Potato Gardening With Children


Got a tire just sitting around that you were thinking of taking to the dump? Why not grow some potatoes in it? It’s easy and a great project to do with children.

Every year there is nearly one scrap tire created for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

The tire’s journey does not end when you pay $5 per tire at the Valley View Transfer Station.  Russ Chapman, of Valley View, explained that after tires are brought to the transfer station, Burns Tire Recycling of White City processes them.

“Approximately 1,136 tires in 2006, or 100 tires per month were recycled by Burns,” Chapman reported.

Then they are taken to Redding, CA to be processed at Waste Recovery West, Inc. “The tires are used for fuel while being heating at 2800 degrees to power the cement kiln, according to Scott Burns, owner of Burns Tire Recycling.”  The process displaces more coal than it makes and is smokeless. Burns said. They have been doing this for the last 15 years. “There is no appreciable risk in using recycled tires in the vegetable garden. While it is a fact that rubber tires do contain minute amounts of certain heavy metals, the compounds are tightly bonded within the actual rubber compound and do not leach into the soil,” said Charles Sanders of Backwoods Home Magazine.

Early spring is the best time to plant this cool weather crop. Select a location where the potatoes will receive full sun. Fill the tire with outdoor planting mix and some compost. Then make three or four holes in the soil where you will place the seed potatoes.

Seed potatoes that are commercially prepared are disease and pest free and are available locally at the grange coop or garden supply center. I bought 10 for $2.99 at Bi-Mart.

Place a potato in each hole with the buds (‘eyes’) facing up. Cover each potato with approximately 3” of the planting mix.

This is where it gets interesting. Once the stem has grown 3-4 inches, stack another tire on top and add more planting mix leaving at least 2 inches of the stem above the dirt.

This can be done an additional time once the stem grows again and with each layer you are adding potatoes to your harvest.

If you only have one tire, just mound the dirt around the stem as much as is possible. Better yet, ask a neighbor if they have a tire they don’t want. It’ll make a great conversation piece and help your neighbor out at the same time.

Potatoes apparently thrive in the environment created by the tires. The black rubber heats up and warms the soil creating an ideal environment for a plentiful harvest.

You’ll want to water the seed potatoes about once a week, moderately and consistently. Do not fertilize after the original planting or you will have a small yield.

When the plants flower you may harvest the small ‘new’  potatoes or wait until the tops die back and harvest the full-grown potatoes.

Be sure to keep the tubers covered with soil at all times because if they are exposed to sunlight then solanine, a bitter, toxic alkaloid that imparts a greenish tinge will form under the skin and they will become toxic. If you end up with a few green spots, just trim them off when it is time to eat them.

As the potatoes mature you can remove the top tire and remove the potatoes. You can leave each remaining layer intact until you are ready for more potatoes. They can be stored this way as long as they are harvested before the ground freezes in fall.

It is also necessary after harvesting to store the potatoes in a cool, dark place for a few days to dry them out before eating.

“My general recommendation for growing potatoes in the Rogue Valley is when the soil temperature reaches between 55 to 75 degrees, usually anytime from mid-April to May,” said Robert Reynolds, Master Gardener Program assistant.

“In this area of Oregon, the last spring frost is predicted for the 1st week of May,” Reynolds said. “Any dark colored container will raise the temperature somewhat.”

Reynolds had not heard of any health risks associated with growing potatoes in tires. “I have heard that they help raise the soil temperature in cool climate areas,” he said, “I would be worried about the hot summer months because of black’s ability to absorb sunlight.”

According to the USDA, one large raw potato (3 to 4 1/4 inch diameter) with skin intact contains a whopping 1553 mg of Potassium, 44 mg of Calcium, 72.7 mg of Vitamin C, and 7.45 g of protein.  In addition to 8.1 g of dietary fiber, they also contain many different minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.

Now enjoy those delicious homegrown potatoes and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time!

Recipe for  Easy Roasted Potatoes

4 to 5 Red potatoes or new potatoes/ 2 to 3 Russet potatoes
Olive Oil
Other seasonings as desired: Rosemary, Parsley, or Basil
1 T, Garlic 1 clove chopped,
Onion powder

Wash potatoes well with a scrub brush under warm water with a little soap. Dry potatoes. Cut into small wedges. Set aside. Add 5 to 6 Tablespoons olive oil to a square or rectangular baking dish. Add potato wedges and gently toss to coat. Add desired seasonings such as garlic salt, pepper, rosemary, onion powder, parsley or basil. Mix until potatoes are evenly coated. Place uncovered dish in oven preheated to 375 degrees. Occasionally remove from oven and stir mixture. Potatoes are done when browned  and tender, approximately 20 minutes.

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Childcare Provider for 22 years.

Member of Lifespan Respite Network

B.S. in English, including Child Psychology, American Sign Language, and Communications coursework.

Working toward Early Childhood Certification

Mother of three, including twins.
Experience with special needs.

Work with school-age children as an educational aide and mentor in the Ashland School District.
Pediatric CPR/1st Aid certificate.
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