I attended a community garden tour and was very impressed with a garden that was made completely from used tractor tires and culverts cut to such a height that the owner could garden standing up and did not need to kneel or stoop down. This garden was so impressive that I decided to write an article about it and share the ideas that I learned from these gardeners.
Recycling Old Tires And Culverts
Using old tires and culverts is a great way to recycle. It is a way to have a raised-bed garden in a small space. Tires can be put wherever there is an empty space in your yard or flower bed. The tires are not so pleasing to look at but can be hidden in dirt to make a small garden plot that will increase your vegetable yield. Think of the tires as rubberized hotbeds. Because they are black, they hold the heat and warm the soil. This gives the plants protection as well as a jump start on growth. If you prepare the tires in the fall, they will be ready for the next spring. Some seeds such as garlic, onions, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, rhubarb and Jerusalem artichokes can be planted in the fall; and they will come up early in the springtime.
This will give you fresh greens as soon as the snow melts. It is so exciting to have fresh greens after a long winter of eating canned and frozen vegetables.
Planting In Culverts
A culvert is a drainpipe that allows water to flow under a road, railroad, trail or similar obstruction. Try to find used culverts from construction sites or from your local city or county. You can get them much cheaper if you buy them used, rather than new. Once you find a length of pipe, you will need to cut the culvert 2.5 to 3 feet tall. This is the perfect height for planting.
Planting In Tires
Tires pose little risk when used as a raised bed. Because tires are made of a rubber compound that is tightly bonded, they do not leach poisons into the soil. This is great because it takes a tire that otherwise would end up in the landfill and uses it for a much higher purpose, that of producing food with a minimum of effort. Rubber is much safer to use in your garden than railroad ties or treated lumber, which may be treated with chemicals. Rubber will not rot, which makes tires very durable. Once you get them in place, they will last for decades.
Before placing the tire on the ground, dig up the earth beneath the spot to loosen the soil, then place newspaper in thick sheets under the tire. Once the tire is filled, the weeds will not grow where the newspaper is. The newspaper will naturally compost itself. It is best to use only the black ink newspapers and not the colored sections. Pound wire fencing posts on each side of the tires and attach a circular wire cage made of fencing material just inside the tires so the plants can climb.
The Benefits Of Raised Bed Gardening In Tires And Culverts
- One of the best ways to grow an abundance of organic vegetables is to grow them in raised grow beds. The tire method takes up less space and is great for cooler climates because it acts like a hothouse, with the black rubber warming up the soil.
- The black, heat-absorbing compounds in the tires will raise the temperature at least 10 percent to 15 percent. This extends the growing season by about an extra two months by warming up the soil.
- You can add to your soil each season by filling the tires with better soil mixed with minerals, compost and other organic matter.
- The tires and culverts are tall and provide deeper soil for the roots. They drain the moisture much better than traditional gardens.
- The tires are raised off the ground so that people with knee or hip problems can sit on the edge of the tire and do their gardening and weeding without bending down stooping or kneeling. This is great for older people, because the plants are within easy reach. And you can sit on the edge of the tire when planting and weeding.
- Raised-bed gardening produces more vegetables in a smaller area.
Preparing Tires For Raised-Bed Gardening
The sidewall can be removed by using a chain saw or a very sharp utility knife. Cut the top and bottom sidewall off the tire. Drill holes in the bottom of the tire to allow water to drain properly. After you have removed the sidewalls of the tire, place the tire where you want it to go and proceed to fill it with prepared soil mixed with a little sand and compost material. Make wire cages to fit around the inside ring of the tire after the plants start growing. This will prevent the deer and other animals from eating the plants inside the tires. Wire cages can be placed around the plants and a heavy plastic covering put over the plants, similar to a little greenhouse. Just tape the plastic in place and take it off when the danger of frost has passed. Doing this will extend the growing season, so you can plant earlier and harvest later in the fall.
Sidewalls Can Be Very Useful
Keep the sidewall that has been cut out from the top of the tire and use it to plant squash, melons or other plants that get large and spread. The ring will keep the weeds from growing, and the black rubber will produce heat so the plant will grow faster.
Growing Potatoes In Tires
First, take the seed potatoes and cut them into quarters, making sure that there are at least two or more eyes per quarter. I like to cut them up and spread them on the patio table and let them sun cure for at least 24 hours before planting them. They turn dark and scab over as they dry out.
Second, fill the first tire with soil and plant the seed potatoes about 6 inches apart. Let them grow until they are about 8 inches tall. Then place another tire on top of the first one. Add more dirt until the plants are covered up to two inches from the tops. Let them grow again until they are 8 inches tall. Add another tire and put soil around the stems up to two inches from the top. The potato stalks will send off roots and grow more potatoes in the tires. One plant will produce four times the amount of potatoes it typically would. Four stacks of tires will produce about a hundred pounds and will feed a family of four for the winter. When harvesting the potatoes, take each tire off one by one and find the buried treasure inside each one.
ION (Stabilized Oxygen) Can Be Used To Help Plants Grow
I like to mix 20 drops of ION stabilized oxygen with 1 gallon of water. And I water my plants with the ION water about once per week. It can kill anaerobic bacteria, fungus and some viruses that might be causing the plant to deteriorate and not be as healthy as it should be.
ION will help build friendly flora, and it oxygenates the plants. Vegetables will grow so much better with stabilized oxygen in the water.
For more information on gardening and emergency preparedness, check out my book Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook.