Years ago, on an episode of Gardener's World, Bob Flowerdew demonstrated his method of growing potatoes in tyres. I remember watching fascinated, thinking "one day, I'll try this". It didn't use much space, didn't seem to need much equipment and (important for me) didn't require a whole lot of effort.
Potatoes, Bob explained, need to be earthed up so that you get the maximum crop. But in a regular garden, that requires space. Bob used tyres to earth up his potatoes, stacking a new one on whenever the potato stems got tall enough and filling it in with compost. When he unearthed the potatoes in the autumn, Bob got 100-odd from just one stack.
At the bottom of my garden is a semi-barren patch where I've spent the last five years fighting weeds and brambles. Everything is covered in weed suppression cloth. The soil is like iron (about an inch down, it's pure clay. They used to make bricks around here). This is where I am growing my potatoes.
This year, I'm growing two tyre stacks worth. The method is simple. For each stack, you need four tyres (in total) and a sprouting potato. Place a tyre on the ground and fill it with compost / a grow bag / soil (if your garden has decent stuff). Bury the sprouting potato in the centre of the tyre, just below the surface of the soil, and water well. Water daily.
They grow fast. Here are the potatoes I planted three weeks ago, which I earthed up on Monday.
As you can see, they've grown a lot. We've had a little bit of rain this week (Monday evening, Tuesday) and a lot of sunshine. The ones in the foreground were more than ready to be earthed up again. I wasn't so sure about the ones at the back, so I plonked the next layer of tyres down and measured them up.
(The tyres are worn out ones I begged from the local tyre shop. They were free. I only took four the first time, so this afternoon I went and got some more.)
I decided against earthing up the one at the back. There weren't enough leaves peeking over the top. If I earthed it up now, it would struggle and possibly not develop as many potatoes.
So I just earthed up the front one, packing the soil under the rim of the tyre as well as filling in the centre. I'll continue earthing up the potatoes until the tyres are stacked four deep.
Not sure if you can see from the above photo, but the second batch of tyres is larger than the first. They must have come from a bigger vehicle (I didn't have any choice this time - the tyre shop only had four in their "to be disposed of" pile). You can get a better idea from the photo below.
It isn't as precarious as it looks. Next time, I'll use all the large tyres in one stack and the smaller ones in another.
The frugal part? The tyres cost nothing and the potatoes effectively cost nothing (they were sprouting in the veggie basket). To fill them in, I'm using up a 100 litre bag of "soil improver" (a.k.a. compost) purchased from the garden centre last year for three or four Pounds. Next year, when the Dalek compost bin has done its job properly, I'll use compost.
- Pam (looking forward to home grown spuds)