Turning Trash to Treats
By Recycling Tires Found in a Ditch, We Built a Garden
By Justin Thaxton — Four years ago, my family broke free from the bondage of suburban living. After 10 years in a subdivision, we were thrilled by the prospects offered by 24 wooded acres, even if they were unkempt acres. My wife, Valerie, is wild about animals so a farm was always a goal. It didn’t take her long to find a pair of goats and a pig to go along with our dogs and cats. Before long she was hauling hay and canning vegetables.
For our sons and me, the move meant room to roam and the freedom to pee in the yard without neighbors assuming we are Neanderthals. Don’t you judge me. Obviously, the most appealing aspects of the new home is its relative seclusion.
I say the new property is “relatively” secluded because it is close to town but on a lonely stretch of unlined, county road. Close, but still out there so to speak. Unfortunately, the least appealing aspect of our new homestead is the relative seclusion. With little traffic and few homes, our stretch of county road lends itself nicely to illegal dumping. I expected, and was prepared for, picking up beer bottles and Taco Bell wrappers from the ditch line. I was neither expecting nor prepared for automobile tires and sacks of trash. To their credit, our state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) worked with us to clean up the tires on two occasions. The “worked with us” after Valerie explained that she was a stay at home mom who had nothing better to do than call them each day. Not entirely true, but very effective.
For our part, mowing and general maintenance to announce that we care has greatly reduced the amount of roadside litter. Things are looking up. The last reminder of our earlier frustration is a small pile of tires we collected over the winter. The DEP employee Valerie spoke to seemed uninterested in a third cleanup so the twenty some odd tires were all ours.
A stone’s throw from the Goodyear’s and Firestone’s is our garden, which we share with our friends and neighbors, the Gingrich family; they own a tractor and we have more than enough room for their potatoes and a few rows of corn—there’s nothing better than working outside with good friends. At our end of the garden is a slope too steep to till, so it was the obvious location for raised beds of some sort. One spring day while thinking through our garden layout, the tires came to mind. We would use the handful of remaining tires for raised vegetable beds! The following is the procedure we used for turning discarded mosquito hatcheries into fertile, long-lasting veggie producers.
Arranging the tires to give plants plenty of space to spread we outlined them in the grass. With shovels we removed the sod from each spot and placed it off to the side. Where the center of the tire was located, we dug several inches and added sandy soil from the creek bank to allow for drainage. Then, placing the tires on the flat, sod-free surface, we filled the insides with dirt. We then topped each tire off with the darkest, richest soil we could find. It was then just a matter of depositing the seeds and young plants and waiting to see what would happen.
Fast-forward two months and the tire beds were overflowing with healthy, happy squash and cucumber plants. Sadly, a cantaloupe plant didn’t fare as well. Overall, the repurposed raised beds did well. One issue we need to address is that we can’t mow around the tires once the plants begin to overflow. I believe we can use a small amount of plastic as a weed barrier around the tires. And before our next growing season, Valerie plans to paint the tires to add a splash of color to the garden.
These raised beds allowed us to do the following: 1) utilize tires which would have otherwise ended up in the landfill, 2) take advantage of a hilly section of our property with marginal soil and 3) save space in our garden for vertical-growth plants.
This is just one example of how we have taken waste and transformed it into functional items for our fledgling farm. There are countless other projects just waiting to be discovered; we are only limited by our imaginations! I encourage you to be on the lookout for projects that give you the opportunity to breathe new life into old materials.