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About Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (June 18, 2020)
in other words
Diggin’ in The Dirt: Growing Vegetables in Containers
By Chip Bubl
Oregon State University
Extension Service - Columbia County
The OSU Extension office is closed to face-to-face
public contact but you can still reach us!
All of us (faculty and staff) will still be working
(mostly out of the office), answering phone calls left
on our answering machines, email messages (chip.
firstname.lastname@example.org), writing newspaper columns
and newsletters, and working to develop programs that
can reach you online. We are really committed to help-
ing our communities in any way we can, especially in
our areas of subject matter expertise (farming, garden-
ing, forestry, food, food safety, and nutrition, healthy
decision-making, and youth education) and any other
way we can enrich your life and/or make you safer in
these challenging times. Please do not hesitate to con-
tact us! And please, take all steps necessary to ensure
that you and your loved ones are safe.
for container gardening. Some intrepid aquatic garden-
ers create holes where the pots and plant roots are in
Multnomah channel and are watered naturally.
Besides tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants you
can grow lettuce and other greens (they like wider but
shallower pots), radishes, carrots, cilantro and basil,
potatoes and many other vegetables. Pole beans grow
well if you build a trellis. So do cucumbers and snap
peas which need a smaller trellis. Even a zucchini will
perform well in a large container.
One other value of containers is putting them
where the deer can’t destroy your vegetables.
There are drawbacks, though, to contain-
ers. First, they need more attentive watering as noted
above. And on very hot afternoons, it may be wise to
pull them back into shade around 3 pm to reduce the
risk of sunburn.
Pressure gauge testing: We have, for years, tested
the pressure gauges of home canning equipment. They
should be checked periodically to make sure food that
needs to be pressured canned to avoid botulism gets
the right treatment. We plan to set up a couple of days
to do the testing. If you are interested, contact Jenny
Rudolph at our office and she will email you the date(s)
and time when we will be doing that. Her email is Jen-
Here are some free classes:
• Free online OSU vegetable gardening class: https://
• Free online beginning OSU/Food Bank vegetable
gardening class (“Seed to Supper”): https://www.
Growing vegetables in containers
Peppers like warm roots. Given happy roots
and otherwise normal care, they produce abundantly.
So do eggplants and tomatoes. One way to improve
root temperatures is to plant these vegetables in con-
The planted containers should be placed where
they get a decent amount of sun. Eight hours or more
is best. Make sure it is easy to water them since con-
tainers may dry out more quickly than garden planted
Another advantage is that if you have limited
space in which to garden, putting these plants on patios
or decks can add quite a bit to your total home veg-
etable production. We have a lot of people in South
County that live in floating homes. Those are perfect
Second, some plants need to be staked and tied
(peppers) or trained in a structure (tomatoes). Staking
isn’t too hard in containers but getting or building a
stable and large enough tomato cage that won’t topple
over in a container is a challenge.
Third, soil straight from your garden doesn’t
work well in containers, at least as the only material in
pots. Clay-rich soil has very small pore spaces and so it
drains slowly which can lead to waterlogged roots that
lack oxygen and poor growth. Most university publica-
tions advise against using garden soil.
But it is expensive to buy potting mix for con-
tainers. There is a minority opinion that says it is pos-
sible to mix good garden loam (with moderate to low
clay) with other materials for vegetable containers. I
have seen it done with good results. The containers are
heavier (so they are less likely to blow over) and seem
to be able to go between watering slightly longer. But
I need to repeat, don’t use heavy clay soils either alone
or in the mix or it will get waterlogged.
Here are several soil mix recipes for contain-
ers that use garden soil. One calls for equal parts by
volume of garden loam (your best soil), good compost,
and perlite. Another uses equal parts of potting mix,
good soil, compost, and perlite. A final possible mix
is equal parts peat moss or well-rotted compost; loamy
garden soil; and clean, coarse builder’s sand. With any
of these mixes, you can add lime at about ¼ cup per
four gallons of mix. Slow release organic or conven-
tional fertilizers can also be added or the plants can be
watered about every four days with a liquid fertilizer
(organic or conventional) at about one-half strength.
Fourth, container shape and size influences
how much water a container will hold and its poten-
tial for waterlogging toward the bottom of the pot. Two
containers of equal volume, one that is 6 inches tall and
wide and one that is 12 inches tall but narrow, drain
differently. Both will have perched water at the same
height from the bottom of the pot.
But with the low, wide container, 2” of water
on the bottom represents 33% of its volume while the
same two inches in the 12” container represents about
only 16% of the volume. To prove this, take a six inch
sponge and soak it, then first drain it on its side and
measure the height that drains. Then soak again and
drain it upright and it will drain to the same height.
Anything we can do to reduce waterlogging will pro-
duce better plants.
Finally, if you use five-gallon buckets or oth-
er makeshift containers, drill holes in the bottom and
about ½ inch along the side from the bottom to ensure
decent drainage. Tomatoes and peppers need large,
deep containers (at least 12 inches high and five gal-
lons or more in volume) while lettuce can be planted in
lower, wider containers of six-inches or so.
If you want some great practical gardening in-
formation, see Grow Your Own, an Oregon State Uni-
versity publication you can find online. If you have
questions, please feel free to email me at chip.bubl@
oregonstate.edu or call and leave a message for me at
May you all be safe and have a wonderful garden
year. Hope to be able to see you soon. Chip
Free newsletter (what a deal!)
The Oregon State University Extension office
in Columbia County publishes a monthly newsletter on
gardening and farming topics (called Country Living)
written/edited by yours truly. All you need to do is ask
for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call (503)
397-3462 to be put on the list. Alternatively, you can
find it on the web at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/
columbia/ and click on newsletters.
Take excess produce to the food
bank, senior centers, or community
meals programs. Cash donations to
buy food are also greatly appreci-
Are You A
The Extension Service offers its pro-
grams and materials equally to all
Owned and Operated by
Don & Kim Wallace
DON WALLACE, PLS
Professional Land Surveying
1224 E. Alder St.
Vernonia, OR 97064
Contact information for the Exten-
Oregon State University Extension
Service – Columbia County
505 N. Columbia River Highway
(across from the Legacy clinic)
St. Helens, OR 97051
(503) 397-3462 Email: chip.bubl@
Community Action Team
Vernonia’s Voice is published twice each month on the
1 st and 3 rd Thursday. Look for our next issue on July 2.