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In Memoriam
14,801 Posts
Well, Stumpy, you've not exactly been sent on a snipe hunt but close to it. I've only been associated with growing potatoes since I was about 5 and sent out to patrol the patch and destroy the Colorado beetles. Since potatoes have been cultivated by "civilized" populations for about 500 years, that means that I've only been involved in about 12% of that time. So, there's probably a bit which I haven't learned yet. With that introduction, we'll discuss the tire problem.

First thing that you hear is that you can grow potatoes in tires. That's also about the only thing that you hear. You don't get the 5 pages in instructions which come with it. What you hear is this: "Plant seed piece in a tire and fill it up with soil and keep adding tires and soil as it grows." Doing that, you may well end up with a stack of tires 5' tall and not one single potato. In fact, I almost guarantee such results. You don't hear of those failures because most people won't admit that they may have been the victim of a snipe hunt.

I could stop this reply right now and I doubt if anyone on this board would see what is wrong with the instructions which I've mentioned. First, one must understand how potatoes grow. Start with a seed piece. An eye comes to life. A sprout appears. The stem goes up. The roots go down. There will never be tubers formed below that point and there will never be roots above that point. Does that tell you something? You can pile all of the tires and dirt that you wish but never get tubers if there is nothing for the roots to feed on.

What nobody tells you is that you must first prepare a deep, rich, and loose bed below the tire. If not, there is nothing for the roots to feed on. If that is not possible, then two tires must be used right from the start with the first filled with rich soil and the seed piece laid on top. Then the second tire added and filled with soil. That could still be a problem since all water would then collect above the base and the roots would wallow in mud, not a good thing.

Now, if you put enough time into the project to get it to this point, the fun is just beginning. As soon as leaves appear above the soil, more soil must be added. At no time do you ever want more than 4 or 5 inches of growth above the surface. Tubers grow only from a section of the stem just above the roots but below the surface portion of the stem. What you must do is to trick the plant into continually extending that underground stem without making a surface stem. Remember what color the initial sprout is. It's not green since it is not a surface stem. Once the surface portion of the stem forms, you can pile those tires to the moon and there won't be any potatoes on it! This means that you must tend to those plants every single day and add more soil every single day. You'll hear some people say to use straw but that's even more demanding for moisture control to avoid having the growing portion turn into a permanent stem.

After all of that, you then have a problem of being able to monitor the soil moisture. You've got no way to know if the root area is too wet or too dry or just right. The few leaves must receive all of the sun that they can get which also means that the tires are getting full sun as well. They absorb heat and cause rapid evaporation. Water is added to compensate for that and too much settles in the root area. Then you end up with a plant which is drowning while dying of thirst.

With all of the above, go ahead and try it. I'll stick to the natural system with my 100+ hills, thank you. Plant deep, hill once and mulch, and harvest.

As for snipe hunting,......... ;)

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