Purple Cabbage Ph Indicator Test

I had time to try the purple cabbage Ph indicatortest. A new Food 4 Less opened in the neighborhood and they have a real nice vegetable selection. I was talking to my Master Gardener friend, Greogry, about spaghetti squash a little while ago. Coincidentally, the store had the spaghetti squash and the purple cabbage.


So, the directions said to chop the cabbage leaves and mix it with distilled water and let it sit. I used the food processor to chop it up and used boiled and cooled water. The water was lukewarm when I added it to the food processed cabbage leaves and the water turned purple immediately.

Next you’re supposed to get some vinegar and some of the cabbage solution…04-11-09-5

And mix the two together…


You do this to test the solution. Mine turned red. So far, so good.

Next you take your soil sample and add some of the solution, mix and let settle…


The color of the solution gives you an indication of your soil ph.

  • Pink or red = Indicates acidic soil
  • Purple (no change) = neutral ph
  • Blue = indicates alkaline soil
  • Green = Indicates highly alkaline soil


The soil on the left came from the raised bed that had the leaves sitting in it over the winter. The soil samples had little worms in it and had a plastic cover over it for the past month. (I ended up doing the test twice.) The middle sample came from the middle bed which was lightly mulched over the the winter with leaves. The third sample came from the area where I grow a large leafed hosta. The soil is not raised and is much more compact than that in the raised beds.

I don’t know how well it shows on the picture, but it looks to me like my vegetable beds are alkaline/blue and that the area where no vegetables were grown is very alkaline/green.

I’ll take a little time to see which vegetables grow best in alkaline soil, but at the end of the day (especially since I have so few square feet to work with) my planting decsions, unless I decide to get a real soil test, will be based on things that we like to consume and how they physically look in the garden.

So, there you go. Another low cost way to get something done in the yard.

Happy Gardening!!!!

Soil Solutions (and) Snatching up Sensational Seeds

Here’s what I learned in the class I sat in on a couple of days ago.

The class was on soil. The presenter mentioned the soil-in-a-jar test to get a rough idea of your soil composition, just like the presenter at the Building Urban Gardens class, but she also said you can get a rough idea of your soil acidity using a purple cabbage. She mentioned the purple cabbage and some baking soda, but I was distracted and didn’t quite get it. But here’s what I found on how to do it.

Chop up some purple cabbage leaves, add an equal amount of distilled water (which is ph neutral at 7.0), and let sit for a few hours. You want the water to turn purple.

To test the solution, mix a few drops of the solution with a few drops of regular cooking vinegar, the five percent kind. The solution should turn red, which indicates a 3.5 ph.

To test your soil, in a container mix one part dry soil to two parts of the cabbage solution. Stir and let soil settle. The color of the solution gives you an idea of your soil acidity.

  • Pink or red = Indicates acidic soil
  • Purple (no change) = neutral ph
  • Blue = indicates alkaline soil
  • Green = Indicates highly alkaline soil

Soils with lots of organic material tend to be more acidic.

They gave out seeds again at the end of the class. This time it was herbs. I got…


The salsify was a trade. I had the regular basil, which I didn’t need, so I wanted to try the salsify and the woman I traded with wanted the basil. So, it was a win-win situation.

I needed some spinach seeds and stopped at the Big Lots and found these …


I was going to order the lemon cucumbers, but the shipping and handling was stopping me, so I was really happy to find these. And I don’t really eat beets, but who could resist a bulls eye beet. And how often do you see white radishes? Do I hear seed-aholic in the making?

Happy Gardening!!!!

Bugs All Around Me

Today I was surrounded by so many bugs.  Really they were BUGs, folks participating in the Building Urban Gardens program. 

This was the second meeting we had, and the subject matter for today’s class was about soil:  soil structure, soil composition, soil ph, testing soil, composting to amend your soil, vermicomposting to amend your soil.

Our presenter was a celebrity once removed.  Bill Shores is a garden designer, and one of his assignments is running the Bayless Family Production Garden where he raises micro greens and salad greens.  Although I’ve never been to the restaurant, I watch Rich Bayless’s public television show, Mexico-One Plate at a Time.

I kind of brag about the fact that I don’t bother with testing soil ph, not after buying an electronic meter that didn’t work…not the first one or the one I exchanged it for and finally returned to the store.  I figure if the veggies are doing okay, the soil must be okay.  The one test they mentioned that I think is worth doing, though, is a lead test. 

According to our presenters, lead doesn’t move once it enters the soil.  You should take a soil sample at different spots throughout your garden, ideally at four-foot intervals, but definitely where you’ll grow food crops.  They suggest taking samples from different areas because the levels of lead can be very low in one section and four feet away the levels can be through the roof. 

Lead causes you a problem not necessarily by ingesting it, but by inhaling it, so they suggest that if you find high levels of lead that you put a barrier between yourself and the soil.  It can be something as simple as grass or mulch, anything that will keep the dust down.

This is probably more of a problem for those of us in an urban setting, and luckily for us in Chicago there is a testing facility where we can drop of soil samples (saving a few bucks on shipping costs).

Let me think…What else did we cover?

Here’s a quick way to get an idea of your soil composition.  You’ll need:

  • About a cup of soil
  • Distilled water (or tap water that you’ve let sit overnight so the chlorine dissipates)
  • A clear container with a lid that you’ll use to mix the soil and water
  • A squirt of dish washing detergent

Mix the soil with water (about three parts water to one part soil) and add a quick squirt of dish washing detergent and shake really well.   Let the container sit for a few hours and you’ll be able to see the levels of sand, silt and clay.  You can use the chart below to determine what kind of soil you have in your yard.

Soil Structure Diagram

If you’re up for a better, more technical explanation, try the link.

Finally, thank you , Mr. Gregory Bratton, Master Gardener, for taking me under your wing and getting me into the program.

Happy Gardening!!!

Lots of Leafy Lettuce. I’m a Lucky Lady.

I just love seeing things grow, that’s why I haven’t picked any leaves off the lettuce I transplanted and brought in the house back in late October.

Here is one of the three trays I planted.  I gave one to my mother-in-law.

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Some of the leaves have gotten pretty big.

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This was a lettuce mix I got at Jewel Foods and there are a few different varieties.  There’s the one above, which seems to be the fastest grower and these…

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I’m also, as an experiment, trying to over-winter the herbs.

parsley…12-11-08 (4)

sage…12-11-08 (3)


and thyme…thyme

Nah.  I didn’t really grow thyme, but it would have been musical.  Remember that Simon & Garfunkle song?

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”

I did grow  parsley, sage, rosemary and chives, though, and that has a musical ring to it.

The sage and the parsley look a little droopy, and you can see I haven’t even properly potted two of them.  My goal is to keep the roots going even if the top growth suffers.  I want to see if they’ll perk up when they get back outside in the ground. 

I took cuttings from the rosemary and sage (they’re too sad looking for pictures right now).  If they root I’ll post pics later.

I even broke down and bought a package of that expensive pre-packaged organic mint from Jewel Foods because I learned of the joy of Mojitos.

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My Mojito didn’t look quite as pretty as the photo, but it tasted pretty good.

**caution – excessive consumption of Mojitos can lead to prolonged feelings of euphoria.

Just as another experiment, I’m trying to root some of the stems.

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In the summer I’ll just use some of the runners from my neighbor’s yard that find their way onto my side of the fence.  Free plants…always a good thing.

Happy Gardening!!!

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