If you've ever planted potatoes, you know that it is back breaking work. Last year we planted a fair amount of potatoes the traditional way. We dug, planted and mounded the potatoes. We fought potato beetles most of the season. We dug again to find there weren't a lot of potatoes. They were delicious, but we didn't get a good yield.
For several years now I've been reading about alternative ways to plant potatoes. Grandmother Wren's post Grow Potatoes in a Barrel convinced me to try something different this year. I've also seen several articles about growing potatoes in old tires. A good one can be found at Back Woods Home, A New Use for Old Tires. The article discusses using old tires for a variety of garden needs, including growing potatoes.
Since I don't have any barrels on hand, and we did have a few tires and a neighbor who has lots of old tires, I decided to go the tire route. If you don't live in the hills like I do, where old tires are in abundant supply, you can get old tires from your neighborhood tire shop. They actually have to pay to dispose of them, so they would be happy to give you all you need.
Here is what you need to do.
1. Lay out your tires. Create some drainage. The article suggested digging up the soil to create drainage. Since the soil where I laid the tires is rock hard clay, I put some stone and broken block pieces in to create drainage. I also stuffed dryer lint around the edge of the tire. This isn't necessary, but I had the lint and it will help to keep the soil in while the water drains. (Remember 13 uses for dryer lint?)
2. Put in some dirt and growing material. I covered the drainage material with compost soil. Then filled the rest with leaves. Be sure to stuff the soil into the sides. You can use soil, leaves, or partially rotted sawdust. We will be using a little of all three.
3. Get the potatoes ready. You'll want to use seed potatoes, not just some that you've had to long in your cupboard. Seems the potatoes you buy to eat have been treated to not grow. Those that do start growing will not do well.
Cut them in pieces so that each piece has two eyes in it.
4. Plant them. Put three or four potato piece in each tire, and cover with planting material.
6. Wait This is as far as I've gotten. Next I wait for the plants to be about 8 inches tall. Then I will add another tire, and enough dirt, leaves, or sawdust to cover all but two or three inches of the plant. When I get to this step I will post an update. The process will be repeated until there are four tires stacked. To harvest I will simply remove one tire at a time, and remove the potatoes. A four tire stack is expected to yield about 25 pounds of potatoes.
We started with five tires, but decided it was so easy we would do more. We now have the start for 13 stacks. I will post updates throughout the season.