My favorite description of this method of potato production comes from Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen's book The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition): Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. (They also have a great blog called Root Simple.) To make Tater Tires you need 3 or 4 old car or truck tires of about the same size. You lay the first tire in a good sunny spot and break up the ground beneath it a little bit.
Then you fill the tire with a bunch of soil or compost or potting soil. Apparently the potatoes are not particular, they just want it to be pretty loose. I read somewhere else that you can even use rotting leaves. I happened to have some half-rotted compost so I used that.
I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about this compost mix because I've been throwing the soiled pine shavings from the baby poultry on this compost pile for the last week or two. I know that fresh bird manure will burn plants, so I worked the shavings into the compost pile pretty well, hoping to avoid the dreaded "burn". The shavings did give the compost mix a nice, workable texture, though.
After I got the compost pushed down into the tire, being careful to fill under the edges, I picked out a couple of Yukon Gold seed potatoes that I recently bought at Home Depot. I'm sort of horrified that I bought seed potatoes because I could've just used a couple of old potatoes that had started making eyes. But, alas, I was seduced by the little bag of seed potatoes.
I dug two little holes and planted the potatoes with the eyes pointing up, about 3 inches deep. When the plants grow tall enough to clear a second tire I will throw another tire (and more compost) on the pile. When they've grown enough to clear a third tire I will add another, and possibly a fourth tire later on.
By covering the plant as it grows I'll be forcing the plant to grow an extra-long taproot and thereby produce far more potatoes than it would have normally. At the end of the growing season, when the potato plant turns yellow or dies back, it's time to harvest the potatoes. "Punk rock style, you can just kick the whole stack over, revealing the entire tater treasure within", say Kelly and Erik in The Urban Homestead. They also say that a yield of 20 pounds of potatoes per stack is common!
I'll keep y'all posted on my Tater Tires. And maybe later I'll talk about how I got the tires in the first place. I have a feeling I might have trouble wresting the other three tires away from the kids...
|The tire jump after I forbid them from jumping off of the full, wobbling stack!|