Use Old Tires, Culverts To Grow Vegetables


I attended a community garden tour about a month ago. I was very impressed with a garden that was completely made from used tractor tires and culverts cut to the 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 share what I learned.

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 anywhere that there is an empty space in your yard or flower bed. The tires are not pleasing to look at but can be hidden into 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. Some seeds such as garlic, onions, spinach, lettuce and Jerusalem artichokes can be planted in the fall; they will come up in the springtime.

Tires propose 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 that may have chemicals such as copper and arsenic soaked into them. Rubber will not rot, which makes tires very durable; once you get them in place, they will last for decades.

Rubberized Hotbeds

It is good to get started on the tire hotbeds now because it takes time to prepare them with soil and compost. If you prepare the tires in the fall, they will be ready for the next spring. Planting fall crops that come up in the spring gives 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.

Container GardeningPlanting In Culverts

A culvert is a drainpipe that allows water to flow under a road, railroad, trail or similar obstruction. If you can find used culverts from construction sites or from your local city or county, you can get them much cheaper than new ones. 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 herbs such as chives or onions or any other plants.

Container GardeningPlanting In Tires

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 laid. The newspaper will naturally compost itself. It is best to use only the black ink newspapers and not the colored sections. Put a circular wire cage made of fencing material on the plant so it can climb. Attach it to a pole on each side of the tire.

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 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 compost and other organic matter.
  • Tires and culverts are tall and provide deeper soil for the roots. They drain the moisture much better than traditional gardens.
  • Tires are raised up 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.
  • Raised-bed gardening produces more vegetables in a smaller area.
  • You can plant earlier and harvest later in the fall. Wire cages can be placed around the plants and a heavy plastic covering put over the plants similar to a little greenhouse, which will extend the growing season. Just tape the plastic in place and take it off when the danger of frost has passed.

Preparing Tires For Raised-Bed Gardening

The sidewall can be removed by using a chainsaw 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 from eating the plants inside the tires.

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.

Container GardeningGrowing 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.

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 2 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 would normally in a regular garden row.

A stack of four tires on top of each other filled one by one with soil and planted individually with 2 pounds of seed potato, cut into quarters and planted about 6 inches apart will produce about one 25-pound sack of potatoes per tire stack. Four stacks of tires will produce about 100 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.

Container GardeningRecycle Large Tree pots

Any large plastic pot can be used to plant herbs. This is a good way to recycle the pots that trees and shrubs come in. These can be moved indoors or to a greenhouse when the weather turns cold. Herbs as well as vegetables can be used and enjoyed year-round.

ION Stabilized Oxygen ION (Stabilized Oxygen) Can Be Used To Help Plants Grow

I like to mix 20 drops of ION stabilized oxygen with one gallon of water and water my plants with the ION water. It kills 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 the friendly flora and it oxygenates the plants. Vegetables will grow so much better with stabilized oxygen in the water.

Some of the information in this article came from the book Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton. Check it out here.

–Peggy Layton

Personal Liberty

Peggy Layton

a home economist and licensed nutritionist, holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition from Brigham Young University. Peggy lives in Manti, Utah with her husband Scott. Together they have raised seven children. Peggy owns and operates two businesses: One called "The Therapy Center", where she is a licensed massage therapist and hypnotherapist, and the other an online cookbook and preparedness products business. She is nationally known for publishing a series of seven books on the subject of food storage and also lectures and teaches seminars about preparedness and using food storage products. Peggy practices what she preaches, has no debt, grows a huge garden, lives off the land, raises chickens, bottles and dehydrates food and has time left over to operate her businesses. To check out Peggy's cookbooks and self sufficiency products go to her website To get a free sample of three different storable meals that have a 15-year shelf life go here.

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