Growing Potatoes In Tires Can Work

With all the concern regarding the safety of growing potatoes in tires, and how to grow in the successfully, I thought I would add my experience to the potato stew. I did grow potatoes 2 summers ago in 2-deep tires with good results, with the exception of a consistent potato size. They were all over the place in size. I haven’t figured that out just yet.

Here’s how I did it:

First, on a 45° hill in my yard, I dug down about 6″ to form a level “seat” for the tire and some soft ground for the potato roots to reach down into. I lined the inside tire edges with straw because I wasn’t sure about residual toxicity, and I reasoned that any “good” water would drain straight through the center, and the edges would have dry or damp straw, no rubber leaching into the roots much, if at all. I filled the tire with very loose soil, peat, compost, vermiculite and potato sets.

I didn’t water at all. I just let nature take her course. Being on the lower side of the hill there was always dampness in the ground, and the rubber seemed to keep it damp. As the summer progressed I added a second tire, more dirt and straw in the edges again. But it got too hot in the later months for me to keep walking down the hill, here in Virginia, and I left it at two high.

By the fall, I had lots of potatoes! About 15lbs of them. They were all different sizes though, not uniform at all. Still, they tasted fine. I did not do any toxicity tests, only because I would have no idea how to do that, but they tasted good, and no one in our family of 7 was adversely affected, at least outwardly. No allergies or rashes, no drop in school grades or sickness. I would like to know how to test for sure if anyone knows?

The following year, last year, I tried whiskey barrels. Similar results only the potatoes grew in funny long shapes along the edges. Guess they follow the shape of whatever they are next to. They don’t seem to like being crowded at all.

This year, I have 4 tires and will try decorating them and stacking them along my driveway.  I’ll probably put sandier loam plus straw to make getting them out easier. Dirt is heavy! I will also add a soaker hose up through the middle inside of PVC pipe with drilled holes to make watering easy and centered. I don’t want the water to be in the top tires only, and centered watering will keep the roots/potatoes centered also.

Should be a fun experiment!

See experiment update here.

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This post was written by Marjory


  • Elizabeth Colussi says:


    1. Trisha says:

      Oh my goodness….are you volunteering to be the GMO participant. If you are, would you please check in at least every 6 months and let us know how your health is – we can always ask for donations. Just a reader…but an amazed one at your comment.

  • TommyD says:

    In April 2012, the results of a comprehensive two year study—the first long term feeding study ever performed—were in: feeding Monsanto’s RoundUp-ready corn, as well as “acceptable levels” of RoundUp in drinking water to laboratory rats, was proven to be highly toxic to health.

    The results were sobering: treated rats died 2–3 times more often than control rats, and more rapidly. Female rats developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before control rats; their pituitary was the second most disabled organ, and their sex hormonal balance was modified.

    Meanwhile male rats suffered from liver congestions, with necrosis occurring 2.5–5.5 times more frequently. They likewise presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than control rats, and these tumors occurred up to 600 days earlier. Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related.

    Read more at> http://gmo-awareness.com/all-about-gmos/gmo-risks/

  • Rustaholic says:

    I am down to buying at Baker Creek for the most part.
    Gurney’s owes me 100 strawberry plants this year.

    1. Baker Creek is a great outfit did you see my interview with Jere?

  • grammyprepper says:

    I recall my parents using old tires and rims to make fancy inexpensive flower pots when I was a kid. I find this entire conversation about the potatoes in tires interesting…considering that there are a lot of chemicals, I also wonder about the chemicals leaching out…I like the idea of using straw to mitigate that…oh, and those flowers? they were always healthy and didn’t grow any wierd appendages or anything, for what it’s worth!

  • Julia Hensley says:

    from http://www.ehow.com/facts_7789789_rubber-mulch-toxic.html#ixzz2sgugQyaR

    we find academic doublespeak:

    “Studies by Colorado State University have shown that rubber mulch is not toxic to plants. But, chemicals in the mulch — called rubber leachates — can leach into soil and contaminate groundwater and other waterways. These chemicals are highly toxic to aquatic algae, plankton, snails and fish.”

    From reading this, I myself would start with the best, least-worn tires I could find, as surfaces abraded with wear would presumably be more likely to leach out toxic chemicals faster, and I would avoid shredding or chipping the older, more worn tires for playground or garden mulching. Rather defeats the purpose. Wikipedia does give an interesting procedure for using tires for fuel that does not pollute the environment.

  • Lisa Sullivan says:

    My name is Lisa M.R. Sullivan and I wrote the article. Don’t know how I missed adding my name, but what I lack in computer skills, I guess I make up for in potatoes!

  • Charles says:

    While what I know about toxic substances that can dissolve in the moist soil from old tires is nil, I suspect they do not for three reasons.

    1. Substances added to the rubber mix must, necessarily be lipophilic (soluble in fats) and hydrophobic (not soluble in water.)

    2. Old tires have been subjected to considerable heat over time and have outgassed VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to a greater or lesser degree. Old tires that have lost nearly all tread would have a different chemical profile than a new tire that ran over a sharp object.

