Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Putting in potato beds

I'm still working on the infrastructure of the garden, particularly tarps and gravel for weed control. We have plenty of tarps, but we're running out of gravel and at this point won't be getting more until our medical expenses are paid off.

(I should add that the combination of vinyl and gravel is working beautifully. What a treat to know my veggies won't be buried in weeds like they were last year!)

Anyway, we had to decide where to put the little bit of remaining gravel we had available. I decided to tarp the spot where I had grown potatoes last year. Rather than stacks of small tires for potato towers, I was going to use large tractor tires instead.

So I laid out a tarp and started shunting gravel. The girls were away from home visiting their grandparents, and I missed their help.

After awhile, Don finished with some tasks and came out to help, which made things go much quicker. He worked the tractor, I spread the gravel.

We were dodging squalls.

When the gravel was down, I pulled out the Saws-All and prepared to cut the sidewalls out of a few of the big tractor tires. It takes me a mere 30 seconds or so to cut the sidewall out of regular-sized tires, but these babies? I figured they'd be a bear.

In fact they were a piece of cake. Except for vibrating enough to rattle my fillings, it only took me two minutes to cut a sidewall -- and that included breaks to let my fillings settle back in.

Then one at a time, Don shunted the tires into the garden. Even with a sidewall cut out, these tires top 400 pounds.

One tire down. Before cutting and moving the other tires, though, we had to stop and fill each one we laid down, otherwise the tractor wouldn't be able to reach it later with loads of compost and topsoil.

Here Don's scooping up compost. We've used so much of our massive collection of barn waste that we're into the less-composted stuff, so this material will only be used as a "base" for each tire, and then topped with topsoil.

Next, topsoil.

Then the squall moved in, so we quit for the afternoon.

We resumed work the next day, but things were complicated because the cows kept hanging around. We have a cattle panel blocking access to the garden, but we had to take it down in order to get the tractor in and out. Matilda knew, just knew, that if she hung around enough, she'd be let into the garden with all that lush green grass. So she wasn't budging, by golly.

We'd never get anywhere at this rate, so Don decided to open the gate to the pasture and give the beasties something to distract them. It worked. Here they come!

Soon everyone had their heads down in all that lush green grass, grazing.

The neighbor's horses came galloping over to say hi.

Shadow got a wild hair and started gamboling all over the place before settling. Funny to watch. She'd start out running...

...race to the top of the dirt pile left over from digging the pond...

...and then race back again. She did this several times before settling down to eat.

Anyway, back to the garden. We got four tractor tires cut, moved, and filled by the end of the afternoon.

Now it was time to plant the potatoes I had left over from last year.

Seed potatoes, as you doubtless know, grow new potatoes from the "eyes."

As long as at least one eye is present, a potato will grow, so by cutting them up into pieces (with two or three eyes per piece), you can get a lot of plants out of a few potaotes. The cut potatoes must cure for a few hours so the exposed side won't rot in the ground. I started cutting and drying a few in the kitchen the day before...

...but then realized I had more than enough potatoes to plant, so I just planted the whole potato.

This is a red potato, sprouting. Pretty primeval looking, ain't it?

I was able to fit between 30 and 35 potatoes per bed.

I buried these about four inches down.

Now we wait and see. But at least this is one more step toward a productive garden!


  1. Looks great and I love your use of the tires. Cattle are so like children!

  2. You have beautiful animals, so good to see them happily running around. Good luck with the potato beds. I want to see if they do well in the tires.

  3. Patrice here in Wales I grow potatoes in bulk gravel delivery bags which we get free from the local builders merchant( they hold just over a ton of sand in each bag). We put plenty of holes in the bottom and put in six inches of compost, plant the potatoes and cover with another few inches. As they grow we earth the potatoes up with a mixture of compost and straw until the filled bag stands around 3 ft high with the shoots growing from that. It gives a enormous yeild and harvesting is easy as you just roll down the edges of the bag and scrape them out.

  4. that is a lot of taters Patrice!!! and I am so glad that you liked the tire gardening...you have taken it to a much grander scale and I am looking forward to watching its progress!

  5. (Maybe put the seed potatoes a little farther down - the new potatoes will form on top of the seed potatoes and they might need a little more room than 4 inches. And be careful about too-fresh manure for potatoes since it might actually touch what you end up eating, but you probably knew all this.)

    Loved all the pictures! Especially of Shadow feeling Spring-ish. I love seeing happy animals.

    Also, I'm watching the tire project with anticipation to see how this all turns out. What a lot of work. It's good to see the Boss's Husband out on the tractor.

    Just me

  6. Your place looks fantastic. Congratulations!

  7. Blogger ate my comment....

    Anyway. Your place looks great. Congratulations!

  8. Really like the new header photo... vignettes are so cool !

  9. That looks fantastic, great idea, those cattle's were adorable running in the farm like kids.

  10. As soon as it stops raining, we are going to plant ours.
    Love home grown potatoes!

  11. I think watching our cows run and play with their giant udders flopping and flapping side to side is one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen. LOL! I love seeing those huge animals play like puppies.

  12. Just found your blog. I am also trying to garden using tires. I do have a question. How do you harvet your potatoes? I have been using small tires stacked and it has become a pain to take each tire off and remove the soil to find the potaotes inside

    1. I dug them up with a pitchfork. It was pretty clay-y soil so it was tough going. This year we added sand to the soil, which made it more friable. Digging should be a breeze this year.

      - Patrice