Final Report - The Grand Tire-Gardening Experiment (LONG!!)

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Final Report - The Grand Tire-Gardening Experiment
August 31, 2003
This season's garden continues, of course, and will until really cold weather (December probably), but the season is far enough advanced that I can now make this Final Report. Also, we are probably moving soon, so I thought I'd better write this before we get involved in moving and I have no spare time.
I'm going to use footnotes, so that those who want more details can refer to the footnotes. I've written this in a fairly informal and personal matter because that's how I write. <g> I'm sorry there are so many first-person pronouns, but after all - these are my/our experiences - so there's no way around this.
* What is tire-gardening?
Using old tires, usually with the sidewalls cut off, for planters (creating an effect much like that of raised beds). There are refinements on this basic idea.
* Where did 'The Grand Tire-Gardening Experiment' take place?
We're in the Appalachians Mountains in Pennsylvania's Northern Tier. This is theoretically within Zone 5, but our local climate is much more like Zone 4 because of the altitude.
Last expected frost date is theoretically May 31, but has been in mid-June (!!!) two of the three springs that we've lived here. First expected frost date is in the first week of October. Nights are often chilly here even in July and August: often going down into the 40s and occasionally lower.
* Why tire-gardening?
I wanted to switch to raised beds or raised planters of some sort for a variety of reasons, as covered very well by many modern gardening books [1]. In addition to the more general reasons, I cannot garden comfortably flat on the ground (arthritis) and our topsoil here is horrid: almost 100% heavy clay, laced with rocks. Also, I knew from prior experience how much more productive and easier container gardening can be.
* Why tires, rather than conventional raised beds?
Simply because they are both free and permanent. It's nice to remove them from the waste stream, too, it's ecologically sound to reuse an existing item.
All other alternatives of which I'm aware were either too expensive for us, or too labor intensive. My husband and I both have major health problems that limit the amount of physical work we can do. It would, for example, have cost about $300 for lumber (planks) to create the raised beds, and about the same for concrete blocks. 'Organoponicos' [2] as used in Cuba, would probably be cheap to make, but more physical work than we could have handled.
The first step, of course, is to obtain the tires. We found that local tire stores were very pleased to give us their used tires - even helping to load them in the car. They need to pay to dispose of each tire otherwise.
About mid-way through the acquisition phase, my husband had a stroke of really good luck and found one tire store in our town that will give us tires *with the sidewalls already cut off*. They sell the sidewalls (which are in a ring shape) to farmers who (presumably) use them to hold down tarps covering piles of manure, or compost, or silage. This was really great and saved a lot of work.
We cut the sidewalls off when necessary [3] to increase the surface area contained within each tire, then placed the tires in rows in our garden. We started by turning each tire inside out [4] - they look marginally better that way. We soon tired of this and used the rest of the tires right-side out.
The next step was to have the garden tilled. Once the garden was tilled, we took extreme care to step only in the future paths and not where the tire-planters would be placed, to avoid compacting the soil. The best way to do this would be to mark off the paths with strings and stakes - we did it by eye and it worked out all right.
We set the garden up with wide paths (about 3 feet wide) for easy accessibility. I bought a 'rolling garden seat' [5] that enables me to sit in comfort and reach each tire to plant in it, weed, harvest, etc. I have joint problems and pain (a form of arthritis) and this was a major reason for going to raised planters. The combination of the raised tire-planters and the rolling garden seat has worked very well for me, and I think it would enable a whole lot of elderly people or people with joint problems to garden in comfort.
We set the tires up in the following pattern.
single row path double row path double row path single row
Each row has ten tires, for a total of 60. The rows run east to west. I don't know if east-west rows are ideal - it was dictated by the shape and morphology of our property.
Each tire contains roughly three square feet of surface area - we were not able to obtain any very large truck or tractor tires.
We put a row of 8' tall metal fence posts at the north side of the garden and hung netting [6] from them to support the vining crops. I'll rotate sugar snap peas, pole beans, cucumbers and a cover crop through this row.
We started off by filling the tires with a mixture of heavy clay soil shoveled from the paths, spent-mushroom compost [7], peat moss, and about a cupful of lime.
We quickly tired of the hard physical labor of digging the heavy and rocky clay soil and switched to filling each tire with 100% spent-mushroom compost, removing only the largest rocks first. (We can purchase the spent-mushroom compost economically from a local nursery here in northern Pennsylvania.)
Pro-Mix [8] or a similar mix would also be a good basis for filling the tires, although it would need the addition of something such as aged manure for nitrogen as it's a soil-less growing medium. Micronutrients would probably also need to be supplied in that case.
People fortunate enough to have half-way decent top soil could fill their tires with that, although I'd recommend the addition of peat moss or Pro-Mix or similar to lighten it.
I started almost all my seeds indoors under fluorescent lights, planting only the green beans directly outside. I have found that I get much better results with transplants than direct-seeding.
We had two major gardening disasters this year:
