Towers of Tater Tires.

Posted 07 Sep 2009 in Organic Gardening, Sweet Potato, Vegetarian

Tater Tire Beauty

Stacked like ivory towers in my garden are old tires painted white. Inside these vertical columns quietly grow red, white and sweet potatoes that have been reaching for the sky all summer long. How did I come across the idea to do this, you might ask? I first read about this technique for growing Tater Tires in a book called The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. I was doubly excited for the chance to recycle something old, like tires,  and to grow something new, like potatoes. I had never tried growing potatoes before so when I read about this technique I immediately went on a mission to find the tires.

It’s super easy, low maintenance and doesn’t take up much space so you can do this anywhere on the planet, in any small area and it’s such a cool way to garden and save our resources at the same time.

Check out the recipe at the bottom of this post for Potatoes Gratin that I made with some of the Tire Taters.

1st Tater Tire Tier

Start with one tire, filled with good dirt. Potatoes are vigorous growers and are not that picky about the soils they grow in, except that they need well drained soil. Paint the tire white on the outside (this will deflect the suns heat somewhat). Plant your already sprouted potato plants in the dirt. Tip: You can either sprout your own potatoes – farmers market or organic ones are the best- or you can buy “seed potatoes” on line.

2nd Tater Tire Tier

Once the vines are tall enough to clear the next tire, add another tire on top to begin  “burying alive” the vines, leaving just the top part of the vines exposed.

Tater Tire Dirt

Fill with dirt to the top of the tire.

Tater Tire Spread Dirt

Spread out the dirt.

Tater Tire VInes

Now you can paint the new tires white. Make sure to water well but not to over saturate the dirt as this will make the potatoes rot.

Tater Tire - taters

To harvest them wait until the vines have ceased growing and begin dying off. Once the plant looks dead the potatoes should be ready. Begin by removing the top tire and begin feeling around for any of the small new potatoes. The largest potatoes will be at the bottom, where they have had the most time to grow. The Urban Gardener book says to leave then in the dirt for a week  (or leave them there until you need them) so that they can cure.

From my first harvest I made Potatoes Gratin. The recipe follows.

Potato Gratin - potatoes

Scrub or peel  the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350.

Potato Gratin - dice onions

Dice an onion and mince as much garlic as you like.

Potato Gratin - slice potatoes

Slice the potatoes fairly thin.

Potato Gratin - saute’

Saute’ the onions until golden with a bit of oil. Add the potato slices and saute for a few minutes. Add the minced garlic last.

Potato Gratin - steam potatoes

Add a bit of water so that the potatoes will steam, cover with a lid and cook until fork tender , about 7 minutes.

Potato Gratin - grate cheese

While the potatoes are steaming grate your favorite cheese.

Potato Gratin - oil pan

Prepare a small casserole dish with oil.

Potato Gratin - season

Remove the lid from the pan and season the potatoes well with salt, pepper and any herbs you like.

Potato Gratin - add flour

Transfer the potato mixture to the casserole and sprinkle a Tbs. of flour.

Potato Gratin - add cheese

Sprinkle the top with the cheese. Vegan cheese would also work well, just be sure it melts.

Potato Gratin - add milk

Add about 3/4 cup of  milk or other non dairy milk of your choosing.

Potato Gratin - bake covered

Bake the gratin for about 20 minutes.

Potato Gratin - top with bread crumbs

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and any fresh herbs. I used panko crumbs and parsley.

Potato Gratin - browned top

Bake uncovered for 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes to set.

Potato Gratin.

The finished dish – perfect for a chilly night and just wait until the sweet potato tires are ready!


  1. Hi Shirle!

    Wow you make living life look so rewarding and fun! Can you adopt me? Or at least tell me where to get used tires. I was planning on doing trash bin potato’s this fall/spring. Have you seen Jaime Oliver’s cook book called “home”? He documents his garden, tells you how to grow the veggies and gives you a great recipe for the home grown veggies. It is beautifully photographed! When are you writing your book! You should! I love everything you do!

  2. christina greene

    What about toxins from the rubber? Is planting in tires safe? I wouldn’t do that!

  3. I love the idea, it great to grow your own food! Great blog and wonderful recipe ideas. I teach on a few cooking Holidays around the world and I will definitely be recommending this blog to my students.

  4. Kyle

    Tires take millions of years to really decompose. They are a compound of several different materials to ensure that they endure. Tests have been done on this method, and very trace amounts, if any, become absorbed by the plants. Really the only way to pull the toxins (PAH’s, Nickel, Cadmium and a few others) is with a very high PH level in the water or dirt.
    Though, potatoes have the highest propensity to absorb these things, still, the likely hood of being poisoned by the tires

  5. Kyle

    * is negligible.
    The benefit of eating home-grown food is immense compared to the risk. Watch the movie “Food Inc.” It gives great insight as to what happens to the food in the supermarket.

  6. the best thing about organic gardening is that they are not contaminated with those chemicals’-*

  7. Linda Omer

    I will try this, I grow potatoes in a row and the ground gets hard before I get them dug. How many potatoes do you plant in the tire, or how close together do you plant them?

  8. Sara

    Do you need to put anything under the first tire so the dirt doesn’t get washed out? My son is going to do this for his school project 😉

    • chefshirle

      Nope…the dirt should stay put.

    • chefshirle

      Nope…the dirt should stay put.
      Thanks for checking out the site!!!

  9. Vicky

    When do you begin the process (season/month)?


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