Potato tire tower photo by Bonzai Aphrodite
We've bemoaned the tragedy of eating non-organic potatoes (see: "The Seven Foods Safety Experts Won't Eat" and "Potato, Potahto") A pack of organic potato seeds will run you about $3.50 and will provide you with pounds upon pounds of this vegetable. But what if you're tight on space for growing your veggies? We've found a solution. Check out this Instructables entry on growing potatoes in old tires.
means that when you receive your seed potatoes in around February, you place them in a light, dry environment, but out of direct sunlight (a north facing window sill is a good place) and wait for small shoots to grow from the eye of the potato, which should be facing up. When looking at a potato, you will notice that one end will usually have more eyes than the other end, this is called the rose end. Early potatoes need to be chitted before being planted, while maincrop varieties don't absolutely need it but will benefit from being chitted before being planted.
If growing potatoes in tires, first chose a sunny spot in your garden or balcony. Ensure there is drainage below the tire, as potatoes don't like getting water-logged, though they do need sufficient water for the tubers to form.
Early potatoes can be planted at the end of March, while maincrop potatoes are usually planted in April, at the latest at the beginning of May. The main aspect affecting planting time is frost. Potatoes are only half-hardy and any frost will kill off emerging plants.
Fill the tire with damp earth to just over half the depth and place 4 - 5 seed potatoes in it, with the eye or shoots facing up. Cover with a couple of inches of soil. In this example, we have used seed potatoes for a maincrop which have not been chitted.
Keep the soil moist but not wet and within about six weeks there should be several healthy potato plants growing. If your seed potatoes were chitted, the plants should appear sooner.
If there is any chance of a late frost, protect the young plants with straw or earth them up immediately as they appear.
When the young potato plants are two to three inches high, add a second tire to the stack and add more soil, almost but not quite covering them.
Continue covering the emerging plants with soil until your stack is 3 tires high. Tubers will be forming all the way up the stack of tires.
Early potatoes are ready to harvest when the flowers have opened or the buds fallen off. Dig a few tubers up and check—they should be about the size of a hen's egg. With maincrop potatoes, wait until the foliage has turned brown, cut off at the stems and wait a few days before lifting.
One of the cons of the traditional method of growing potatoes in long rows, is that you have to ensure you have dug up every single tuber each autumn. Growing potatoes in tires avoids the possibility of missing that one tiny potato which would ruin your carrot patch next year!