Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tire Gardening: Removing the Rims!!!

I can't stress enough that there is really no reason to do this unless you like the look of the tires this way (we do!) or unless you want to be able to make the tires into different shapes. To use tires as container gardens you really can just drop them wherever you like and fill them with dirt. However, if you like the way these look and want to be able to make interesting shapes with them then follow along...

First off...a before picture. In this picture you can see that the potato tires in the back of the pic already have 3 tires stacked one on top of each other and filled with dirt, while the tires in front are stacked 2-high each. As can be seen in the pic, all of the potato plants are strong and healthy and ready for another tire and more dirt to be added to each.

(I have received comments and emails from people asking why you stack tires when growing potatoes. Stacking tires on top of each other and filling them with dirt as the potato plant grows is the tire-gardening way of "hilling" your potatoes. In a traditional garden, you hill potatoes by piling more dirt up and around the potato plant in order to give the potatoes more room to grow in. By piling the tires on top of each other and filling each new tire with more dirt you are giving the potato plant more room to grow in. Last year I piled the tires on top of each other only 3-high; this year we plan to do all of the potato tires 4-high. I have seen websites and blogs where people have piled the potato tires up to 5 tires high - that's a lot of potatoes!!!)

So continuing on...in order to cut the rims out of the tires you will need a sharp Stanley knife and replacement blades. You will also need a strong husband - bahahaha! Jambaloney stacks the tires in the middle of driveway and uses the stacked tires as a workbench. Here you can see him begin to cut out the rim of the tire. There is a line on the tire that he follows with the Stanley knife.

Make sure to hold onto the rim to make the cutting easier and smoother.

Here he is a finished tire with both sides of the rim cut out (notice monster bike-cart in back!):

And the finished tire laying on the ground ready for the next step - flipping it inside out. As can be seen in the picture....the outside of the tire has the treads and the inside is smooth. We like to flip the tires inside out so that the smooth side shows as the outside of the container garden - does that make sense?

So first....push in the centre of the tire as Jambaloney is doing in the picture:

Next...step on the middle of the tire and start flipping the tire inside-out from the bottom to the top. Sometimes this can take a little wrangling and playing with the tire.

Keeping your foot firmly in place, wrestle with the tire until it is completely flipped inside-out.

And here is the finished flipped inside-out tire ready to be dropped on top of the potato plants and filled with dirt or placed wherever to be used as a container garden.

Enjoy! and stay tuned for more tips and tricks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Container Gardening? and Why Tires???

For many people interested in growing some of their own food, they do not have the luxury of having acres and acres of farmland!!! Others, who may have the acreage required, simply have terrible soil with too many rocks or clay. The answer for these situations - container gardening!!! And my favourite containers are Tires!!!

Tires??? Yes – tires! I know it sounds crazy – but bear with me because I have been successfully growing a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs for the past 3 years – and all in tires!

First off you should know a couple of things about tires. They take approximately 700 million years to sorta’ decompose badly. They also take up a lot of space on garbage/landfill sites. And lastly – they are FREE! Yes, I said FREE! Walk into your local garage and you can walk out of there with a truckload of tires for FREE! And don’t be surprised if the local garage owner thanks you profusely – he normally has to PAY someone to come and pick up the tires! (oh and don’t be surprised if he looks at you in a sorta’ strange way either…you know what he is thinking and it goes a little something like this: “what the heck are they gonna’ do with all of those tires?!?!?)

Did I just hear someone ask for more really interesting facts about tires? Yes, I think I did. OK then here goes: because tires are black and made of rubber – they heat up the soil and maintain a constant soil temperature throughout the entire growing season. If you put a layer of cardboard, newspaper, and/or mulch in the bottom of the tire before filling with dirt – it will prevent weeds from growing and you now have an almost completely weed-free tire garden. Tires also retain the moisture in the soil throughout the growing season - so if you set up store-bought rain barrel or DIY rain barrel/water cachement system – you wouldn’t believe the money you can save on our water bill simply by watering the tire gardens from the rain barrels!!!

