Here’s a question that I get from potato lovers: “How can I grow potatoes in abundance in limited space?”
Growing potatoes in tires can be quite simple and here are my instructions how to do it and have a bumper crop. You get a chance to do some recycling and vertical gardening all together.
Depending on the size of the tires, I first wash them. If they are small enough for me to get them in my pickup truck, I’ll take them to a car wash and wash them under pressure with soap then rinse with water. Inside the tire and outside as well, making sure the tread is free from road grim and grit.
You’ll want to set the tire away from an prevailing winds to keep their foliage from getting wind damage. Make sure the spot you select will be free of most foot traffic and out of the way of activities to avoid the set-up from being knocked over.
Press down any growth on the ground such as clover or grass, and lay a thick mat of saturated newspapers over the grass or area which you will be setting the tire over. Over this put down 2 nice layers of cardboard: one long ways, the other cross ways: you can cut the cardboard away AFTER you position the tires on top of the cardboard. The newspaper will soon deteriorate into the soil, but the cardboard hangs around for awhile, giving added protection against weeds and grass that would come up into the tire.
Whether or not you trim away the rim of the top tire is your decision. Some tires I do trim, others I do not. The bigger the tire is, the more likely I am to trim away the sidewall up to its tread. (This is just my own way of doing things).
Wet the cardboard down really good then start stuffing newspapers, leaves, straw, corncobs, sawdust or whatever you have that will absorb moisture into the inner rim of the tires so when rains come, the organic material will take up the excess moisture and hold it until the plants need it the most: moisture will “wick” away from the inner rim into the main tire container area.
Once the rim is packed with such materials you have on hand or can obtain at no cost to you or for little cost, crumble your topsoil, potting soil and cover the cardboard with 3 or so inches of this mixture, then seat your potato seeds into that mixture. I always add a dusting of hardwood ashes I’ve kept from the wood stove over the potatoes. Potash is very good for root crops.
Once your potatoes are in place, dusted with wood ash, cover with a layer (not pressed down) of straw, shredded newspapers, compost, or whatever mulch you’ll be using, then cover the top hole with a piece of glass, Plexiglas, or you can rig clear plastic over the top if you have nothing else to use. Glass and/or Plexiglas is ever so much easier on you the gardener, than using the plastic cover is, because the bed must be watered weekly unless rainfall measures 1-inch. You never want the soil to dry out, and potatoes (sweet and Irish) need a lot of water to return you a bumper crop.
Irish potatoes need only 4-inches of top growth. When your tater vines/plants reach 6-inches tall, it’s time to add a 2-inch layer of mulch, and snug it up around the potato plant stems. When it’s time, add another tire on top of the first one. And just keep adding mulch, water, and tires until the stack grows 5-6 tires tall. You may need to drive a wooden stay on 2 or 3 sides of the tires so they won’t blow over when storms come, or when you brush against them, or dogs hit them while chasing a ball, or once night temps no longer offer a chance of frost, you can omit the glass top: if you have predators who might eat the tater vine, you can use an old window screen instead of the glass top. And when the temps get around or above 80 degrees, put a layer of newspaper around the upper edge of the top most tire: this will to deflect heat away from the tire and preserves inner moisture as well.
The first blooms that form, I pinch off. This pours more growth to the roots which is what you’ll harvest anyhow. The 2nd set of blooms, I allow to form and soon after the vines will begin to dry and become mulch. You can “dig” your taters by removing one tire at a time.
If you’ll prepare another tire spot before unloading your tater tire, as soon as you remove one tire, you can roll it over on top of the cardboard spot you’ve just made beside your tater tire, and by the time your potatoes are all lying out on the ground, you’ll have another tater tower built ready to plant into again to make another crop of late fall taters to harvest just before a hard freeze hits your area…depending, of course, on just what area that is.
Keep It Growing!
Tomato Bligh – The Signs, Symptoms And Preventive Measures
There is a common mistake that is made by new or inexperienced gardeners who practice seed saving and that mistake is collecting or saving seeds from tomatoes affected with Tomato Blight. We save Heirloom Seeds for their genetics. That means we want to save the best and the brightest from our gardens and you really have to pay special attention to fruits like tomatoes and Tomato Blight. It’s important for gardeners to be aware of this disease so they can act quickly. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for controlling this disease. The key is to plant wisely, be prepared, be alert, and learn to distinguish late blight from other common diseases. Make sure you know what late blight looks like. Two other diseases, early blight and septoria leaf spot, are similar but unlikely to kill your plant, and drought-stressed plants can show similar symptoms.
Let me start off by saying that this disease named Tomato Blight is caused by a fungus named Phytophthora infestans. Tomato blight thrives in a humid or moist environment. It is a fungus that is common on outdoor grown tomatoes as well as potatoes, especially those that are grown in late summer. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, it might offer some limited protection from Tomato Blight, but you still have to watch out for any fungus/disease outbreak in your garden.
