We have had wonderful success growing potatoes in Maine – mostly on our grandmothers farm. That year we roto-tilled a couple of 15 foot lines and planted 4 lb. of red seed potatoes. We tended them the best we could (remember it was not on a place we could go out each day). Even with an issue with Colorado Potato Beetles stripping the foliage, the bounty was amazing.
This year we decided to try growing potatoes in some old car tires. We had the tires (boy our mini van goes through tires WAY too fast) and after some research it seems like there is a load of hype about heavy metals, but no solid research to show that it poses a real risk.
Yes – tires do break down over time and yes they may release heavy metals. But so does wood, plastic, wire etc. So I think that using ‘newish’ tires for a few years after their original on-car use, then disposing of them properly, or using them for non-food gardening use after that is probably the way to avoid any possible/potential issues as a tire starts to weather. When the research comes out telling me I am wrong, I will be the first to follow it – but like a lot of things you see on the net, the ‘don’t use tires cause they are a health risk’ is an OPINION and not based on scientific research.
We did spray paint the outside of the tires to try and make them a little less heat absorbent – and would love to paint them bright colors if we get the time and some left over house paint at a yard sale.
Our process was simple. I cut a piece of weed mat the size the the tire and placed it on the ground over the existing grass. The tire went on top and I filled it with our soil mix – two parts ‘compost’ that we get from our local dump once a year (its a 1c a pound…and while its all from rotting bark etc its a great base), one part sand and one part old horse manure – something we are managing to make faster than we can use. Into this we planted two pounds of seed red potatoes we got from Walmart (hey – we are not too proud to shop there! 🙂 ). We repeated the process so we will have two tire stacks.
Once the potatoes had sprouted and had about 8 inches of growth., we placed a second tire on top of the first, then carefully back filled the second tire with our soil mix to cover the stems. We filled it about 3/4 full. Once the plants are 8 inches about the second tire we will add a third and back fill. We will keep repeating the process until the plants flower.
We water the stack from the top until we see water coming out the base, to ensure that the roots are all well watered in the stack.
As yet we have not seed the dreaded Colorado Potato Beetle -but we are ever vigilant and will hand pick them off the plants when they appear. Having the plants concentrated in the tires instead of in rows will make that task so much easier – and because the plants are higher from the ground, less back-breaking as well.
Harvest time is still months away…but we hope that from the original four pounds we end up with enough potatoes to store away till next year (and some left to use as seed potatoes for the next crop).