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growing crops in bags

Patio containers will grow food and boast hues of silver and white, and I think we may even see gardeners experimenting with growing sweet potato vine towers.

Long gone are the acre gardens with rows and rows of vegetables. The current gardeners are growing their food in patio pots, garden bags, raised beds, buckets or anything that holds a moderate amount of soil. This gardener has had great success with spinach, Swiss chard, beets, kohlrabi, eggplant, peppers, carrots, radishes, and a plethora of herbs like cilantro and basil in patio containers and buckets.

Over the years, some vegetables like tomatoes and squash are just not well-suited for container growing. However, the industry has created smaller versions of our favorites that can produce more with smaller soil volume. These include Micro Tom tomato, (the world’s tiniest tomato plant), Kellogg Breakfast of Valencia tomato, Dwarf Yellow Crookneck squash, Romeo and Short Stuff or Adelaide carrots, Baby Ball beets, Mexican Miniature watermelon, Striped Guadeloupe Fairy Tale patio baby eggplant, Tom Thumb peas, Mini White cucumbers, Kitchen Minis bell peppers and tomatoes and Magic Molly or Huckleberry potato.

Many of these may need to be ordered as seed from garden catalogues, but some may be available in your local garden centers. If miniatures are unavailable, here are some tips for minimal sizes and soil volumes for growing some of your common vegetables.

Minimal Pot Size refers to the diameter of the top of the pot. The height may vary but is usually categorized as standard or azalea. Azalea pots are shorter and ideal for plants that grow minimal roots like succulents. Standard pots are recommended for growing vegetables.

Recommended minimum diameters are tomatoes, 20 inches; peppers, 16 inches; radish, onion and beets, 10 inches; carrots, 12 inches; and herbs and flowers, 12 inches; and greens, 10 inches.

Recommended soil volume is 10-inch pot, 3 gallons; 12-inch pot, 5 gallons; 14-inch pot, 7 gallons; 16-inch pot, 10 gallons; 18-inch pot, 15 gallons; 24-inch pot, 25 gallons; and 30-inch pot, 30 gallons.

Porch pots combining hues of silver foliage along with white flowers will be on trend this year. Silver foliage plants include Dichondra "Silver Falls," lotus vine, dusty miller, lavender and curry plant. Lotus vine has fine, silvery foliage that drapes down the side of the pot. Ornamental curry plants, which are related to straw flower, assert foliage similar to lavender, and have small, rounded yellow blooms. The blooms sometimes detract from silver foliage so regular pinching is required for a bold compact silver accent. Although its namesake and scent reminds of a delicious curry dinner, this is not the edible kind of curry.

To achieve the silver and white color combination, add annuals that will provide continuous white blooms that are easy to care for, including Angelonia (Summer snapdragon), Argyranthemum (daisy), Calibrachoa (Million Bells), Browallia (bush violet), verbena or zinnias.

Sweet potato vines are much loved for their ease of growth, aggressive nature and vibrant colors. They can be a vertical tower with well-built tomato cage, grow up a trellis, fence or even mailbox.