Wednesday, 11 January 2012

I'll Bet You A Dollar That A Few Old Tires And A Bit Of Smarts Will Net You 20 Pounds Of Potatoes

Note: much (but not all) of the source material for this was taken from Path to Freedom Urban Homestead and Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen's invaluable The Urban Homestead

Are you bored? Of course you are! Boredom is the bedbug infestation of our collective psyche, a will-sapping, seemingly insurmountable foe that gnaws and gnaws.

Good news: if you're bored, I have a fun project for you!

You might live with your parents. You might rent a house. Like me, you may live in a small box with no porch, window planters to speak of, or any other luxuries that would make growing an edible foodstuff easier. It doesn't matter.

If you can find a corner of a lot (vacant or otherwise), a patch of Mom's backyard, whatever, you can grow some organic, kick-ass food. Let's start simple.


Not pretty, is it? North America is awash in used tires. No, this doesn't mean that you can get some fresh radials for a steal down at Crazy Vinnie's - it means that we should be thinking post haste about how to repurpose this monstrous glut.

An easy step? Tater tires!

Beautiful tater tires courtesy of Bonzai Aphrodite
It's as easy as can be.

Get some used tires - hopefully the same size for stacking purposes. Used car tires are *everywhere.* If you can't find some on the street, ask a friend or consult a local waste professional.

The tricky thing about tater tires is the construction, but don't worry - it's easy once you get your hands dirty. You want to do a little basic reading on soil - what makes it tick, what it likes, the proper ratios for mixing, etc. Once you've used those book smarts, cut the sidewalls out of your tires using a jigsaw and stack those suckers up.

"Listen to this man. The eyes of the spuds are watching."
Pick a sunny spot. If you have hard-packed ground under your foundational tire, give it a few zesty pokes with a pitchfork, or a knife, whatever you have handy (loosen it up a bit is the point).

Use loose soil and a healthy dose of compost ( give this a quick perusal or ask your local mom-and-pop nursery) for the soil inside your tire tower. The tricky thing about getting a big yield of potatoes is picking the right seed potatoes. Potatoes are not grown from "seed" seeds, they are grown from seed potatoes that are best ordered online (try  here  or  here  ).

You can cut your seed potatoes (as long as each chunk has an eye or two) but let them dry before you plant. You want to plant your seed potatoes in warm soil - say, 60 to 70 degrees. Hotter than that and they will stop flourishing.

Here's where things get tricky.

Lay down one tire, and fill it loosely with soil. Plant three seed potato chunks, dry (remember!) with their eyes facing upwards. Lightly cover them with soil. Soon, you will see potato sprouts. They are green, high-falutin' fellas:

As soon as those rise above your little tire garden, add another tire to the stack and fill it with soil, covering most of the shoots, but leaving at least the top leaves free. As you continue to water and nurture, the plant will re-grow longer shoots, at which point you repeat the process: add a tire to the stack, add more loose soil, leaving only the top leaves free.

By "shocking" the plant this way, you produce a heapin' helpin' of potatoes. From The Urban Homesteader:

After the [end of season] flowering is over and the vines turn yellow or die back, the potatoes are ready for harvest. Stop watering and let them sit for a week or so, then you can harvest. You can do this by removing the topmost tire and harvest the taters at that level, leaving the rest for later. They store best in the dark, dry soil, so they will be very happy waiting for you in their tires. Or, punk rock style, you can just kick the whole stack over, revealing the entire tater treasure within. That method has its merits too. Harvest amounts will vary but 20 lbs. per stack are common.

IMPORTANT HEALTH NOTE: Do not wash your potatoes when you harvest them; they will rot. Do not expose them to sunlight: they will turn green and, yes, green potatoes can kill you. Taters do best "curing" (i.e. resting) in a cool dark place for two weeks before you snack on them.

More culinary tidbits to follow (along with six to nine times your daily recommended dosage of political surreality). Stay tuned!

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