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How can we use more tires in the garden?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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And are they good or bad for growing in?

I was looking for some quick, easy ways to use recycled things as planters in my garden (besides the old pots, toilet backs and bowls, bathtubs, half-barrels, crockpots, tea kettles, and so forth that I already have out there) and thought I would revisit the idea of tires for raised beds and planters. I know that some people think they are perfectly safe unless burned (when they produce a ton of toxic stuff in the smoke) while others say that even without burning they are not safe for edibles.  This link gives a quick, simple overview of the two camps if you care to look into it … The Spruce: Health Considerations When Using Tires for Garden Containers

However, besides that debate—which I welcome comments on, of course, I really would like to see ideas for creative ways to reuse this incredibly common resource to encourage others to keep more tires out of landfills. Even if you agree that tires do not make good garden containers for vegetables and fruits, you could grow flowers in them or find other uses in the garden (Totes? Chairs? Sandboxes?)
I’ll start with a few cute or clever ideas …





There are too many ideas!!! I need more tires!!!
 
Mother Tree
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I wouldn't want them in my garden at all. 

We have a discussion about their safety here - Is using used tires dangerous for health / nature?
 
pollinator
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I garden in a city lot, tires are not as bad as what's already there.

That being said, I only think of them as structure.
Stack them and fill them for colums, cut the treads out for fencing,etc.

I am in need of a "driveway" if sorts.
Tires with one sidewalk removed can be used as a "geomesh" to stabilize soil.
I am considering parallel paths two tires wide,filled with rubble, soil, etc.
Fixed to one another and the soil beneath.
Cheap.
 
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I agree with william, I think they have great potential as structural supports but I wouldn't want them to be part of the garden
 
pollinator
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William Bronson wrote: I garden in a city lot, tires are not as bad as what's already there.



That still begs the question, why bring further toxins into a situation where you are trying to cleanse the soil and bring it to a state of greater health?  Even if they are "not as bad", they are still bad.  Bad + not so bad = more bad.  Tires break down and leach all manor of nasty stuff into the soil.  I don't want them anywhere near where I'll be growing food.

I've seen tires used to build retaining walls and staircases in hilly Mexican neighborhoods.  After 10 years or so, they begin to dry rot and start to decompose.  Thus, they really aren't a practical long-term solution as a building material (and yes, I've seen the whole earth ship thing with soil compacted into used tires).


 
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From a Scientific American article April 28-2015 on the BP oil spill

"Ocean currents, in addition to keeping the spilled oil offshore, spurred microbial activity amidst the oil spill. That continuous
mixing of the water allowed a bacterial bloom to turn millions of barrels of oil into an estimated 100 sextillion microbial
cells of ethane-consuming Colwellia, aromatic-eating Cycloclasticus, alkane-eating Oceanospirillales, oil-eating Alcanovorax,
methane-loving Methylococcaceae and other species, including at least one previously unknown to science."

So it appears "Mother Nature" has an answer for petroleum that gets into the water.

What about air and soil?

I have wondered about the use of tires as a building materials.  I read somewhere that tire factories have massive ventilation
systems to remove the benzene gas that is released from the butadiene that used in the tire compound.

Zinc and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons get released from the action of sunlight on exposed tires.

I wonder what soil bacteria species that may exist that consume PAHs.

The use of "presumptive possibility" makes it hard for people to make a decision on re-using materials.

How harmful is it?

Or is it just "food" for bacteria?
 
master steward
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I often see tires used as play equiptment. As a child, my grandparents had a an epic spinning swing set that used spinning tires. It was seriously the coolest thing ever! There's a swivieling pipe at the top, and at either end hangs a chain, and from each chain is a tire. You could play on it by yourself, or have a friend on the other swing, and you'd go around and around and as you went faster and faster you'd get higher and higher. Seriously, the coolest swing ever. Of course, when I went to sit on it when I was older, I noticed that even through those tires had been in use for at least 10 years, they coated my pants with black. I can't imagine that black stuff is something we want in kid's skin...

I've also seen giant truck tires partly buried in the ground. Like this:



Once again, super fun to climb on and through as a kid, but also leaves black stuff everywhere. So, too, does laying them on their sides and turning them into seating. It's a fun, toxic place to sit and hang out!



And, of course, one could turn them into horse swings, but these seem to fall apart really quickly...at least the two I knew about did, and no one ever seemed to ride on them...



Our church also has chopped up tires as the base-layer for the playground. It's called "Rubber Mulch." It's nice and soft, but the black stuff gets on all the kids clothes, and also makes black dust fill the air when it's dry and the kids play on it. I can't imagine that black dust is good to breath.



Here's a snippet from an NBC article on tire mulch (and crumb rubber, which is also made from tires but is more refined)

The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that more studies of crumb rubber need to be done, and has retracted an earlier assurance that crumb rubber turf is safe. Both the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, however, recommend and promote rubber mulch. The EPA has worked with industry representatives and state officials to increase the use of tire mulch in playgrounds, and the CPSC recommends mulch in the “Bible” it provides to playground planners across the country.

......

According to the EPA, benzene, mercury, styrene-butadiene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and arsenic, among several other chemicals, heavy metals and carcinogens, have been found in tires. Studies have found that crumb rubber can emit gases that can be inhaled. When the material gets hot, it can increase the chances that volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and chemicals can “off-gas,” or leach into the air.

.....

Dr. Landrigan, whose research in the 1970s on children exposed to lead by a smelting company, is credited with spurring the widespread regulation of the heavy metal, said that currently available studies on rubber infill are “inadequate.”

There is not one study, he said, that attempts to measure the effects that long-term, repeated exposure to tire shreds or ground rubber could have on young children.

While the International Agency for Research on Cancer says that, at low levels of exposure, carcinogenic chemicals are safe, Landrigan said the repeated exposure of children to such carcinogens and chemicals put them at greater risk than adults, even at low levels.

“My concern as a pediatrician when somebody says that the levels are low is to ask the counter-question, 'What's low for a child?' ” Landrigan said. “I think for little children who play right down with their faces on the ground, who pick up stuff and put it in their mouths, who get crumb rubber on their skin in ways that adults would almost never get it on their skin, that any level of exposure to a known human carcinogen is too much.”

Behavioral traits unique to children, like putting things in their mouths, increase their risk of exposure. They breathe, eat and drink more relative to their body weight than adults. They also have many more years of life in which to develop disease triggered by early exposure to a carcinogen.

“Children’s cells and organs are rapidly growing and developing,” Landrigan said. “Developmental processes are very complex. They’re easily disrupted.”

Several substances found in tires are concerning, Landrigan added. “Butadiene is a known human carcinogen,” he said. “Styrene is a neuro-toxic chemical. It can cause injury to the brain and nerves. Truck tires also contain other toxic chemicals. All of these chemicals that are part and parcel of the tires get into the crumb, which goes into the field.”

Industry representatives and manufacturers say that crumb rubber is safe for children to play on because the manufacturing process binds the various components of tire, including carbon black and solvents, into a “matrix” that makes it impossible for them to leach out.

“Most people look at the raw materials going into tires and say, ‘This is a suspected causer of cancer, this could be an endocrine disrupter," said Blumenthal, the consultant. But after the manufacturing process, he said, “None of the raw materials that go into a tire are available.”

...

As long as rubber infill remains unregulated and unstudied by government agencies, she said, “We have to be independent thinkers. … If they’re not going to do it, then we have to put the dots together ourselves.”



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garden master
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Here are some pros and cons from David the Good via Marjory Wildcrafts GrowNetwork:

https://thegrownetwork.com/are-tire-gardens-toxic/

While I don't use tires I like this persons perspective:

  “Used tires already exist, and in their solid state, they are as safe or safer than any other construction material. The process and the result of this global discard nightmare being recycled by industry, whether grinding them up for road base, burning them as fuel, or recouping the oil, releases more hydrocarbons while costing the global economy billions of dollars for tire cleanup and commercial recycling. Modifying tires to create green space and home gardening available to everyone would not only absorb hydrocarbons, it could well be the key to salvation for practically every family on the planet that is otherwise excluded from adequate sustenance. Personal tire recycling potential benefits far outweigh all perceived hazards.“

 
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Just two ideas without experience on the subject for those, who think they are perfectly safe unless burned and decide to use them accodringly.

1.- stacking them up for potatoes, add a new tire and fill it with soil as the plants are rising above the last one. - I imagine it as an easy and plenty harvest that people have tried (tired?) already.
2.- It might save you the trouble of digging up a burdock root if you plant it on stacked tires of about a meter height.
 
pollinator
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My opinions can be read in the thread that Burra linked to earlier. My opinion really hasn't changed much, and I still think that turning them into furniture, any structure not encapsulated at least by soil, or mulch, is about the worst thing that can be done with them.

I have come around a little with respect to the idea of using them as structure, sealed from the elements and further degradation. I think the only way I think they are appropriate are as the macrogeotextile buried under the dirt of a high-traffic area, perhaps rammed dirt and woodchips, with the caveat that I want to see a system that makes use of the bacteria that will decompose the aforementioned toxins, and probably fungi, as well.