    3. Florida was having problems disposing of old tires. A novel proposal mas made to band tires in, say, batches of 4 or more, barge them offshore near Cape Canaveral, and create an artificial reef. The idea was to rid us of tires, and provide a habitat for game fish, as well as for sessile (stationary, non motile) organisms like barnacles, sponges, oysters, and the like.

    It is my understanding from news articles that both the Corps of Engineers, and the EPA were involved because of the very controversy among participants at this “Grow Your Own” website. As I know for sure, the EPA draws some tough lines in the sand. However, their basis is related to “tolerable limits” of a toxin that might be released.

    The only real problem with this is that game fish eat smaller fishes, which eventually concentrates the toxins in game fish tissues. It is impossible to have zero risk. After all, there are natural toxins in soil that vary from one community to another based on topsoil deposits from eroded areas.

    Sorry, I can’t provide anything conclusive. As a retired chemist, I am not only curious about things like this, but suspicious of any assumptions that people could make. I am very much a “show me the data” kind of person. With that said, I would probably find some other way to grow potatoes, until the controversy is resolved definitively to my satisfaction. All of us are preparing for potential disaster, and I’d dare say that the majority have strong feelings about growing organic produce and livestock. We would want to avoid concentrating toxins from our food over time.

    A recent study involving analysis of human fetal chord for the presence of dangerous toxins produced an alarming report and conclusions. So, we know that we have all been exposed.

  • Todd says:

    I’m tyring to do the same but after last years problems (very few at harvest and all at the bottom layer).
    How far up do you bury the plants when you put on a new layer. entirely, leave some leaves, only bury the bottom leaves, or only the stem? Is there anything special you do when you bury.

  • Rick Kovacvich says:

    Early variety potatoes do not do well in tires or potato boxes. The later varieties do much better. I am not sure about the toxicity of tires but believe it would be very low. They use recycled tires for soaker hoses. Plus it takes many years for a tire to breakdown.

  • Gail S. says:

    Hi Marjory, et al…

    I live in Southern maine, spitting distance of the NH border of Rollinsford.
    When we moved to this 13 acres off the beaten path about 14 years ago, I found some old tires on our property in a ditch. I decided to use them in my herb garden as raised beds. I had a book- Tirecrafting by Paul Farber. It became my bible that next spring and summer and even held up after leaving it out in the rain one night!

    I followed Paul’s directions and cut and turned the tires inside-out. So I was figuring the tire on the outside parts (which was now on the inside) had pretty much leached out what they were going to by the time I found them.

    I grew the best plants in those tires that year, and still have them in my herb garden.

    I also grew some sweet potatoes one summer in one tire just using my ammended light and fluffy soil, and some slips from some organic potatoes that were sprouting on my windowsill. The flowers were beautiful! And the potatoes came out more like fingerlings, and I allowed them to cure in a tray on the top of my fridge for a couple weeks or so. They were the best tasting sweet potatoes! They may have gotten bigger if I’d stacked a couple or 3 of the cut tires and given them more room to grow. Every year my garden is an experiment.

    The past couple years I have used the Ruth Stout method of growing veggies. One fall, I just covered my garden with about 8 inches of mulch hay – (not straw)- and it killed all the weeds down under. In the spring when I pulled back a flake of hay – that is now compacted down and starting to compost – the earth underneath was like black gold! I just placed my seed start plant veggies in the soil beneath, and covered back around them with the mulch hay. Last year I did very little watering even on the most hot days that we didn’t get any rain, and if an occasional weed popped up, It pulled up without any fuss or muss. It was the easiest garden I ever grew, and actually kinda boring as I didn’t have to tend it except to pick the produce when it was ready. In the fall, I just knocked over any stalks or foilage that was still standing and put another 8″ layer of mulch hay on top and said good night for the winter.

    I can’t wait til spring, er, or I should say planting day of Fourth of July, as the past few years we’ve not had a spring in these parts – thanks to geo-engineering. (but that’s another whole topic!) We’ve just jumped from snow melt flooding headlong into summer. But planting that late, my veggies did really well and thrived. If I’d staked the roma tomatoes, they probably would have topped off at 15 feet tall or more, and the one zuchini plant I grew kept us in zukes til late fall! The winter squashes loved snaking along the mulch hay bed, and nothing got rotted before it was time to pick.

    I also took a ride up to Eliot Colemans Four Season Farm late summer last year. I wanted to check out his movable green houses. They were quite impressive. Large, but he does commercial growing.
    This week I am attending a workshop refresher with some other master gardeners, on hoop house / green houses that are on a smaller scale for the home owner, and I also have plans that were given to me for making a green house out of cattle panels that looks quite simple and using sewn together opaque shower curtains to cover it. Tres inexpensive for the do it yerselfer on a budget.

    I could go on, but you get my drift.

    Love your site, and the info you provide, and I’m grateful to the Survival Summit for introducing me to you!

    Happy Gardening!

  • shawn elliott says:

    So may I know if you had any results and what they are I have been looking all over and I’m missing something or its among other things please I want to keep my family safe and feed them as well

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