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Growing potatoes in tyres (tires)
Used tyres (tires) abound on the planet, creating a landfill problem and looking unsightly. The next time you change all four tyres on your vehicle, ask to keep the tyres and turn them into a potato tyre tower. It's a great way to grow potatoes in a compact area, and the potatoes will be easy to retrieve when they're ready.
Making the potato tyre tower
Prepare the four tyres to begin with. Wash them to remove dirt, grime and grease. Pierce holes into the sides of the tyres to allow for adequate drainage and to prevent mosquitoes from setting up residence.
If you wish to paint the tyres, you'll need to prime them first. Follow the directions on the primer container and use on dry tyres. When the primer is dry, paint the tyres in the colours and patterns of your choice. The kids can have a lot of fun decorating the tyres at this stage.
Decide where the potato tyre tower is going to be placed in your garden or yard space. Clear it of debris and weeds and ensure that it is flat. Place the first tyre in this space. Fill almost to the top, with a combination of soil and well-rotted manure or compost. Ensure that the soil fills right into the inside areas of the tyre.
Put the other three tyres into a storage spot or simply pile them alongside the first tyre. They will come into play as the potatoes grow (see below).
Growing the potatoes
Use seed or chit potatoes, with eyes already sprouted. If the eyes have not already sprouted, set them aside in an area that has good light and ventilation. Leave them to sprout over 4 to 6 weeks. Note that the best potatoes to use are seed potatoes rather than the potatoes you buy for eating, as that way you can be sure they're virus-free.
Plant the seed potatoes with the sprouted eyes facing upward. Cover with 5 to 7.cm (2 to 3 inches) of soil. Water in well. Leave to grow, watering regularly to keep the soil moist.
Add a tyre. When the potatoes grow to around 15 to 20cm (6 to 8 inches) in height, add the next tyre. This time, only add sufficient soil to leave around 5 to 10cm (2 to 4 inches) of the plant still showing. This encourages the tubers to grow and prevents them from turning poisonous.
Continue in this fashion as the potatoes grow, adding more soil and tyres as they grow upward. Eventually you'll have a neat potato tyre tower with some healthy potatoes growing inside it.
Harvesting the potatoes
The potatoes are ready to harvest after they have flowered and the foliage has died back. You can remove the tyres to make it easier to dig through the soil, or leave in place and dig for just a few until you need more potatoes, then remove the tyres. Eventually you'll need to dismantle the whole tower to retrieve all of the potatoes.
When done, the soil can be used elsewhere on the garden, the tyres can be washed clean and stacked away for using again the next time you wish to grow potatoes. Use a fresh lot of soil for the next potato tyre tower, to ensure that there are no viruses transferred to the new crop of potatoes.