Potatoes without effort: Aaron tells how to grow a high calorie food in your backyard. Click for a food you’ll never tire of.
Any time I talk to people about growing their own food whether it’s in the context of gardening for fun, farming for food post peak petroleum, or freeing themselves from the grips of agrobizcorp giants like Monsanto I often get one of two responses- “I can’t grow things!” or “I don’t know where to start”. Here is an easy way to dip your toe in the waters of home food production.
One of the side effects of our automotive way of life is an inordinate amount of old tires lying around. They are great for growing things. I applaud those who work to rebuild the depleted soil around their homes through composting and the addition of organic material. I do this work myself. But I also grow potatoes the lazy way- right on top of the ground.
Get a tire. If you don’t have one or are too shy to stop and pick up a few from the trash piles of other people, stop by your local tire store. They will have a large number to get rid of from any single day’s worth of service. My experience has been that they are willing to part with a few for free.
Find a fairly sunny location and place 4 or 5 potatoes in the tire. Make sure the eyes of the potato are facing up. You can buy seed potatoes for this purpose from farm supply stores or even catalogs. If not you can use store bought potatoes. The only difficulty is that chain grocery stores usually sell potatoes sprayed with a chemical that keeps them from sprouting. Just another reason to grow your own if you ask me. If you have no other source of potatoes though you can scrub regular grocery potatoes clean and leave them in a dark location and wait. If you have an organic grocer near by you probably have access to potatoes not sprayed with this chemical.
Fill the tire with compost or just plain leaves. I usually use the leaves from the previous fall that haven’t yet finished composting. By time the potatoes are ready for harvest the leaves have usually finished composting. You can use soil if you don’t have access to any other organic material. Be sure to pack whatever you use into the hollow space in the tire. You don’t want to leave room for standing water that could serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
As the potato sprouts emerge and reach 6″ in height add another tire and fill with leaves. Sometime I add a few more potatoes at this level. If you’re using multiple stacks you can also grow potatoes in the gaps between them.
Repeat with a third tire as the potatoes reach through the leaves.
When the top of the potato plant dies knock over your stack of tires, harvest and eat. You can harvest early for new potatoes.
One of the main advantages of this system is no digging either to plant or to harvest. The other is that the potatoes need much less cleaning. If your husband or wife objects to the ascetics of tires stacked on top of each other remind him or her of just how good your potato salad is. Or cover the outside of the tires with leaves, paint the tires or just grow you potato tire stack out of sight. In truth an old wooden box or trunk with no bottom will work. Potatoes will actual grow right in the pile of leaves if you’d like. Regardless of how you tweak you’re above ground growing system I think you’ll find it an easy way to grow a great number of calories without a tremendous amount of effort.