So – what’s the first thing you will need in order to start your own tire garden?

You got it – TIRES!

That’s about 45 tires sitting in the middle of our driveway!

Prior to using the tires for gardening - get a bucket of warm, environmentally-safe soap solution and give them a scrub inside and out and then rinse off all of the soap with the hose. Remember - there is nothing on/in the tires that isn't already in the air!!! And as for the tires leeching chemicals into your veggies or fruits - I have read that they do, I have read that they don't, and everything in between. However, people in New Mexico, Texas and other southern states in the US have been using tires for gardening since tires were first invented. If you are worried at all - just be sure to give the tires a really good scrub!

When using tires for your garden you have the option of either removing the rims from both sides of the tire, or only one side, or just leaving the rims in. Removing the rims makes the rest of the tire more flexible so that you can make interesting shapes out of them (I like long oval-shaped tires!). Go here for some fancy, rimless tire gardens. Here is another great link that shows a variety of ways of stacking different sized-tires and also step-by-step instructions for how to remove the rims (I love that magazine!). And don't forget, you can squash all of the tires together and have less space left between them. However, if you have a group of 5 or six tires together, don’t forget to fill the spaces between the tires with dirt and plant a couple of seeds there also…see?…more growing room. (And stay tuned...as in the next post I will show you how my hubby and I remove the rims from the tires for our gardens.)

Next – unless you live on a 5 acre farm or have access to a quarry – you will need dirt for the tires! That’s 6 cubic yards of dirt sitting in the middle of our driveway – I have to admit – I loved the back-breaking work of loading up the wheelbarrow and moving the dirt one wheelbarrow at a time to the back yard! (I mean – I mostly loved watching my husband do that – hahaha!)! Make certain to buy the dirt from a reputable dealer - if you are going to spend the money you want good, fresh, healthy, live dirt!!! This will be a one-time purchase, especially if you plan to rotate your veggies each year or two, and plan to top up your dirt with your own compost every year (again - stay tuned - as I will do a future post on making your own compost!).

To sum up this portion of How To Tire Garden – let me just say that I researched many different ways of gardening: square foot gardening, raised bed gardening, intensive gardening, container gardening, rooftop gardening (really gonna look into that when we move to our acreage) – but for me – tire gardening really caught my interest. I love the idea that you are basically “container gardening” – but with a lot of extra pluses like maintaining soil temperature and moisture. I also love the fact that we are re-purposing tires and that at least these tires will not be going to a landfill site. And did I mention – FREE?!?!?! I love the fact that they are free!!!

I can’t rave on enough about how easy it is to tire garden. Almost no weeding, not a lot of watering needed, and when it comes to growing potatoes in tires – you can stack the tires on top of each other up to 4 tires high!!! What a great way to use very little space and grow enough potatoes to get your family through the year!

So here are a few other pics of my actual tire gardens being in the backyard. I have groups of tires clustered together in some areas, for example, my herb garden is clustered into 6 tires near the backdoor for the ease of running to the backdoor to gather fresh herbs when cooking. Here is a pic:

Here is a pic of my tomatoes growing and cucumber growing in tires:

Here is a pic of some lovelly salad greens waiting to be picked:

And last, but certainly not the least (in my mind - The Best!), here are my potato tires - there are 14 tires stacked 4-high each. This pic is from last year (2009). We harvested a little over 120lbs of potatoes from these tires in September and we are still eating them. Not bad for only $20 in potato seed. (stay tuned as I will do many future posts on potatoes!!!)

Over the few years that I have been tire gardening, I have successfully grown all type of herbs, fruits and berries, onions, carrots, garlic, beets, brussell sprouts, beans, tomatoes, potatoes - pretty much anything and everything. And it has been a lot of fun!!!

So why not give it a try???

Stay tuned....more tire gardening to come!!!