I started to grow some of my own veggies for the first time this year. I’ve got lots of good stuff growing in the garden and have managed to harvest a few carrots and strawberries already. My small successes have inspired me to keep expanding my little garden and see what other foods I can grow. Earlier this week I embarked on a new garden experiment growing potatoes in old tires. After doing some research I have discovered there are many ways to grow your own potatoes using tires, Rubbermaid tubs, old garbage cans and bags. Since I had some old tires out in the shed I figured this would be a great opportunity to recycle them and give this growing experiment a try.
Are tires safe to use to grow food?
There is debate about whether or not it is safe to grow food in old tires. Some say the chemicals will leech out of the tires and into the soil . Yes, tires do contain small amounts of metals and chemicals but they are tightly bonded with the rubber and won’t leach into the soil. I feel confident that it is safe for me to use tires to grow potatoes. If you don’t agree with me you can use the same concepts outlined in this article but with other containers such wood boxes or bags. The possibilities are endless.
Get yourself some old tires. A great source is Craigslist. You could also call around to some auto shops and places where they sell tires. Considering there are millions of used unwanted tires that get recycled or discarded every year, you should have no problem snagging yourself some. I had some sitting in my shed so they got put to good use.
You can purchase seed potatoes that have been raised to produce high yields and for their disease resistance qualities. Your local nursery will have them or you can buy them online. There are a ton of different potato varieties to choose from. Why not try some favorites you like to cook with as well as some fancy ones like Russian Blues (yes, there are blue potatoes!) Using potatoes from the grocery store can be a gamble. Many are sprout resistant which means they won’t grow and they may carry diseases that will ruin your whole crop.
Because I have a tendency to procrastinate I got a late start on my potato towers. I hope it’s not too late. A friend of mine had a huge bag of red potatoes that they didn’t get around to eating and they all sprouted. Because I am cheap I used these as my seed potatoes. These potatoes were grown from a small farm in a nearby county so I think they are a good candidate for my seed potatoes. Plus they were free so that was a bonus.
The Set Up
Let your seed potatoes sit out in the sun until they begin to sprout.
Find a sunny spot in your yard and set your tires down. Fill it with soil and place your seed potatoes about 2 inches deep.
|I used some extra straw from my bale garden mixed with soil for my planing medium|
Once the potatoes have grown at least 3-4 inches of foliage you can set a second tire on top of the first and cover with more soil, leaving about 2 inches of foliage above the soil. As the plants grow you can continue to add more soil and stack more tires. Just remember to always keep 2 inches of growth above the soil. By covering the stem with more soil it converts the stem into more root. The root will then shoot off laterally and more potatoes will grow off those shoots.
By growing vertically you maximize your growing space. Growing potatoes this way is great for those with small yards who don’t have a lot of space.
Potatoes need a lot of water so make sure you water liberally and that the water gets all the way down to the base of the tower. You will know the potatoes are ready to harvest when the leaves start to die off. At this point stop watering and let the potatoes sit for a few weeks to let them mature. Make sure not to let them sit too long in the fall when the rain starts or they might rot. Disassemble the tires and dig up your taters and hopefully you will be blessed with a bounty of delicious potatoes!
I'll keep you up to date with how things are growing. Have you ever grown tire taters? Share your tips in the comments!