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.
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.
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.
Fill with dirt to the top of the tire.
Spread out the dirt.
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.
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.
Scrub or peel the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350.
Dice an onion and mince as much garlic as you like.
Slice the potatoes fairly thin.
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.
Add a bit of water so that the potatoes will steam, cover with a lid and cook until fork tender , about 7 minutes.
While the potatoes are steaming grate your favorite cheese.
Prepare a small casserole dish with oil.
Remove the lid from the pan and season the potatoes well with salt, pepper and any herbs you like.
Transfer the potato mixture to the casserole and sprinkle a Tbs. of flour.
Sprinkle the top with the cheese. Vegan cheese would also work well, just be sure it melts.
Add about 3/4 cup of milk or other non dairy milk of your choosing.
Bake the gratin for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and any fresh herbs. I used panko crumbs and parsley.
Bake uncovered for 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes to set.
The finished dish – perfect for a chilly night and just wait until the sweet potato tires are ready!