Garden Q&A: Avoid planting food in tires
Q: My neighbors and I are working on a garden together, and we would like to have a potato tower. I am looking at one made one out of wood, but we were told that a tire tower is a lot less work. We are concerned that the tires may be toxic to the potatoes in some way. I checked on a couple of websites and am still not convinced they are safe. Could I please have an opinion from you about whether we should use the tires?
A: I'm glad you asked before you planted your taters in those tires. I suggest you avoid planting any edible crops in tires, as they can leach heavy metals and all sorts of chemicals. These compounds can find their way into the soil and, in turn, into the plants themselves. Please avoid using tires for your garden.
While I do like the idea of building or buying a wooden bin, I've got a better (and cheaper!) idea for you. Build a potato bin out of wire fencing and some newspaper or cardboard. Here's how:
Purchase a roll of 3- or 4-foot-high, vinyl-coated boxwire fencing or chicken wire fencing (or use a scrap piece if you have any extra sitting around). Cut the fencing into lengths of about 6 to 7 feet. Each section will become one potato bin. Roll each piece into a cylinder and fold over the cut ends to hold it closed. Turn the bin up on end and line the inside of the cylinder with a layer of newspaper about 10 sheets thick or with sheets of cardboard. Then begin to fill the cylinder about a quarter of the way up with a combination of compost, topsoil (I use the old potting soil from last year's container plantings), rotted down leaves, year-old manure, or whatever other kind of organic matter you can get a hold of. Mix it all up.
Cut seed potatoes into sections, being sure each piece has at least one “eye” or growing point on it. Plant the seed potato sections in the bin. I use about a dozen pieces per bin and bury them about 4 inches deep.
In a few weeks, the potatoes will sprout. Once they are an inch or two tall, pile in more soil and organic matter, and as the potatoes grow, continue to fill in the container until the soil reaches the top. This basically serves the same function as “hilling” ground-planted potatoes, generating more roots and therefore increasing their potato-growing potential.
Once the bin is full, the plants will sprawl out the top. Be sure to water the bin regularly, much like you would water any other container planting.
After the plants yellow and die back completely, wait two weeks for the potato skins to cure, then unfasten the bin and watch the taters come tumbling out.
It's a great system that I have used successfully in my garden for many years. Good luck!
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers won’t negotiate Roethlisberger extension until after season
- Steelers cut linebacker Kion Wilson, sign cornerback Toler
- LaBar: John Cena leaving WWE for Hollywood?
- More than 800 marijuana plants seized in Washington County
- Five questions facing Steelers entering training camp
- National city organization chooses Pittsburgh for 2016 gathering
- Suspended Penn-Trafford teacher charged with stalking student
- Penn State to announce new athletic director
- Injured eagle in Somerset County returns to the wild
- North Huntingdon woman charged with threatening to burn down officer’s house
- Washington Co. man arrested on child porn charges