A "Tire Garden" proper....
If there is such a thing as a proper tire garden!
Back in the 70's tire gardens were all the rage as the back to land folks made use of what sources they had due to a lack of money, jobs, or desire to be a part of capitalism (or perhaps all of the above). I've seen a ton of articles about tire gardening in old Mother Earth News Magazine that my friend Karen Padgett passed on to me but somehwere way back then the idea got dropped.....
Likely, as with most things, I'm sure some eco trend probably contributed to this as well as yuppy folks deciding they didn't like the looks of the black rubber monsters surrounding their house.....to be honest I had never even considered doing it until this year.
While working some business deals with a neighbor he showed me his tire garden. A few rows here and there spread out throughought his quarter acre garden filled with asparagus, garlic, beans, potatoes, squash and some various other crops. I still wasn't sold on it yet, I mean afterall what of the health and eco-logical consequences of all that rubber and heavy metal....I began my research and learned that the chemicals and heavy metals are actually so tied up in the rubber matrix that they don't present any problems until reduced to tiny particles.....I began hauling tires and compost from the neighbors farm, truck load after truckload!
Lots of hard manual labor latter I had a nice little tire garden on the hill behind the house and a second smaller one next to the drive.
Why tires you might ask?
Let me explain my theories and thoughts.
The tires warm the soil quite a bit earlier in the season than even an ordinary raised bed giving you a couple weeks early planting in spring and late harvest in the fall.
The tires can be used on sections of ground not suited to ordinary cultivation such as steep hilsides, areas of poor soil, and rocky ground opening up new opporotunities for planting that did not exist previously.
No till planting; part of what makes this work and proved its value to me was the no till method of planting. Essentially you are creating a nice habitat to culture useful micro-organisms which maintain fertility as long as you start with a good quality compost and top dress a little over winter and in the spring. In between the tires I leave a nice 2 foot walkway which I cover with straw and in time I will build these row centers up in every other row by applying straw through the growing season and compost in the off season, after a few years of building up humous in this way I can plant the center rows to low impact crops such as strawberries, onions, and garlic nearly doubling the productivity of the given pieces of ground.
Most of the articles I read in Mother Earth advocated cutting off the outside flap of the tires but I decided to keep them as the one on the bottom will help to retain moisture in dry weather.
The only down side of the tires is the high heat of summer which I handle with the straw in between rows by simply piling it high enough to cover the edges of the tires, even then the tires get dry, this of course could be remidied with some drip irrigation on the upper slope of the hill above each row of the tire.
Cover crops could really expand the soil line beneath the tire, Daikon raddish would be a great crop which could help to break up the hard ground underneath the tires and make some water channels as well as pull up nutrients otherwise not available in the tires.
We decided to name the garden "Enoch's Garden" in honor of Enoch and his wife Sarah who are credited on the deed to the land as the original owners of this farm and builders of the barn that I recently renovated. It is of course also an homage to my interest in Gnosticism as well. By next year we hope to have a fence built around the garde to preclude access to the ducks and turkeys. At the moment we are building u strawberry stocks, garlic, multiplying onions, walking onions, and potatoe onions there as well as about 50 varieties of garlic. We will also be overwintering our turnip and kale and collards there for seed production next season.
This past summer we grew a number of crops in the tires including late tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, sweet potatoes, potatoes, summer squash, winter squash and a few others.