Why you should not grow potatoes in tyres and my favourite space saving growing methods.
Many years ago it was very trendy to grow potatoes in recycles tyres. They were cheap (usually free) and very accessible. The reason this growing method was so popular was because it was so easy – just throw a tyre on the ground pop in a couple of sprouted potatoes cover with soil and water. Top up as the potatoes grows, adding tyres as necessary. Very easy.
However a number of studies have indicated that there are a wide range of heavy metals, including lead that leech out of car tyres. There are studies that refute this but if there is the slightest chance that there are any heavy metal leeched into the ground water surrounding the potato roots they will be taken up by the growing plant. So I will not grow potatoes in car tyres. I produce my potatoes with the trench method but this does require a fair bit of space, particularly if you are practicing crop rotation and not growing potatoes in the same spot for at least four years.
If you want to know more about how I do the trench method here is the link: https://myproductivebackyard.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/autumn-potato-growing/
However in the past I have used more space efficient and easier methods to producing great crops. Here are three of the most successful methods I have used.
The Pile method. Find a space and create a circle of compost (or potting mix) about 40cm across. Place several sprouted potatoes on the compost and cover with 5 to 10cm of compost. Water well. As the plants grow, pile more compost around the stem of the plant. Water and fertilise regularly. Once potatoes are harvested use the compost in an area that will not be growing potatoes for some years.
Large pot method. Same as about only the compost is contained within a large container ie pot, old garbage bin with hole in the bottom, old washing basket etc
Circle of wire netting. Find a spot drive four star pickets or wooden stakes into the ground in a circle formation, attached a tube of wire netting. This only needs to be about 60cm high. Put compost down, the sprouted potatoes and add compost as necessary. Water and fertilise regularly.
Just a few reminders on general potato growing practices.
- Potatoes grow best in full sun (at least 6-8 hrs a day)
- They need plenty of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, to produce lush grow.
- The more leaf growth they have the greater number and bigger the potatoes they produce will be.
- Liquid fertilising with high Nitrogen for about six weeks will give you plenty of leaf growth. Then apply a high Potassium fertiliser for a couple of weeks. This will get the plants setting tubers and diverting energy to tuber production instead of leaf growth.
- If you want to avoid having to liquid feed your plants weekly then make sure you add organic fertiliser to your compost as you mound it up around you plants. A general mix of aged cow, sheep and chicken manure plus some blood and bone will do the job well.
- With these above ground compost methods the compost can dry out fairly quickly so make sure you keep the water up to your plants.
- Stop watering at around 12 weeks and allow plant to die back.
You can harvest potatoes at any time after about 10 weeks by digging into the side of the mound and extracting some of the forming tubers, however these will be small and will reduce your overall crop.
Generally for full sized potatoes I wait and harvest after the foliage has yellowed and flopped. Once harvested, store where it is dark and cool.
If you are interested in more methods of growing potatoes check out this link.
It talks about seven different growing method, their pros and cons so you can decide which method will be best for your situation.
Happy spud growing. Kathy