick intro

My second exotic herb post of South Asian cuisine! All of us are quite familiar with the curry plant and its distinct aroma in Indian stews and local dishes. It is a very versatile herb that is mainly used in vegetable or lentil stews, as well as meat stews, soups, rice dishes and pickles. It is a true delight in the garden as it doesn’t take much space not does it require extraordinary care.

History

The curry tree has its origins in India and Sri-Lanka, where it is also known as Kadipatta. There is an Indian saying that compares the curry to a person which you only interact with for a specific reason, since the curry leaves are only used to flavour the dish and is subsequently removed and discarded.

Science Stuff

The curry tree, Murraya koenigii or Bergera koenigii, belongs to the rue family Rutaceae, which includes roses, citrus and several berries. Another shrub, known as the curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) is an herb of the Asteraceae (daisy) family and loses much of its flavour upon cooking. It has silver foliage and should not be confused with the true Sri Lankan curry tree.

Curry tree
Murraya koenigii
 Royal Botanical Gardens
Sydney Australia 


Curry Plant
Helichrysum italicum
Growing & Pruning the Curry tree

The curry tree stands 6 m tall with a spread of 5 m, but its size can be easily restricted by growing in a pot plant (diameter 30+ cm). You can purchase one at the local nursery and plant it up in summer. It is a slow grower that enjoys a warm sunny position. It is a tropical plant and enjoys daily watering. If you plant it in a cool climate or where winter temperatures drop below 13oC (55oF) then it would be ideal to pot it so that you can bring the plant indoors during cold spells.


Other Tips

It is a very striking plant with layered leaf stalks, which remain green throughout the year. If planted in the garden, the plant can be pruned to shape the tree and to stimulate new growth. Pot planted specimens do not require pruning other that the removal of dead, damaged or diseased parts.

Citrus swallowtail caterpillar with osmeterium visible,
Papillio demodocus

The curry tree is generally care free when it comes to insect and disease problems – likely due to its taste and aroma. New shoots (translucent red) may suffer from aphid attack on occasion. I have found by rare chance that the Swallowtail butterfly larvae eat the leaves, but the females prefer to lay their eggs on the citrus relatives instead. Both of the pest species I have discussed in their separate articles as well as developing environmental friendly homemade pest controls, see my Pest control page for more information.


Harvesting & Storing

Fresh curry leaves are preferred in cooking, since the distinct aroma is lost during freezing or drying. Remove the sprigs before cooking and remove leaves prior serving the dish.

Curry tree leaves for sale
Murraya koenigii
Satok market,
Malaysia Wikipedia, Thomas Quine 


Seed Saving & Propagation

The curry tree produces tiny white, self-pollinated flowers borne is delicate clusters. These are popular amongst some of the non-bee pollinators, which later develop into tiny edible single-seeded black berries – but be cautious of the seeds as they are poisonous!

Curry tree flowers, developing fruits and pollinating flies!
Murraya koenigii

It is not common to propagate curry trees from seed as they have highly erratic germination times. They do however produce suckers (new shoots from the main root system) at regular intervals. The suckers can be removed and re-potted after two seasons. I have done so myself, but the tiny plants seem to prefer their original position and attachment to the main plant as they don’t thrive after relocation.

Curry tree sucker
Murraya koenigii

My Curry Tree

Mine is about five years old now and has produced several new suckers in the past year. It sheds all of its leaves at regular intervals – I am not sure whether all curry trees do this, or just mine or just potted specimens… Anyways, it is about 1 m tall and I don’t prune it at all, since it only has a few branches and because it sheds its leaves so often.

Curry tree
Murraya koenigii



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______________________________________________________________________________

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! πŸ˜†
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Friday, 6 January 2017

Bees for Jam

I had to post this because I thought it was really awesome. Here the honey bees are enjoying a feeding frenzy on some partially used jam cups set out by the Wimpy and CafΓ© Fino at the Retail Crossing in Roodepoort. I think it is a wonderful idea: the bees stay out of the customers’ hair and the restaurants get some use of non-reusable food items!

