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!
Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of “homegrown food on every table.” Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.