I think my answer to the OP's title question is, "not easily, nor safely for health." And why go to all the trouble of detoxifying all aspects of our lives if we are going to introduce toxicity into our food stream?

-CK
 
William Bronson
pollinator
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I've been scheming on this more.
Tire domes are a thing:

I've never seen a really big one. perhaps due to the weights involved. the tires on the bottom are half buried , for stability.

Tire pyramids are also a thing:


Notice that the tires of the pyramid form flat planes.


So, dig a trench, half a tire deep at least.
Fill it with tires,tread to tread from one end to another.
Put the soil back in, tamp it down.
Place the next course tires off set as they are in the tire pyramids walls.
Affix with deck screws as you go.
If your wall is strait without intersecting for along stretch, you might need to add perpendicular walls at intervals , as buttresses.
Circular, or sinuous walls probably wont need buttressing.

If you need a wall without openings(!), or with fewer openings, pallet wood, or tire treads can be used.
If you want to fill the wall, perhaps with soil cement,borax treated cardboard,papercrete,adobe,etc, cut a slot in the top of each tire and close the sides up , to create a form.

Any way you finish it, be certain to take steps to keep water from pooling in the tire.

 
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Bobo Trampin wrote:Just two ideas without experience on the subject for those, who think they are perfectly safe unless burned and decide to use them accodringly.

1.- stacking them up for potatoes, add a new tire and fill it with soil as the plants are rising above the last one. - I imagine it as an easy and plenty harvest that people have tried (tired?) already.
2.- It might save you the trouble of digging up a burdock root if you plant it on stacked tires of about a meter height.




1 was my thought too. Easy potato towers.

If you live in/near the city I think toxins are probably a lost cause. I remember a few years ago, when I was living in a bigger city, I mentioned that I found this site where you can find free feral fruit/veg to harvest (fallingfruit.org) and got a huge haul of blueberries from a couple hours work. It was probably a few liters and I left a lot behind. The first thought out of my coworkers mouth was that they were probably poisoned because I picked them off a roadside, so she would rather buy hers in the grocery where she knew they were safe. Nevermind that I drove by the blueberry farms every day and they were right by the same roadside, with nothing planted in between the farm and road for protection. The plants I was picking off were almost certainly escapees from the same farm that she bought her berries from at a price of $5 for a tiny container, because the two places were only a block apart and we don't have wild blueberries here. But I don't think she ever put 2 and 2 together and she was generally very worried about the known/suspected bad and not worried enough about the unknown bad. I think as far as she was concerned, "normal" produce just magically spawned inside a grocery store with no contaminations or imperfections. Anything that didn't come out of a grocery store was automatically suspect.

If using tires as a grow structure allows you to replace some of your store-bought potatoes, then IMO it's most likely anywhere from a wash to a net positive in terms of toxins. It might be better to use something else and I wouldn't go out of my way to look for tires to add to my garden, but if someone dumped a big load of them on my front yard, I'd start finding some uses for them. If you are looking for free/cheap materials and you don't currently have a big stock of tires, then pallets might be more up your alley. Most pallets should have a stamp saying how they were treated, and if you make sure to use only the pallets with safe stamps (like heat treated pallets) then you can do lots of cool stuff with them. I know of a lumber yard a town over that gives out free heat-treated pallets to anyone that wants them, so we always stop there when we're in town.
 
Nicole Alderman
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On the subject of potato towers, according to this article by a plant breeder (they specialize in rare South American tubers, so I trust their word), potato towers don't actually work and can actually be detimental. Here's the article https://www.cultivariable.com/potato-towers/

And some quotes:

As far as I can tell, the potato tower began with the idea of growing potatoes in tires.  Somebody realized that you could achieve the necessary hilling quite easily by putting a potato on the ground and then filling up the tire with soil.  That works very nicely.  I’m sure it didn’t take long before someone decided to add a second tire, then a third, and the tower was born.



Articles about potato towers fall into four categories: those that promote the idea and never report on results, those that later report pretty normal potato yield, those that later report failure, and those that promote the idea and then unconvincingly report success (usually in support of selling a tower kit).  An hour of research on the Internet provided a ratio of these types of articles of 74 : 11 : 9 : 2.