Bees feeding on jam set out by Wimpy, Retail Crossing, Roodepoort


Bees feeding on jam set out by CafΓ© Fino, Retail Crossing, Roodepoort


Good on them!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Post: International Year Events 2017 & Garden Update

Usually with the New Year’s post I feature the UN ‘international year of’ theme. This year the theme is Sustainable Tourism for Development – aaannndd, I had no idea how to relate that to gardening. So let’s take a quick look at the key features of this year as per the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN:

“SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;

SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and

SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

So I found these a bit vague 😩, but the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) website has provided a bit more clarity on the matter:

“The #IY2017 will promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas:

(1)        Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
(2)        Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
(3)        Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
(4)        Cultural values, diversity and heritage
(5)        Mutual understanding, peace and security”

I am also disappointed at the infographics and promotional stuff for this year - most of the stuff is in PDF format which does not embed properly in blogger. Instead here is the link to some of the UNWTO fact sheets. Then I had a brain wave 😎. I have been to two of the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa as well as the Montreal Botanical Garden in Canada. Seeing that these would fall under the key areas of 3 & 4 I thought I would share some of the photos I took while visiting these. Each is spectacular in their own right as they cover different biomes and natural habitats. Here they are:

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens (Witwatersrand, South Africa)

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, South Africa
Highveld Biome
2014
Woohoo! Panorama πŸ˜‚ (oh hello and the new blogger update has given us symbols and emoji ! - welcome to 2017 Google Blogger!). For now on expect copious amounts of them! 😈 Anyways, here I tried to give the general impression of our highveld biome, which is classified as a savannah grassland (sparse trees in a open flat grassland). Walter Sisulu also sports a waterfall!


Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (Cape Town, South Africa)

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, South Africa
Fynbos Biome
2011
Kirstenbosch is a lot more lush, since they have a milder climate than the highveld and aren't to far from the coast which means the area is fairly humid. The fynbos biome is unique to the Western Cape, which includes a lot of plants from the Ericaceae family. The fynbos is well known for its Proteas (right bottom is the Pincushion Protea).

Montreal Botanical Garden (Quebec, Canada)

I was very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to go to Canada to present some of my scientific work at a conference there. We had a day off from science and I took the chance to visit the Botanical Gardens (it was so worth it! πŸ˜„).

Montreal Botanical Garden
Entrance
2016
This is the entrance area - I would say that the Montreal Botanical Garden is twice (maybe three?) times the size of ours. It is huge - I spent a whole day here and I didn't walk all the way through. They had a fantastic Insectarium (unfortunately all the photos are very dark and low quality)... 😞

Montreal Botanical Garden
Biodiversity Centre
2016

Not too far from the entrance is a large glasshouse where each section has exact climate control to promote the growth of biome-specific plants. I remember as you walk into a new section you can feel the temperature and humidity changes as well as all the wonderful plant and soil smells! Top left is the epiphyte section (air plants), very humid and hot. Top right is the tropical and spices section. Bottom left is the arid biome and on the right is the bonsai section... I could meditate in there the whole day 😌

Montreal Botanical Garden
Japanese Gardens
2016
Beautiful! Oh, goodness - happy times πŸ’– This is across the walkway next to the rose gardens (I no took photos of rose garden... had to prioritise sections and I am not a big fan of roses anyways...). And the Canadian air is so clean! You literally smell the fresh air when you get off the plane! Makes for very clear sky pictures too! Bottom left is the Japanese Tea Garden - another place to sit in the whole day.

Montreal Botanical Gardens
Food, Monastery and Alpine gardens
2016
Lastly. I included the squash vertical garden (left) as well as the Monastery garden (herbs) and the native Montreal Alpine Biome garden. I quite like the rocky, low growing look of the Alpine garden. After all these gorgeous pictures, I am afraid the rest of the post will seem a bit, meh... 😊



Garden Update

The garden had experienced some lingering effects of the drought we have had for the last two seasons. Some of the plots remain bare in the main garden, but the garden in the vegetable cage is doing really well. I moved the squash back into the vegetable cage (since the main garden was mostly planted with tomatoes, carrot and beet) and they are looking fantastic – hopefully we’ll be able to keep the fruit flies off of them this way too. 

Left is the main garden (top) and insectary (bottom).
Right is the vegetable cage (top) and alfalfa with dodder infestation (bottom).

Most of South Africa has seen a good deal of rain since November, but Roodepoort hadn’t seen much. I think we received the best Christmas gift because since the 24th we have had rain on an off with long stretches of overcast weather– maybe the illusive “La Nina” has finally started? (Read more at The Shoom's Weather report 2015/2016).

