Overwintering African Blue Basil, Comparing Squashes and Testing Compost

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Overwintering African Blue Basil, Comparing Squashes and Testing Compost

My African Blue Basil cuttings which I took in October are romping away now in their tiny modules on my kitchen window sill. They were taken as an insurance policy against my basil bush dying. The African Blue is a perennial basil and a plant you can overwinter here indoors in the UK but I always find the lovely big bushes I buy always die in the autumn. I know it is easier to keep cuttings alive and this seems to be true in this case, they are doing well so far.

I am spending a lot of my lunch breaks at the allotment as I try to catch a bit of daylight in these dark winter days. I don’t really do much apart from wander around dreaming and planning.  The green manures are doing well and I can see in my mind’s eye drifts of elegant nitrogen fixers nuzzling against my brassicas next summer. The nine star broccoli and the wild cabbage are doing very well and I put this down to the bed being used previously for peas and vetches. I had cut back the plants when the peas had finished and composted them, leaving the roots to rot in the ground. It seems to have worked cos the brassicas are very healthy.

At home I have been sieving more (really nice) home made compost – two buckets worth. I still have loads of the rough stuff unrotted, hopefully ready for me in mid spring for feeding my squashes. I have gotten addicted to squashes, but now I am putting the things through a sorting process as I sort the wheat from the chaff. Not all squashes are created equal: pumpkins have a thinner layer of flesh and that flesh is fairly watery. Little gem is quite dry when stored and not all that palatable. The best storing squash I have grown is Crown Prince which is sweet and nutty and has a thick layer of flesh.

How do I know my compost is really nice? Well apart from the smell, texture and pure dark brownishness I did a soil test on it using my new testing kit. The compost has turned out to be high in nitrates and phosphates, but low in potash. The potash test results are based on cloudiness in the solution and I couldn’t see much cloudiness at all, much like the test I had done previously on my soil which also showed poor potash. Unlike my soil, my compost has much better phosphates of which I am glad. Like the soil my compost was alkaline and quite frankly may be very alkaline cos the green in the solution was a darker green than the one on the chart.

I can deal with the potassium shortage with more comfrey which I will allow to spread and use more intensively. I could use wood ashes but that will increase the alkalinity further, and to be honest I am getting a bit nervy with all this alkalinity.

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