Blight’s Life cycle
The fungus that cause Tomato Blight can survive the winter. As I previously mentioned, it can also be transmitted from infected saved tomato seeds. Plants growing from these produce fungal spores which are spread on the wind. The initial infection may come from a local source, such as your neighbor gardens, local farming crop, a garden rubbish dump that wasn’t composted, or the spores may be blown in from many miles away. Spores can only develop and infect your tomato plants if they land on wet foliage or fruit. I’ll discuss ways to prevent the spreading of blight later on. Suffice it to say that this disease can spread very rapidly throughout the garden when temperatures are above 50°F and humidity is over 75% for two days or more.
To prevent this disease from developing, it is important to water tomatoes at the lower stems, i.e. their base, and NOT on their leaves. Try using soaker hoses or drip irrigation for watering tomatoes. Try to keep the plant leaves dry as much as you can, especially during watering times. Water your tomato plants early in the morning and not late in the evening. This will help to reduce the long periods of moisture left on the foliage, which encourages blight. Mulch will reduce the amount of watering needed as well as control the growth of unwanted weeds. Try to avoid brushing past tomato plants when they are wet, doing so increases the likelihood of spreading any infection. When you are watering your plants use this time to check for signs of blight. If you see any infected leaves remove them as soon as you notice them. Be careful not to spread the fungus to other nearby plants. You can compost any leaves that have been effected with blight effectively, as the fungus is not known to survive the composting processing. However, just in case you are still wary of composting blight, make sure your compost bin(s) are not in the vicinity of your garden area and I would suggest covering the bins as well.
Tomato blight infection will occur during a period of warm, moist weather and it tends to escalate during the mid to late summer growing season. As I mentioned, the wind can easily carry the fungus spores and this helps spread the disease very quickly. A high humidity environment can easily infect, damage, and destroy a whole garden if the conditions remain warm and moist. If you live in a high humidity area I would strongly advise growing tomato varies that have short growing seasons. This will allow you to harvest fruit before blight usually strikes.
Those of you who have followed my writings know that I am a proponent of Heirloom Seeds. I only sell Heirloom Seeds because I believe that they are wholesome, excellent quality, clean and, of course, Non-GM (Genetically Modified), the list can go on; however, there are some cases where Hybrid seeds have their place and if your growing environment is conducive to blight then a good hybrid tomato just might be required. There are a few varieties on the market that are said to be resistant to blight – Ferline and Legend for example. They are worth trying, but may only delay the infection rather than ensuring a healthy crop. Some so-called resistant varieties can resist some strains of the fungus and not others, so their performance may vary depending on the strains of blight around.
Symptoms of blight
The symptoms of blight can occur in three (3) places on your tomato plants. (1) foliage, (2) stems and (3) the fruit itself.
Often times the very early signs of blight are easily missed. Not all plants are affected at the same time. Once again, I refer back to the fact that if weather remains warm and damp, this disease will rapidly spread, and in a severe way, attack the plant foliage and may even kill off the plants in a few days. Foliage and stems will show a dark brown/or blackish round patches, often surrounded by a pale yellow halo, that quickly spread to rot the whole plant leaf. If you take a look at the underside of the infected plant’s leaf you may also notice white coating of spores. Dark streaks and spots may also have or start to develop on infected stems. These tend to become pronounced in moist conditions, particularly at night. Again this another reason why I don’t recommend watering your tomato plants at night as it fosters the environment of spreading blight.
Fruits showing symptoms are not pleasant to eat and will not ripen or store, as the fungus will rapidly spread through the fruit even after it has been harvested. Tomatoes that haven’t ripened yet will, of course, be green and will have dark markings developing on fruit. Mature or ripened tomato fruit will have a more distinguished dryish brown rot, which even may appear a few days after picking. A whitish-gray mold may accompany this. Have no fear, the tomato blight fungus is not poisonous to humans, it is fine to eat any ripe tomatoes not visibly affected by the fungal blight.
Earlier I suggested composting the leaves and stems of plants affected by blight. In my opinion and extensive research I am confident that you can safely add the leaves and stems to your compost bin. The fungus will not survive in dead plant material. However, under no circumstance should you compost the blighted fruit, as the fungal spores can survive in the tomato seeds which in term will grow and reproduce next spring, carrying blight onto your new crops. Yes, blight can survive in the seeds of tomato throughout the winter season in general. Either bury deeply the blighted fruit two feet deep or put in a wrapped garbage bag for disposal. Alternatively, take all affected plants to the local recycling center. These centers compost on a very large scale, thus generating high temperatures which will kill the disease.
In closing I will say this: Unlike Early blight or Septoria leaf spot, Late blight, on the other hand, kills plants outright, and it is highly contagious. Its occurrence in your garden can affect other gardens and farms due to the wind-dispersed spores. Once a plant is infected, it must be destroyed as outlined above.
As always-Happy gardening!
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