Furthermore, the alfalfa (lucerne) patch we started way back in 2013 has grown beyond its initial designated bed and is slowly spreading outwards. The chickens graze on them during the summer and do not care so much for them, but come winter they chickens eat them to the ground – which was the idea since the alfalfa is high in protein (18%) as a supplement for the chickens since insects are scarce in winter. The alfalfa has been mostly looking after themselves, we had to water them during the drought to prevent all of them dying and now it seems the dodder (Cuscuta species) have decided to move into the patch. Dodder is a parasitic plant (that’s why they are yellow, they have no chlorophyll and cannot photosynthesise)  that quickly engulfs whole areas of plants in a yellow tangled mass that reminds me of the ‘Red Weed’ from Wars of the World. I have found that the only way to get rid of it is to cut the host plant to the ground and then chuck the infested leaves on a bare area of soil in the sun (no plants close by) and to let it die there. Some dodder biology below - what a insult: "You're such a Dodder!" LOL! πŸ˜…

Dodder (Cuscata species) biology


Other updates include as I mentioned with my B-day post that I will be posting once a month now so that I remain sane as I move towards the seemingly endless stretch of finalising my PhD. The blog holiday was a well needed break, since I have come up with a whole list of new post concepts for the next year. As per usual - stay tuned for more ramblings and garden shenanigans as Roots ‘n’ Shoots moves into its 5th year of article postings!

TTFN
Ta – Ta For Now!

The Shroom


Previous related posts:

Want to see what it looked like last year (2015)? See: New Year Post 2016 & Garden Updates

Want to see what it looked like in 2014? See: New Year Post 2015 & Garden Updates

Want to see what it looked like in 2013? See: New Year Post & Garden Updates 2014

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


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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! πŸ˜†
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Saturday, 29 October 2016

When Termites Fly... cues from Nature

Flight of the Northern Harvester Termite
(Rysmier)
Hodotermes mossambicus
- not the best picture, but the camera doesn't see them LOL! -

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" , is a quote from Lao Tzu (Loazi), the author of the I-Ching (Tao Te Ching) and the philosophy of Taoism. I thought that it was especially fitting considering that as vegetable gardeners we are very aware of the seasons  and what this means for our crops each year (farmers even more so). If crops do not enter the soil at a specific time then crop yields are impacted or no crops are available at all. It is not just a matter of the time required for a crop to come into production for timely harvest, but also the amount of water content available in the soil and water table that influences how well crops grow or if they grow at all.

Alates (reproductives) and Soldiers
[You can click on the picture to enlarge]

- the one on the right took a bit of a nose dive upon lift off, they're not the best fliers :)  -


I think that we get swept up (as we do in most of our daily lives) with the time at which things 'need' to be done. With the threat of another drought looming for this year most of us are very concerned about when it will rain in order for us to get food production season going. Roodepoort had received a total of 47 mm of rain during the period of 7-23 October. On the 22nd the future kings and queens of the termites took to the sky in their masses. Their brief nuptial flight postponed (along with this year's sowing plans) by the late coming of the rain. I remember that they used to fly a lot earlier in the year with the coming of good rain, usually early September. Just short of two months past their due date, a good stretch of rain had triggered their annual cycle once again and ensured the establishment and maintenance of the next generation.

It's a war!
The ants have stormed the termite stronghold!
You can see the termite soldiers trying to fend off both ant workers and soldiers!
Alas termite alates are being captured!

[You can click on the picture to enlarge]

Termite swarming also means opportunity for food. All manner of predator take full advantage of the sudden oversupply and swoop, mob, peck and carry away countless prey. The swallows and bats are the most prominent predators to intercept the termites by wing. Flocks of swallows feast on the early fliers when there is still enough light in the sky, whereas bats take the night shift and any remaining fliers that emerge after dusk. Predatory insects also capture any victims who stray too close and other night time predators collect the now-wingless reproductives from the ground. Some stragglers are still left the next morning when early birds peck them up from the paving and roads.

Termite victims taken to the ant nest.
On the one side I feel bad for the termites,
but the ants have been so desperate lately (they're all over the kitchen!) and
this food will go a long way.

[You can click on the picture to enlarge]


Seeing the whole familiar scenario unfold once more was quite humbling. Taking some cues from nature in the sense that our vegetables will be planted and crop harvested. The produce may not be as bountiful or timely as we would like, but everything happens in its own time and life carries on.


oOo

Some scientific details to supplement my somewhat philosophical piece 


Termites make up their own order, Isoptera. They are not related to ants (from the order Hymenoptera), since they do not have constricted waists or elbowed antennae. The most common species in Gauteng is the Northern Harvester Termite (Afrikaans: Rysmier, translation: "rice ant"), Hodotermes mossambicus. They are not dry-wood termite and, as such they feed on grasses and twigs. They are ubiquitous and form large underground colonies even in very urbanised areas. Parent colonies release eyed, flying reproductives (alates) at dusk after a period of heavy rain. They fly a short distance, fall to the ground and detach their wings. Females produce pheromones to attract males. The pair burrow into suitable substrate and a new colony becomes established after egg laying. New colonies will only produce reproductives in a few years, but once established colonies can last for centuries.



____________________________________________________________________________________
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! 
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