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rachael hamblin
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I heard what I thought was a great idea for a potato growing technique, involving old tires.  The system goes, you plant your potatoes in a tire filled with soil, when the potato grows up you add another tire with more soil (much as you would add soil to a potato trench), and continue this for three or four tires.  In this way you get three or four layers of potatoes.  When winter comes around you can leave the potatoes in the tires, and pull off one tire at a time as needed and harvest a layer of potatoes at a time.

I was planning on hunting down some old tires this week, but then I heard that old tires leech toxins into the soil (eek!).  It surprises me that this wouldn't have come up for people developing the tire idea, so I thought I'd run it by you all.  Have you heard of this?  Tried it?  Know anything about tire contamination?

Thanks!
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I know of a lot of happy people that do this.  I don't. 

If you walk behind a tire shop where they have the tire pile, you'll understand why I don't.  And that's just the smell from air exposure.  Soil is full of things that erode away all sorts of stuff. 

You can do the same thing with loads of straw and no tires.  That would be my preference.

 
rachael hamblin
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Layering straw on top of potatoes or building circles around them which you fill with dirt?  I'm having trouble picturing this.
 
paul wheaton
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Imagine that you start off with your potatoes at ground level.  You have a 4 foot by 4 foot square.  Once the plants are big and healthy, toss a bunch of straw and dirt there.  Just keep piling it on as high as you can.  The straw helps to keep everything from sluffing off and helps to keep the soil open, making it easier for potatoes to fill in the empty spaces.

 
                    
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If tires are not recycled as planters or other small production recycling of limited popularity (like shoe soles) they are piled up in a landfill and burned to reduction and then bulldozed over. Between air and soil pollution as an alternative their use as planters minimizes their potential damage to the environment.

 
paul wheaton
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alexi,

Take a look at earthships.  That seems like a good use.  I think off gassing might still be a problem, but it seems that there has not been much in the way of reporting any off gassing problems.

 
rachael hamblin
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Re: Alexi,

The problem is though, if you use them as planters, wouldn't the toxins be absorbed by your food plants and get into your food?
 
rachael hamblin
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I just did some research on the off-gassing question with Earthships.  It appears there is a bit of controversy over whether or not this is an issue; some say that as the tires are completely sealed the off-gassing is not an issue, others say that the off-gassing is merely "slowed" by the seal or concrete and will still make its way into your home.  I think if that was the case, breathing tire fumes all day couldn't be good for you, although it might be difficult to accurately gauge the effects. 
 
Dave Boehnlein
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Location: Orcas Island, WA
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Indoor air quality issues are all the rage today. Has anyone done tests in an earthship?

For the record, I would be more likely to use tires in non-food production systems. At Heartwood Institute in Northern California they have a (now defunct) greywater filtration system that uses plants growing in tires to clean up water.

Dave
 
                                
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Location: Middle Georgia
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yeah tires are a petroleum product not a good idea.

The straw bales work fine and break down into great mulch later.
I have also recycled old cardboard boxes as cardboard is 90 something % cellulose (plant based material) it breaks down and becomes nice crumbley soil.
I put potatoes in bottom of cardboard box. Place straw and soil on top aged compost if you have some. Then as they start to pop up place more straw and soil on top of that. Keeping hilling them up and they will keep growing up toward the light creating more potatoes for you. At the end of the season turn over your pile and pick potatoes.
I also know people who grow them in plastic trashcans but then you are back to the plastic petroleum issue which i am not for.
 
                              
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Location: Zone 5
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So do I understand correctly that recycled rubber tire mulch is more or less safe for non-edibles, but not so much for the garden?

Just checking,

Stacey
 
Toby Hemenway
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There was a study on old tires done by the Minnesota Dept of Transportation a few years back, since they were going to use ground up tires as roadside mulch, and people were concerned about what would leach out of the mulch. Some clever googling could find that study. They couldn't find anything toxic leaching out of the tire mulch, and actually found that wood chips leached more toxic stuff. I don't know what to make of this, and still am not comfortable using tires around food plants. But it's an interesting bit of information. I always figured that if I could smell the tire, it was releasing something nasty. But maybe I'm wrong.
 
Ferne Reid
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Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a average rainfall 52"
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I did look all this up when I was deciding whether or not to use tires. If the tractor fits there, my husband will mow it, and I knew I had to do something after he mowed down my entire strawberry bed. I am a CSPI in a poison center, so I do know something about toxins, and in the end I decided to use them. Remember that toxicity is dose dependent - even water is toxic in the right dose - and I could not find anything that suggests that tires leach enough of anything to worry about in the quantities most of us would use in a garden.

The bottom line, though, is that you have to do what you're comfortable with.
 
                          
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Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
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cindybode wrote:
I did look all this up when I was deciding whether or not to use tires. If the tractor fits there, my husband will mow it, and I knew I had to do something after he mowed down my entire strawberry bed. I am a CSPI in a poison center, so I do know something about toxins, and in the end I decided to use them. Remember that toxicity is dose dependent - even water is toxic in the right dose - and I could not find anything that suggests that tires leach enough of anything to worry about in the quantities most of us would use in a garden.

The bottom line, though, is that you have to do what you're comfortable with.


I think the bottom line is Human kind need to take ownership of the rubbish we generate. Even a non driver uses tyres by way of things purchased :IE transport of goods, public transport, Tyres need to be looked at as a resourse lets face it, it's a never ending and needs to become a re-useable assett

Bird
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Rob over at the One Straw blog recently published his findings on potato growing methods, including lots of photos and a few links.

http://onestraw.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/tech/

His tower (very similar to the tire method) did not work very well, but that may have been his choice of potato variety.

His pictures of deep hilling with straw (his current favorite method) will help illustrate the concept.
 
                      
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Try a bamboo 'ring' made up or vertical slats of bamboo temporarily wired together
 
Chuck Freeman
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Location: Southcentral Alaska
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I do sort of the same thing with wood boxes. Last year was my first year they did OK not but great. The boxes were 24"x24" each had about 6 seed potatoes in each box. When the plant got to be about 12" I added another box on top of the pile until the tops died off, about 5 to 6 boxes on each stack. I think they produced slightly more than they would have in normal hills. This year I'm using more compost and less dirt in each layer to see if they will do any better. Last year I did all Yukon Golds this year I put out YG's and a couple of other varieties.



 
Brenda Groth
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it all sounds good, but have you ever tried to remove frozen tires filled with dirt? not as easy as it sounds..

i recommend against it
 
Chelle Lewis
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Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Rob over at the One Straw blog recently published his findings on potato growing methods, including lots of photos and a few links.

http://onestraw.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/tech/

His tower (very similar to the tire method) did not work very well, but that may have been his choice of potato variety.

His pictures of deep hilling with straw (his current favorite method) will help illustrate the concept.
Wow. Super easy and excellent results! I am interested to see if this will work for me. Towers haven't done much. Could be me though and no aspersions on the concept. Seems to work for some. Is what got me interested in the first place. But I sure do like super easy... especially if it gets such outstanding results.
 
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