There are two insurmountable problems with the potato tower concept:

Tuber production is limited by foliage area.
Almost no potatoes produce additional stolons past the first few nodes above the seed piece.
We could kill this idea entirely, based only on the relationship between foliage area and the total energy budget of the plant.  The main function of a plant’s foliage is to collect energy.  That energy is converted to sugars and moved into the body of the plant for storage.  This is where tubers come from.  They are little balls of captured energy and water.  Evolution does not allow for slackers.  Plants have evolved to fully use the capacity of their leaves to capture and store energy.  There is no excess energy for the plant to use to form more tubers, no matter how many stolons that you might convince it to produce.  If you somehow forced the plant to produce ten levels of stolons, then you would get 10 times as many tubers that would be 1/10th as large (actually less, because so much energy would have to be expended on the formation and maintenance of all those stolons).  If you want more yield, you need more foliage.  Nobody claims that towers produce more foliage though.

The other problem is that potatoes simply don’t produce an endless number of stolons.  Stolons are formed from the first few nodes above the seed piece and rarely any higher.  Hilling up in excess of six inches is a waste of time and effort and only makes the plant work harder.  The reason for hilling is not to make the plants form more tubers but to ensure that the tubers are covered by soil.  Tubers need to be covered to protect them from pests, diseases, and sunlight, which will turn them green and increase the content of toxic glycoalkaloids.  Plants will often survive extreme hilling, but you aren’t doing them any favors; they have to pump photosynthate and water farther, which costs the plant energy.  The greater depth of soil can also be a barrier to water reaching the roots.



I hilled up my potatoes a good three feet last year, filling in with mulch, duck bedding, wood chips, etc. I got quite a few potatoes...and they were ALL below all that mulching. The mulching did a great job of suppressing weeds, but there were no potatoes growing more than probably 6 inches above where I planted the seed potato. So, stacking tires will probably increase toxins in your garden, and is likely unnessesary for growing potaotes. And, if you want to turn grass into a garden bed, growing potatoes is a great way to do that. I made my potato bed last year on top of grass and buttercup, surrounded by grass and buttercup. There is NO grass or buttercup in the bed this year. I call that a major success!
 
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There are tires in the middle of this hill I built for the kids. It's a beautiful feature and they love to climb up it. plus it cost me nothing. Tires were free. The rocks were free. The dirt was free. Ah, well the grass cost.

I've used tires for lots of things. I've made a kid sandbox. Lots of climbing toys, etc.

Now I'm using tires as a fence type structure randomly around the property. We have lots of dead spots and the disruption to the wind and elements I'm hoping will cause some natural growth to happen. Plus, I have tons of tires and they're free so why not!
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Meg Mitchell
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Nicole Alderman wrote:On the subject of potato towers, according to this article by a plant breeder (they specialize in rare South American tubers, so I trust their word), potato towers don't actually work and can actually be detimental. Here's the article https://www.cultivariable.com/potato-towers/

And some quotes:

[snipped]

I hilled up my potatoes a good three feet last year, filling in with mulch, duck bedding, wood chips, etc. I got quite a few potatoes...and they were ALL below all that mulching. The mulching did a great job of suppressing weeds, but there were no potatoes growing more than probably 6 inches above where I planted the seed potato. So, stacking tires will probably increase toxins in your garden, and is likely unnessesary for growing potaotes. And, if you want to turn grass into a garden bed, growing potatoes is a great way to do that. I made my potato bed last year on top of grass and buttercup, surrounded by grass and buttercup. There is NO grass or buttercup in the bed this year. I call that a major success!



I'm trying the towers for the first time this year -- with indeterminate varieties -- and if it doesn't work it doesn't work and I'll try something else next year. I'm definitely of the mind of throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks. It sounds like the author has never tried to tower potatoes and they're hedging a lot of their claims. Still, even in the article, they mention that 1 layer of tires will hold in the dirt from the necessary amount of hilling, so it could be useful if you're growing in a small (urban) space and need to abut your potatoes against something else that doesn't want to be hilled on. "Toxins" are a separate issue and I'm kind of skeptical about those kind of claims unless someone can actually explain what are the exact toxins they're worried about and how they know it's not worse than their alternative (which in an urban area is usually the grocery store). The food you buy in the store is not toxin-free and urban gardeners don't have an unlimited amount of grow space.
 
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I'm the author, FWIW.  I have tried towers in various forms and even tried selecting potatoes that would set higher above the seed piece, but I have judged it ultimately a futile effort.  The energy budget of the plant is a physical limitation imposed by canopy area.  That doesn't mean that you can't build a fancy box and get a nice yield of potatoes from it - it just won't be a yield that is proportional to the additional expense and effort.
 
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Bottom line: I've just found that nothing grows really well in a tyre. I am in the process of replacing some terraces I built from tyres with brick and it is amazing how much plants pick up speed once rid of the tyres. I can only imagine it must be something like wearing a plastic jumpsuit: hot, sweaty and no place to breathe,
 
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