Sunday, August 12, 2018

Our Family Tire Garden: Unusual but Effective!

By Forest Puha

Car tires. They start out new, you drive a while, they wear out and you replace them. But instead of just throwing them away, people have been coming up with ways to re-use them. I've read accounts of people learning to reuse tire rubber for shoes, for new roofing tiles, for protective surfaces, anything they can figure out a need for. 

So this summer, my family decided to try experimenting with tires too. Instead of buying increasingly rare and expensive straw to protect our plants, or figuring out a mulch that wouldn't hurt them, we planted with old tires

Ta-daaa! A garden that grows in the heat! Zucchini in front and middle, with radishes in a rear tire hidden from view. Yukon Gold potatoes in the back. Lavender plant in top right to attract pollinators. Plenty of ground space to walk around while watering.

It turned out to be very good thing that we did, because it's been extraordinarily HOT this summer, with the temps well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit most days. (That's 37 Celsius and above, for non-Americans.)  

It seems the tires do a lot. First, they keep the dirt damp and cool as we water the plants, and really slows the sun's evaporation that would otherwise occur. It also seems the wild jackrabbits and gophers do not like tires. Unlike when we've used animal fencing and other means to protect our plants, the critters have stayed out of our garden this summer. In addition, the tires shielded the baby sprouts from wind in early spring, so they could sprout wide and tall without getting blown around. And the tires have protected the plants from getting trampled very well. I accidentally kicked a zucchini while wearing slippers and my toes ached all day.
Close up of zucchini. They matured in two months and became giant with the tires.
IMPORTANT: we used tires that were only in good and recently new condition. We did NOT use old tires that were starting to degrade or leak chemicals, which is where we think the major problems come from.  We cut the inner walls off the tires. This means the tires only ring around the plant, and do not keep the roots enclosed in the tire, but grow down into the garden soil. Then we filled the tire with garden dirt and compost and planted the seeds and plant starts. We used large tubeless SUV and pickup truck-sized tires, which give a lot more room and protection for the plants.

A used tire in suitable condition. The inner sidewall has been cut and removed. Take the big tire, flip, and plant seedlings in the middle. The sidewall can be used as a smaller growing bin, or for whatever use that comes to mind.
Name brand, naturally, does not matter. However, tires with nylon belts are easier to cut apart and manipulate, using a sharp knife and scissors. More common steel-belted radials will require a pair of sturdy wire cutters, a lot of strength and significant patience to cut open the inner wall.

Havasu Hot Peppers, sold by Bonnie Plants. Scoville Heat Scale: 3,000 to 5,000 in the JalapeƱo category. Good eating if you're used to them. 

We planted zucchini and Havasu peppers and they are doing great compared to previous gardens. Next year we will use more tires, especially as the climate keeps getting hotter.  There is some online conflict about tires leaching chemicals anyway, but I read up on this issue and many organic farmers say it is not a problem. I like to wash the tires off before we use them around our food anyway. When the tires finally degrade so they can't be used anymore, we'll cut them up and take them to the dump for official disposal.

Give tires a try at your homestead. Meanwhile, there's tortillas with grilled zucchini and chili peppers with cheese and sour creme on the menu tonight!

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