1. A catastrophically wet and cold spring, including a more-than-six-week period without one single sunny day. The tire planters really paid off during the spring. Through most of the spring, the garden was a sea of standing water with little raised round beds containing thriving plants! All or most of the plants would have died had they not been in some kind of raised bed. I can do a lot with plants, but I cannot teach them to swim.
2. I was ill and unable to garden at all - unable to even walk to the garden - during all of June and the first half of July - six weeks in all. My husband kept things going as well as he could, but he's not knowledgeable about gardening and had his hands full with other work in any case.
I had to curtail my gardening plans drastically because of this long illness. Nevertheless, we grew a total of seven perennial herbs [9] and 29 different vegetables/annual herbs [10] in tire planters this year. I would have grown more types of vegetables had I not been ill and - in fact - I wound up giving many 6-cell packs of started seeds to a gardening friend.
Getting the tires, cutting the sidewalls off when necessary, and filling the tires also slowed us down - these would be one-time only jobs in most cases.
I used floating row cover and nylon net for insect control, mainly for the brassicas (cabbage-family plants), as they are very subject to damage by the cabbage butterfly (which lays its eggs on the plants, then they hatch into worms that eat the leaves).
I made chicken-wire cages (circles) to fit just inside each tire I wanted to protect, then covered the cage with either floating row cover or nylon net, using ground staples to fasten it down. I sprinkled the plants with diatomaceous earth before covering them, to kill any insects already in place. This worked very well. I used no other insect control except (organic) slug bait [11] during the very wet cold spring.
We used buckwheat for a cover crop in temporarily vacant tires during the summer. My husband just scattered it by hand - he didn't even turn it in. It grew and thrived and kept out the weeds very well. We'll use oats for a fall/winter cover crop. We bought the oats and buckwheat at a local feed-and-farm supply store (Agway) for $0.57/lb. We bought three pounds of each, and this will be about right for the 60 tires.
We spaced the plants within the tires according to Mel Bartholomew's book, 'Square Foot Gardening' [1], except for the Asian greens. I used Joy Larkcom's very informative book 'Oriental Vegetables' [12] to assist me in guessing at spacing for the Asian vegetables. By the way, I recommend this book very highly to anyone interested in growing Asian vegetables. It's (annoyingly) type-set with double columns (newspaper style) throughout but once I got over resenting that, I learned a great deal of invaluable information about the Asian vegetables. The author is British and therefore doesn't really understand the USA's climates (although she has made an effort to get American input) but the book is really terrific, even to American gardeners, in spite of this. I don't know of any other comparable source of so much information on Asian vegetables.
We used no fertilizer or plant food other than the spent-mushroom compost, which is a complete fertilizer in and of itself, adequate for at least the first season.
I never got around to mulching anything this season, but the intensively planted vegetables pretty much created their own living mulch and shaded out the weeds quite well.
We caged the tomatoes, putting the cages and their rebar stakes within the tires. This worked well, except that the tomatoes managed to collapse their cages (again!) even though each one was braced with two or three iron bars (the rebar). Next year, I'll either prune tomatoes and grow them on a trellis, or use rebar (rebar mesh) for the cages.
Results/Conclusions/Recommendations
1. Everything grew very very well - without a single exception. The yields were those of a much, much larger conventional (row) garden of the same area, probably at least an order of magnitude better.
We've had enough to supply the two of us with fresh veggies since early May, preserve a lot of veggies for winter (by freezing or dehydrating), give a lot away to neighbors and friends, and sell a considerable amount too.
I didn't keep track of the harvest, but I wish I had. Next season, I will try to keep track.
2. The tire planters really weathered the cool rainy spring very well, and in fact, most people around here lost everything they had planted during the 'spring monsoons'. We didn't lose anything - our plants were high and dry in their tire planters even though our garden was a sea of standing water for weeks on end in May and early June.
3. The tires filled with mushroom compost drain quickly and they do need more frequent watering than the same plants would if planted directly in the ground. On the other hand, since we are only applying the water directly to the growing area (not to weeds or paths), we probably use no more water in the long run. I know from container gardening that the mushroom compost drains much more quickly than topsoil, so this effect may partly be due to the mushroom compost.
4. It's easy to pull a hose around the garden - the tires act as buffers and protect the plants. We used a handheld hose for watering and this is fairly time-consuming. In the future, I would like to have an automatic system: a length of hose for each row, with emitters leading to each tire [13]. If I can't afford to do this, I'll at least use milk jugs as water reservoirs [14] - 2 or 3 jugs per tire should do quite well.
5. I question whether the tire-planters would be beneficial in extremely hot and dry places, such as the deserts in the American Southwest, or even in extremely hot (but not dry) places (Florida comes to mind). There's no question that the soil in the tire-planters gets warmer than it would on the ground. This is an asset in our area but would be a disadvantage in very hot places. Mulch could probably go a long way towards alleviating this, as would painting the tires white.
6. I want to stress again how easy it is to plant, weed, and harvest from the tires using the 'rolling garden seat' or other means of sitting comfortably while gardening. This is ideal for elderly people or those with joint problems.
7. In the future, I'd like to make one or more 3- or 4-tiered strawberry planters from tires, and to experiment with decorative planters as well [15]. Paul Farber's book 'Tire Recycling is Fun' [16] has complete directions for these items, as well as others.
The book also has directions for various methods of using upright supports with the tire-planters, some of which I'll probably experiment with for vining crops. The book is small, and written in cartoon-style (mostly illustrations). I'm glad I bought it, although the price is high for such a small book. Farber self-published it, and I was not able to find a used copy or obtain one on inter-library loan.
8. The chief disadvantage of tire-gardening - as I see it - is aesthetics. The tire-planters look like...well...used tires.
Our garden is fenced, so a border or edging of long grass has grown up around the fence line (which we can't mow, because it's too close to the fence) and completely hidden the tire-planters from view. This is fine now, but they'll look like used tires all winter.
Square or rectangular raised beds with wooden planks as edging would look much nicer. I'd be somewhat hesitant about using tire-planters in my front yard unless I had painted them or otherwise made them look less like used tires. In our current location, they're in the back yard and not really visible to anyone else except one neighbor, so they're fine.
And here ends the Final Report on the Grand Tire Gardening Experiment. I consider tire-gardening - on the whole - to be smashing success and I plan to continue it.
Pat Meadows
[1] A good example is 'Square Foot Gardening' by Mel Bartholomew, Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1981. However, if you read an older edition of the book (like mine), please be sure to also consult Bartholomew's website - http://www.squarefootgardening.com . He has revised some of his recommendations and at least one revision is important: namely, that digging the soil under a raised bed is not necessary if you fill the raised bed with a sufficient depth of growing medium. There may be other changes as well. I think he's changed his recommendation for the width of paths.
Bartholomew (like most garden writers) can be dogmatic about his system, but I was able to adapt many of his ideas to tire-gardening.
[2] 'Organoponicos' are raised beds made of concrete as used in urban areas throughout Cuba. A fascinating description and photos are available at:
http://www.newfarm.org/international/features/0303/brian_cuba.shtm
[3] We began cutting the sidewalls with a heavy hunting knife. This is certainly feasible: it works. However, it was slow-going and hard work. We then switched to using a small (handheld) electric jigsaw - circular saw, the blade is about 6" in diameter. It cost about $30 and has many other uses, of course. We used the most jagged blades we could find - those with the deepest zig-zags. I think a sabre saw would work even better, but we couldn't find any in that price range.
[4] Directions for turning the tires inside out (after the sidewalls have been cut off) may be found here:
http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/virtually_gardening/78343
[5] http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.asp?pageE921&category=2%2C2120&SID=&ccurrency=2
[6] http://www.johnnyseeds.com - then click on 'Vegetable Gardening' then 'Accessories' then 'Twine and Trellis'. We bought the polypropylene net, 30' x 6.5'.
[7] http://www.americanmushroom.org/compost.htm
[8] http://www.living-learning.com/store/containers/premier%20soil.htm Pro-Mix is available at our local feed and farm-supply store for about $15 for a compressed 3-cubic foot bale - when opened, it springs out to cover a great deal more volume.
[9] Perennial herbs grown from purchased plants: burnet, chives, oregano, sage, sorrel, tarragon and thyme.
[10] Vegetables/annual herbs grown, with varietal names where known (all started from seed except the pepper plants):
Basella rubra (Malabar spinach) Basil Beet 'Burpee's Golden' Chard 'Bright Lights' Chard 'Fordhook Giant' Beet 'Early Wonder' Bok Choy 'Hybrid Green Boy' Bok Choy 'Hybrid Summer Boy Choy Sum Hon Tsai Tai Komatsuna 'Summer Fest' Small Pai Tsai Broccoli 'Small Miracle' Bush Bean 'Masai' Bush Bean 'Purple Royal Burgundy' Bush Bean 'Yellow Pencil' Carrot 'Danvers Half Long' Carrot 'Short n'Sweet' 'Tyfon Holland Greens' Chinese Cabbage, Fluffy Top Chinese Cabbage, Loosehead, Shirona Cucumber 'Marketmore 76' Zucchini 'Black Beauty' Pattypan Squash 'Early White Bush Scallop' Yellow summer squash 'Sundance' Eggplant 'Shoya Long' Eggplant 'Rosa Bianca' Lettuce 'Tom Thumb' Lettuce 'Black Seeded Simpson' Lettuce 'Mesclun Mix' Lettuce 'New Red Fire' Lettuce 'Pinetree Mix' Lettuce 'Pinetree Winter Mix' Lettuce 'Plato II' (Romaine) Lettuce 'Redina' Mibuna Mizuna Parsley Peppers, Sweet (variety unknown - I bought the plants and forgot the variety) Shungiku, Garland Round Leaved Tomato 'Sweet Million' (Cherry tomato) Tomato 'Better Boy' Tomato 'Early Girl' Mache Vitaminna Kale, Early Dwarf Scotch
Most of the (non-Asian) seeds were purchased from Pinetree Garden Seeds, http://www.superseeds.com/ . Most of the Asian seeds were from Evergreen Seeds, http://www.evergreenseeds.com , with a few from Kitazawa Seeds, http://www.kitazawaseed.com/ . A few seeds were purchased locally.
[11] http://www.gardensalive.com/item_display.asp?ProductNumber !11
[12] 'Oriental Vegetables', Joy Larkcom, Kodansha International Publishers, New York/Tokyo/London, 1991.
[13] http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.asp?page381&category=2,2280,33167&ccurrency=2&SID [14] See 'Ten Uses for Plastic Jugs in Your Garden', http://www.organicgardening.com/library/plasticjug.html
[15] http://www.tirecrafting.com/funbook2/07mexican/07mexicanpottery.htm has good photos of decorative planters made from tires. Some of these are really pretty. Someday, I'll have time to try making them.
[16] 'Tire Recycling is Fun', Paul Farber, self-published by Re-Tiring, Box 505, Roy, UT 84607, 1986. The book can be purchased through Farber's website: http://www.tirecrafting.com . I was not able to locate a used copy in spite of using a couple of book-search websites.
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[big snip]
I loved reading this. It's so practical and I like recycling. I'm going to be putting in a raised herb garden and might think about using tires for that, something that I would not have considered before reading your post. The one potential problem:

beneficial

the

a

I live near San Antonio TX and typically we get hot summers. This year has been relatively cool, so I've watered raised rose beds only once per week; other summers I've sometimes had to water several times per week, and I use soaker hose covered in mulch, so water isn't wasted.
My new herb bed is going in behind a fence, so aesthetics won't be a problem. I might try your idea of painting the tires. I really really like the idea of not spending money and having to do cutting/drilling on wood for raised beds. Been there done that!
Anyway, you have given me a lot of food for thought. Thanks for your detailed report.
Gail
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snipped-for-privacy@meadows.pair.com writes:

[snipped the meat of the post]
Thank you, Pat, for your informative message. Though I've not yet read it completely, I've saved it for future reference. I had almost pretty much decided to put certain things in raised beds, either tire or block (since I scored all those free blocks last spring and more again a few weeks ago), but your experiences have convinced me it is definitely a good idea. I'm also fortunate enough to have a limited supply of corrugated drain/culvert pipe in larger diameters (18-inch and 24-inch) available to me which I'm seriously considering putting around my tomato plants next year. If it works well, I'll be purchasing a full length of the appropriate size pipe. For those you don't know, the pipe is black and has "rings" on it about an inch wide which are filled with air (or water if there is a slight hole that catches the rain) to add strength to the pipe; it seems to me they would work much the same as a wall-of-water but be much more long lasting. This year, I placed a few rings of it around certain plants. It holds in water while it absorbs into the soil directly below the plant before dispersing into the surrounding soil (depending on how deep the ring is set into the ground). It also absorbs heat because it is black as well as providing a border for both mulch and for using a weed-trimmer. My main intention was a container for extra watering and a border to keep me from damaging the plant's stem/truck when mowing, but now the additional advantages of heat and mulch are apparent. For the roses I transplanted, I placed the rings about four inches in the soil and four inches above the ground line, and it has been working very well. I also put larger rings around my kiwi plants but must wait until the plants are dormant this fall to place them into the soil so as not to damage the roots.
The advantages for me in using this culvert pipe are: - the rings on the pipe are evenly spaced and make it easy to keep all widths (heights after in place) the same size for a neater appearance - because the rings are parallel, cutting between them is easy (I use a pruning saw though there are surely better saws to use) - the black color absorbs heat into the soil directly around the plant - the rings (borders) will hold mulch in place (and not allow my chickens to tear it up!) - the rings direct water straight down to the plant's roots - black more readily "blends" into the surrounding areas and is less noticeable than other colors - damage from use of the grass-trimmer is eliminated (if you keep the string below the top of the ring) - consistency in size of borders around plants - for decorative plants, spacing them a lawn mower's width apart reduces maintenance time - when cages are used for veggie plants, it helps hold the cage in place - I had been using planter tubs and cutting out the bottoms for this but they are short-lived and only last a couple of seasons before starting to break; these are permanent - when set deeper into the soil, they work well for containing invasive plants such as mints - no bottoms eliminates drainage problems that might otherwise exist
The disadvantage to some might be the green stripe on the pipe which is there for the workers to line up when it's being laid in the construction ditch. That isn't a problem in my yard but some might consider it unsightly to have that green stripe on an inch of their borders. I guess if it bothered me, I'd spray paint the stripe black before putting it around a plant.<g>
If my boss with whom I had worked for over 20 years were still living, I'd ask him to order a couple of lengths of large diameter (3 or 4-foot) culvert pipe for me for raised beds when he was ordering pipe for a job. That would allow me to have the contractor's discount and free delivery. But then, I'd be spending many hours cutting the rings for the individual planters unless I wanted to also borrow a power saw. Or, if I was lucky, there'd be enough left over from various jobs that I could glean it from the finished job sites in smaller amounts.
Yes, I'm one of those unconventional people that is always looking for something to use that might be better (or at least as good) as marketed items. Those vinegar/soy sauce 55-gallon barrels I picked up earlier this summer ($5 each) could also serve as "hot-houses" over tires to allow planting before the last frost has happened. Last year and the year before, I used heavy duty commercial clear plastic bags over tomato cages which worked well but the plastic would sometimes tear in the mornings/evenings when removing/replacing it; the barrels would not. Of course, those would be used on only a few plants rather than dozens as were the plastic bags, but, heck, anything that gets something bearing earlier in the garden is nice!
Those huge planter tubs the nurseries sell trees in . . . I have three of them I use for yard clippings. It saves me having to cut branches/vines into shorter lengths. They have drainage holes so will not hold water. They can be left in the containers to take to the dump when we have our free yard debris cleanup each spring. They can also be nested for storage (or even stacked when being used depending on the contents). I have several containers in smaller sizes so nesting them together for storage takes up only the footprint of the largest one. Two years ago, I used them to haul chicken manure which kept us from having to shovel the manure out of the truck which would not have been pleasant!
I love this group! There are so many wonderful ideas I've read here as well as the more conventional gardening wisdom. :-)
Glenna
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On Sun, 31 Aug 2003 12:55:14 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@pmug.org (Glenna Rose) wrote:

Oh, Glenna, it's *so* much easier and more productive to use some kind of raised beds (with the combination of really good soil and intensive planting, of course). I'd never go back...never.
<major snip of interesting info>

Oh drool! Why do other people always find this great free or cheap stuff and I don't? :)

I used WalloWaters for the tomatoes this year, I didn't mention it in my report. They work well.
But in the future - as soon as I can - I'm planting tomatoes, eggplant, peppers in a hoophouse. Our cool summer nights are just not to their liking - often down in the low 40s even in July and August, sometimes lower. I might even try melons and sweet potatoes in a hoophouse - I wouldn't try them here without the hoophouse.

I like it too, and there's nothing like someone's *personal* experience, IMHO.
Thanks for the kind words.
Pat
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On Sun, 31 Aug 2003 19:36:45 GMT, "Gail Futoran"

Thanks, it took me a while to write it and some effort, so I'm glad someone found it useful. :)

Me too! If space isn't a problem, you don't really *need* to cut the sidewalls off either, it just limits the space inside the tire.
Painting them white would probably help, and I understand that regular latex outdoor paint can be used. I've not yet done it myself.

Thank you for the nice words!
Pat
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wrote:

[snips]
beds.
That's a good point. I have loads of space and if I can eliminate one step I'd rather do that. I have arthritis, too, and although it isn't too bad yet, overdoing even a little bit has consequences.

yet
Well worth a try, especially since the tires themselves are free, and we have housepaint left over that gets hard in time if not used. Thanks for the recommendation.
Gail
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On Mon, 01 Sep 2003 20:06:09 GMT, "Gail Futoran"

It does. I know. :(
If you do not cut the sidewalls off, you could probably sit on them to tend the plants - that's a good feature.
You could even - if you have enough soil to fill them - pile up several tires (as people do when planting potatoes) and then be able to work on them at a comfortable height - like working on a table. But this would take considerable shoveling and considerable soil to fill them.

You're welcome.
Pat
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wrote:
[snip]

sit
Ohhh, I like that idea! :)

pile
like
The one thing I'm really good at is moving dirt around. :) I would definitely do several levels of tires. There are piles of dirt in my yard from other gardening projects, if I can just bring myself to disturb the habitat of Rough Earth Snakes I discovered last time I dug into the pile.
Gail
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Pat Meadows wrote:

This link didn't work for me so I googled for the term "Organoponicos". That led to an interesting 15 minutes or so coming up to speed on Organoponicos. THEN I noticed something new and just tiny bit exciting ... the use of a plant to control slugs / snails.
"Planting and application of botanical pesticides Solutions are prepared from insecticidal plants and applied to infected crops. Some insecticidal plants include Neem (Azadirachta indica), which is effective on a wide range of insect pests and Solasol (Solanum globiferum), which kills slugs and snails."
Solanum globiferum is a new term for me. Chased it down to here: http://216.239.53.104/search?q che:8HJ_mxiTU1QJ:www.infomed.sld.cu/revistas/pla/vol1_3_96/pla06396.pdf+%22solanum+globiferum%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 and was pleasantly surprised to note that 1) I understood most of the Spanish on the page and 2) that it is a sort of Calendula. I had forgotten that Calendula could be useful for this. Thanks!
Bill
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On Sun, 31 Aug 2003 23:42:31 -0400, Noydb

Thanks, Bill, it didn't work for me either today, although I had checked it yesterday: maybe a query expired or something like that.
I've put this report on a web page for a while, so I corrected the link with instructions that *will* work.
My Tire Gardening Final Report can be seen (for at least two weeks) at: http://www.meadows.pair.com/tiregarden.html - nothing fancy, just in plain-text format.
The Cuban urban-agriculture effort is fascinating to me, too, especially the great support it's getting from their government. This is evidently something of a national effort in response to the dissolution of the USSR and loss thereby of most of Cuba's imported food supply. Cuba has now become the world leader in organic farming and gardening, if the various articles I've read can be believed.
And you know that - if they can succeed at organic farming down there in hot, humid Cuba which must be infested with *zillions* of fungi, insects, and plant diseases - *anyone* with the proper knowledge and tools can succeed at it - *if* they have the knowledge and tools.
That's where the Cuban government is helping - providing the knowledge and tools. They are not able to import chemical insecticides and the like (because of the USA's embargo on trading with Cuba) and - in response to this - have developed an impressive organic farming/market gardening effort throughout the country.
IMHO, this is quite a sharp contrast to the traditional attitude of the USDA. I believe that organic farmers and gardeners in the USA have generally been frustrated by the very notable lack of support they have received from the USDA through the cooperative extension and other areas, although if what I read can be believed the USDA is now improving somewhat in this respect.

I'd meant to plant marigolds and other flowers interspersed with the veggies in my tire-planters but it was one of the efforts that went by the boards this year when I was ill during June and July. Next year, I'll include calendulas. Thanks!
Pat
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wrote:

From here it looks like the USDA will muck it up more than help....
Assault on organic standards
It took 12 years of hearings, hundreds of thousands of comments from the public, and the drafting of 600 pages of proposed standards to create the "USDA Organic" label.
Issued last October, it was a major achievement. Even its toughest critics agree that any food bearing the organic label must be produced far more naturally, with far less impact on the environment, than conventional food. Among the requirements: No synthetic fertilizers, few chemical pesticides, no antibiotics or hormones, no irradiation or genetic engineering, no animal byproducts in animal feed, and access to the outdoors for all livestock.
No sooner did those tough standards go into effect, however, than various enterprises began to look for ways to cash in on the USDA Organic label without having to adhere to all the demanding rules. In October, The Country Hen, a Massachusetts egg producer, applied to its local organic certifier for permission to use the organic label. But to meet the rule that its chickens would be able to go outside, the producer indicated that it planned to put a few porches on its henhouses, which held thousands of layers. Did this promise fulfill the requirement for access to the outdoors? The local certifier said no. But on appeal, the USDA overruled the certifier and said The Country Hen could use the USDA’s and the certifier’s organic labels.
The certifier has since filed suit against the USDA, and Consumers Union has urged the USDA to change its ruling. In the meantime, Country Hen eggs are on the market with the organic labels.
In Georgia, some chicken producers wanted to use the organic label on their broilers. But they discovered that organic feed, which is what an organic chicken must eat, was relatively expensive. So the chicken producers convinced Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) to push through Congress a rider to the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill saying that if organic feed cost more than twice as much as regular feed, organic livestock could eat the regular kind.
As that drastic cheapening of the organic label became known, Consumers Union and others objected. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) amassed enough support to repeal the feed exemption. But there was a cost. Sen. Ted Stevens (D-Alaska) insisted that the legislation instruct the USDA to authorize use of the organic label on seafood caught in the wild. That includes not just salmon from the relatively unpolluted waters off the Alaska coast but also swordfish and shark, which the Food and Drug Administration says contain so much mercury that children and pregnant women should not eat them.
Last October, with no hearings or public discussion, the USDA extended its rules on organic labeling to cosmetics. There are now shampoos and body lotions labeled "70 percent organic" based on the fact that their main ingredient is an "organic hydrosol." What’s that? It is water in which something organic, such as an organic lavender leaf, has been soaked.
Consumers Union believes that Congress must stop entertaining requests from special interests to cash in on the USDA Organic label and that the USDA must become a strict steward of how the label is used. Consumers want and need an organic label they can trust.
What you can do
To learn more or to express your views about these issues to the appropriate government officials, visit the Consumers Union Guide to Environmental Labels at www.eco-labels.org.
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snipped-for-privacy@meadows.pair.com writes:

Actually, it was someone in this newsgroup that posted last year the name of the company that had these barrels available near PDX airport; the original poster makes rain barrel systems and has the plans for them on his page for those who wish to make their own, a terrific idea!
The supplier, whose address I finally found this summer after requesting it here (the original poster apparently isn't currently reading the group) now charges $5 each for the barrels but still a bargain. There is vinegar left in them so a bonus is a gallon or so of 20 or 10 percent vinegar which I promptly used as a weed killer on my block walkway. Those are the white barrels; the blue barrels contained soy sauce. Because they both contain food products, it seemed they'd certainly be safe for veggies. :-) I could also carry two in my Escort, one in the back seat and one in the trunk with the help of a bungee cord to keep the trunk lid secured. I was fortunate to have someone haul six of them for me in the back of his truck so that saved trips, much appreciated since I don't get over that way too often and just cannot justify to myself a special trip of 16 miles round trip to get recyclable stuff.<g>
You can probably check the directories of various industrial parks for food processors and start calling to see if any have 55-gallon barrels to get rid of. Wholesale food suppliers might be another source. Everyone benefits; they don't have to haul them off, and we get to purchase them at a reasonable price which also gives them some compensation for the productivity lost by their employees to get the barrels for us.
This past month, I saw the *same* barrels at one of our feed stores for $15 each!
On several, I cut off the bottom third of the barrel, drilled holes one inch above the bottom of the 1/3 section and use them to set plants in so I can water them with no worries about overwatering (it drains out) but ensuring they get enough water. I'm horrible about buying things and not getting them planted in a timely matter! I'll be using some of the 1/3 sections in the spring for starting plants in pots as well. A piece of plastic over the top will make it a sort of cold frame also.
The other 2/3 pieces of the barrels became potato planters with drainage provided by removing the plugs from the tops (since they are actually the top 2/3 of the barrels<g>). I have four of them lined up along the sidewalk on the section of lawn between the alley fence and the driveway. Because they are this lovely white (like a picket fence white), they don't look as tacky as it might sound. I transplanted sunflowers on the house side of them so the sunflowers growing behind them added a festive look to them. Next year, I might try to also plant creeping thyme in the odd areas between the barrels and the sidewalk or at least some marigolds so they look more like they belong there. Of course, some of that white pvc trellis would be perfect for making it attractive from the street side though it might look a bit odd since I have chain link fencing everywhere else that is fenced. But if I came upon another garage sale special (see below), that is likely to happen.
In the back, along the east side of my garden (the side that faces my house), I have pvc trellis fencing in 2-foot widths as my garden fence. I scored two 8-ft panels for $5 at a yard sale this spring so added four panels that would have cost me $7 each ($28 for $5) so basically finished that this year as I had only purchased two panels last year to get an idea if I wanted to do that. The panels are removable for mowing, tilling, etc. I fastened the panels to 2-ft long white 3/4" pvc pipe sections with the strap fasteners which are also white in three places. I have cut 3-ft lengths of metal electrical conduit to pound into the ground where I want the fence and set the fence over them. When I mow or use the weed-cutter, I can easily remove the fence panels to keep a mowed-to-the-edge look if wanted. Because the electrical conduit goes in and out of the ground easily, it is a simple matter to reposition them as needed and to store all the components over the winter months and easily replace them in the spring.
Two feet is an easy height for me to step over but provides a "don't go there" for people and domestic animals. Even the chickens didn't go over them when they were loose, surprisingly, but then it was an easy matter for them to walk around them.<g> The panels are much more attractive than the wire rabbit fencing I had used the three previous years and provides a clear lawn end/garden begin line.
It will eliminate the "portability" of my fence placement, but I will be adding two rocks of concrete blocks for a raised strawberry bed along one section of it with one of the cattle panels on the back side for berries to grow on (to be transplanted there when they become dormant for the winter). Because this section of garden is in the shade of the magnolia tree much of the day, the cooler area should be good for all the berries. Experience has shown that is the best garden area for cauliflower, broccoli and chard.
On another section of the fence, I have black planter tubs full of potato plants. The white trellis fencing totally blocks view of the tubs so makes something that might be considered unsightly by some much nicer to look at since the tubs are not even visible from the house side. As the potatoes are harvested, the tubs, and subsequently that section of fence, will be removed for winter and next spring's garden prep.
Obviously, my garden/yard is not in any way set in stone. LOL
Good look on finding some of those barrels!
Glenna
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On Sun, 31 Aug 2003 21:53:35 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@pmug.org (Glenna Rose) wrote:
<snip>

Is this the lattice-work pvc fencing? We can buy this here, but I've only seen it in four foot heights - 4' x 8'. It's really nice looking stuff.

Thanks. I'll look around - basically, though, we are in *such* a rural area that the scrounging possibilities are slim - very little industry here although there is some.
We were given a bunch of five gallon buckets recently though: this was nice.
Glenna, thanks - I've saved your post and marked it 'don't delete' on my PC. Lots of good ideas in it!
Pat
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snipped-for-privacy@meadows.pair.com writes:

Yes, it is. Here we can also get in in 2x8-ft sizes which I ignorantly purchsed two of initially! Even on sale, it was more expensive than buying a 4x8-ft panel. However, in addition to being much less expensive to buy one 4-ft width, it is also very easy to cut. I used a circular power saw but they could easily be but with a hand saw. If several are purchased and a power saw is used, several can all be cut at once.
Not only are they attractive, but they are going to last for many, many years - minimal maintenance! Minimal maintenance is a big plus in my life. :-)
Glenna
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2 questions Pat:
1) where did you get the nylon net...i 've been looking for a fine mesh variety for some time
2) were you concerned at all about toxic material leaching from the tires into the soil?
thanks
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Wal-Mart's fabric department. It's not fine enough to keep flea beetles out, but it will keep cabbage butterflies out.

I was.
I did what research I could on it, and I found *NO* evidence of anything harmful leaching from the tires. Not much information is available, but I could find nothing that indicated harmful leaching: nothing at all.
I sent for Paul Farber's research sheet (the man who has the Tire Crafting website), and he found no evidence of anything harmful either.
The little evidence I *was* able to find on it indicated that the tires are fine - from what I can gather, the few tests performed indicate nothing harmful leaching.
It's also true that these are USED tires, one might think that - if they're going to leach harmful substances - they'd already have done it.
But that didn't really convince me: what *really* convinced me is the knowledge that people have - for generations - been growing potatoes in tires. I now know that people have been other vegetables in tire-planters for generations too, as I've heard from people who have done this.
I also realize that the fresh vegetables I buy at the supermarket have been repeatedly drenched in insecticides, fungicides, weed-killers maybe, and who knows what else.
So, I guess you pays your money and you takes your chances - one way or the other. Life is always a gamble, but this particular aspect of it doesn't worry me anymore.
Pat
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wrote:

