Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More on Growing Potatoes

Dear Folks,

I received a question from School_Junque about planting potatoes in stacked tires, after my December 14th posting on planting potatoes on New Year's Day.

I wrote more on that subject of planting potatoes in Arizona on the google group site for my irregular newsletter, which I have been writing for 10 years. You can go to that site at google groups. Click on the page "Question: When do I plant Potatoes in Arizona?" That google group page has a bit more information on planting at different elevations here in Arizona and mentioned staked tire planting.

Stacked tire planting is a nice old fashioned recycling idea to create 'free' gardening containers. My reader's question was: How many "eyes" would I plant in a bed the size of a tire?

A potato cut into pieces for planting or using small seed potatotes is the standard way of growing potatoes. Each section of cut potatoe should have 2-3 eyes. These and seed potatoes should be planted a foot apart or they can be planted closer together. Obviously stacked tire planting will depend completely on the size of the tires -- I've seen a tractor tire wrestled into duty.

My reader is at a 4000 feet elevation but the issue of how hot a stacked tire container will get in the summer in Arizona is still pertinent - hot, meaning the soil temperature will be hotter in the tire container garden then if the plants were grown directly in the ground, a light colored container, or as my December post showed - a raised bed. To some extent the whole idea of using stacked tires was not just to recycle something for another use but exactly because the tires would attract and hold more heat - a good idea for extending the season on either side of winter, but not necessarily for growing during our summer.

If you were at an elevation of 4,500 to 6,000 you could start plants in a stacked tire container a bit before last frost in hopes of creating a 'cold frame' where you would cover the opening at the time with glass or stiff plastic, at night an open it up during the day slightly.

A better idea for the hotter lower areas if you do not want to or can't make a wood frame as I showed in the December post, then get some chicken wire and make a 2-4 foot wide circle or square frame. 18 inches high should be adequate. Just make sure the potatoes are not planted near the edges to avoid exposure of the growing roots to the sun.

For you gardeners in the low desert, you can still get some potatoes in by mid-February.

The rains are coming this week so get some things in the ground today and tomorrow - I would hold off putting any seeds in until after the rains -- from all reports the amount of rain we will see this week is going to be substantial and you don't want things washed away.

You can start all the warm weather seeds like tomato, basil, chives, peppers, eggplant etc. in starter pots - kept warm and protected from frost either inside or in a green house.

TIP: Cheap greenhouse

I use a bakers rack for starting seeds and cuttings.

I created a green house of sorts by draping some plastic material (clear plastic table cloth type stuff) over the bakers rack in a sunny area of the garden. On nice days I take the plastic off completely. Works great - not as fancy as some greenhouses, but equally effective. Most of the time I don't even have to do more than create a canopy of the plastic over the top and not even bother making it come down the sides -- kind of like a clear-top patio cover.

If we get the amount of rain the weather folks think we will - we should have the additional benefit of a lovely wild flower display in early March!

Happy gardening!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady