Author Topic: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?  (Read 3426 times)

Offline 12th man

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Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« on: September 08, 2015, 01:30:05 PM »
Does anyone have any long term experience, or FACTUAL knowledge of using tires to grow food in?

there are a lot of yays and nays on the internet. Most of them seem to be based on opinion, not facts or experience.

I began thinking of using them as an alternative to more expensive materials for raised garden beds. For one, people will bring them to me for free, for two, they will last forever. It seems to me that the leaching of chemicals and/or heavy metals out of a whole tire would be less than that from a pressure treated board or railroad tie.

Offline Carl

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2015, 01:43:14 PM »
I have used tires for my butternut squash and other plants and people build houses and other structures from soil packed tires.
I also compounded the chemicals to produce rubber for use in a retread plant I worked at for about 20 years...the only ill effect
I note is I got older during that 20 years.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2015, 09:35:12 AM »
• Plants will grow fine in tires.
• Tires do leech various hydrocarbons into the soil.
• Some hydrocarbons break down fast, others will not decay in our lifetimes.
• Not all tire chemistry is the same. They may contain different compounds from one to the next.
• Exposure to road spills and gasoline is more likely an issue than the tire itself.

The primary concerns are :

Are the chemicals leeched from the tires toxic to people?
Yes.

Will your plants take those chemicals up, contaminating the food source for people?
That's nearly impossible to say, as it depends on the tire composition, the plant, the soil chemistry... There is no substantial research on this conducted with any adequate scientific controls. It's unlikely to be an issue in most cases, but almost assuredly a threat in some very specific scenarios. Strawberries for example are mostly water. They have very little of anything in the fruit itself. They might be a good candidate. Hazelnuts on the other hand accumulate minerals and other soil compounds directly into the nut in higher concentration. They're more likely to be affected.

My opinion:
People have been doing this a long time, with no apparent ill-effect being attributed to the practice. It's probably safe. But if one tire company adds another compound into their proprietary rubber mix, that could completely change the equation. They're not made with food safety in mind, so that is a plausible scenario, and you're not likely to be notified of any changes to tire chemistry. I would grow non-food crops in tires, or use them a propagation containers for rooting small trees to be planted elsewhere at a later date.

I wish I could give you more facts, but as you said, it's really just all opinion and conjecture. I can't find a single study with proper controls publically available.

Offline R_Morgan

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2015, 04:20:57 PM »
Personally I agree. 

Grow non food crops in them if you want to use them. I don't want them. There is just as cheap alternatives using pallets of non stained wood etc. Or just searching garage sales and friends garages for unused sections of different types of wood and making your own planters.

Since the science is not in either way and its a "maybe maybe not" situation I prefer to go the route of "why risk it" when its not a "have to" situation and easy alternatives are available. I don't want toxins in my soil. But if you really wanted to use them I would plant flowers in them by the road. Away from food crops

Offline strangetanks

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2015, 05:45:09 AM »
I've been using tires for my raised beds for many years now.  We just happen to have a problem with idiots discarding tires all over the place so they are very readily available to me.  Never had any issues, of course I've never sent my tomatoes to a lab to be tested either.  I know many people don't want to use them, and that's a personal choice.  I would much rather grow in an old tire than in a pressure treated, or creosote treated raised bed.  And tires do have several advantages, they will last for freakin ever, usually get them for free, easy to move around, the right size for individual plants, and the rounded area retains moisture.

That being said, I stay away from freshly removed tires, the ones I tend to get have been laying around for a long while.  I also cut the sidewall off the top half of the tire to increase the opening size.  Hope that helps


Offline 12th man

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2015, 01:35:22 PM »
good point about the freshly removed tires. probably better if they have been sitting in the rain a while.

I didn't want to sound too crazy at first...what i am thinking of doing is creating a wall 2-3' high with two rows of tires on staggered centers 150+ feet long. this acts as a dividing wall, a little like a swale, and i can plant it. this is in the neighbor hood of 600-1000 tires. it will take a lot of time to build, so i want to do it only once. if i did it out of pallets, which are abundantly available to me for free, its only going to last a few years. if i have to purchase the materials, i'll never get to it as the funds wont be there.

in addition to serving as the wall, i plan to plant it with strawberries achieving my goal of being able to harvest strawberries w/o bending over all day.

Any thoughts?

Offline Carl

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2015, 02:57:32 PM »

in addition to serving as the wall, i plan to plant it with strawberries achieving my goal of being able to harvest strawberries w/o bending over all day.

Any thoughts?

You are going to want whipped cream. A 3D scheme works for squash vines too.

Offline strangetanks

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2015, 04:39:55 PM »
If you can get that many tires for free I would say go for it.  I'm not sure I understand the swale thing, I also don't think you would need the 2 rows, unless you're trying to hold back some earth.

Me personally, I'm of the school of thought of, do it and ask permission later.  If you have any doubts, instead of making 150' of wall, make 10' and plant some stuff in it in the spring to see how it pans out.  All these projects tend to be long term and working out the kinks over a couple years is a pretty small price in the grand scheme of things.

Offline 12th man

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2015, 01:34:51 PM »
How do you grow whipped cream? Also will need a shortcake tree.

I always have used - 'do it now and beg for forgiveness later'

it'll take a while to get all the tires, but i wont want to do it all at once anyways. Ill do a short test section this fall or spring to make sure it works ok.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2015, 09:23:55 AM »
Just throwing this out there, but if you don't already have a source of tires, you can find a surplus of 55 Gallon drums (food grade, UV stabilized) for free or cheap ($10-$15) used from food producers.

They're a better height if you want to reduce bending down. You can cut holes in the side, turning them into huge strawberry towers (also fantastic for cranberry as the soil pH is easily maintained in a closed container).

I guess it depends on what factors bring you to this question.

If you have a surplus of tires already, it's logical to stick with tires. If you have them, use them.

If you want an easy raised bed, there are many inexpensive materials which work effectively. Tires are one, but there are many other options, like barrels, pallet wood, scrap lumber, Steel drums, wattle fencing, canvas...

If you're motivated by the recycling factors, There are already very effective means of recycling tires, but the often mean the tire has to be driven 1000 miles for processing. Not the greenest solution, but better than a landfill where many other materials would end up. A little research into what suitable materials cannot be locally processed  may find you a more eco-friendly alternative.

I think the suitability of tires depends as much on the motivations for their use as the properties of the materials, their utility and the site design. That seems to be why there are so many differing opinions on it.


Offline 12th man

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Re: Used Tires as Planters - are they safe?
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2015, 01:26:05 PM »
i like the drum idea. that would be much better. around here you wont find them for $10, more like $25+. maybe i can work a deal with a processing plant though.