" Waste tire in subgrade road beds" published by MPCA in February, 1990.
The following points summarise the findings of the study: 1. Tyre samples exposed to acidic solutions leach higher concentrations of metals than those subjected to neutral or basic solutions. 2. In neutral solutions (pH 7.0) tyre samples did not leach any contaminants of worry. 3. Samples subject to a pH of 3.5 produced leachate metal concentrations that exceeded the Minnesota Department of Health Recommended Allowable Limits (RALs) for drinking water standards. 4. Metals detected in the highest concentrations included barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and zinc.
· 33,000 buried tired are leaching toxic chemicals into ground water in Georgian Bay-area site which is 50 kms southeast of Owen Sound; neighbours sue the province (Toronto Star, February 28, 1998) http://www.cela.ca/media/mr980202.htm
1,3-butadienerugs, rug underpaddings, rubber tires, rubber consumer products, nylon, gasoline, auto exhaust, groundwater    leukemia, lymph cancer, blood cell cancer; tumors of breast, bronchial tubes, stomach, large intestine, liver, heart, thyroid (in mice: testicular tumors, leukemia) (references 1-5) http://www.rowatworks.com/Science/Tox_Chem_Table.html 1. Mehlman MA. "Dangerous and cancer-causing properties of products and chemicals in the oil refining and petrochemical industry. VIII. Health effects of motor fuels: carcinogenicity of gasoline--scientific update". Environ Res. 59(1):238-49 (1992). 2. Landrigan PJ. "Critical assessment of epidemiologic studies on the human carcinogenicity of 1,3-butadiene". Environ Health Perspect. 86:143-7 (1990). 3. Arce GT, Vincent DR, Cunningham MJ, Choy WN, Sarrif AM. "In Vitro and In Vivo Genotoxicity of 1,3-Butadiene and Metabolites". Environ Health Perspect. 86:75-78 (1990). 4. Melnick RL, Huff J, Bird MG, Acquavella JF. "1,3-Butadiene: toxicity and carcinogenicity in laboratory animals and in humans". Environ Health Perspect. 86:3-5 (1990). 5. Morrissey RE, Schwetz P, Sikov MR, Hardin BD, McClanahan BJ, Decker JR, Mast TJ. "Overview of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity Studies of 1,3-Butandiene in Rodents". Environ Health Perspect. 86:79-84 (1990).
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On Sat, 06 Sep 2003 05:13:04 -0700, Tom Jaszewski

I'm assuming that MPCA = Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, (as that's what Google turns up for MPCA.)
Were the tires tested ground up or intact? Since they were used in 'subgrade road beds', my guess would be that they were ground up.
Also see:
------------------------------------ MPCA Approves Use of Tire Chips in Driveway
Minnesota's had a lot of "firsts" when it comes to scrap tire issues. Last month, they may have lengthened the list by one when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) approved the use of tire chips as the lightweight fill material for construction of a private driveway. -----------------------------------------
This is a driveway, but these are tire 'chips'.

Thanks, I read it. I'm not able to find anything on their site which gives me the resolution of the suit.
The filing of a suit is in no way proof of the allegations in the suit.
The reference you give below here is a listing of dangerous chemicals, but it has nothing to do with tires as such.

I have also found that "a wide variety of after-market products are currently being manufactured from various sizes of crumb rubber, including the surfacing of outdoor running tracks, production of speed bumps and wheel chocks, sound installation, as well as the wide variety of rubber/plastic compounding for consumer products such as garbage pails, compost boxes, shoe soles and heels, etc."
(From: http://www.recycle.net/recycle/assn/narra/synopsis.html )
Note the inclusion of 'compost boxes'. And again, this is *crumb rubber*, not intact tires.
and
------------------------- Analysis of leachate collected from treatments containing rubber crumb indicated the admixtures posed little environmental risk, Grunthal said. Concentrations of metals in effluent were far below Ontario's Drinking Water Objectives (ODWO). Slightly elevated concentrations of metals in leachate from rubber crumb admixtures were generally negated by the incorporation of peat moss or lime.
Also, while levels of volatile organics and extractable compounds were sometimes slightly higher than interim Provincial Water Quality Objectives and ODWO limits were neither statistically significant nor were they directly attributed to the amount of rubber crumb in the admixture. Nutrient analysis of turfgrass tissue indicated that rubber crumb did not produce element concentrations toxic to turfgrass.
From: http://www.scraptirenews.com/98nov1.html
---------------------------------
Again, note that this is rubber *crumb* and not intact tires.
And
---------------------------------------------------
"Under these experimental conditions, rubber crumb does not appear to be detrimental to the environment," Grunthal said. "In addition, rubber crumb is a more efficient inorganic soil amendment than sand and much less toxic that sewage sludge," he said. Rubber crumb may also be used to improve zinc deficient soils, soils with poor structure, and soils with poor drainage characteristics. It is also longer lasting and less expensive than peat, Grunthal said.
From: http://www.scraptirenews.com/98nov1.html
--------------------------------------------------------
'Scrap Tire News' can be said to have an axe to grind, of course. But of what organization can this not be said?
I think it's not a simple situation.
But the research I've been able to find does not worry me particularly, especially in view of the fact that tires used for planters are not ground, but intact (except for the sidewalls having already been cut off - but this doesn't make the tire crumble or dissolve).
Pat
--
"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of
supply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to
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wrote:

Thanks Pat, as usual you are very thoughtful. There are enough unknowns for me to be anywhere near as comfortable as you are. I see a lack of research, and that absence continues to concern me. I'm not ready to experiment with my food grown in tires. I only eat certified organic....and tire grown wouldn't pass....
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A truly awesome report, Pat. Thanks so much for sharing all that valuable information!
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