If you want to recycle materials in your garden, old tires are a great material to use.They are plentiful, often free or cheap, and upcycling them to something useful is better than letting them lie in landfill.
There are many ways you can incorporate them into your backyard, from small planters in the ground, on a wall, or hanging, through to creating tire retaining walls, furniture or rendered benches.
Image above from latimesblogs.latimes.com
Let’s have a look over the best 16 landscaping ideas with tires you can add to your garden. We’ll start off with the more obvious – and easier to DIY – and move onto some of the more challenging and larger projects.
There are some concerns around how and where you use tires, which I’ve touched on more at the end of the post.
1. Use Tires As Pots Or Planters In Your Garden
A simple, common approach to using a few tires is to use them as planters/pots in your garden. Some people like to paint them bright colours to act as focal points, but you could also opt to soften them, or try to hide them under a layer of trailing plants instead.
2. Add Multiple Tires Together To Have A Tiered Garden Bed
If you have multiple tires, try adding them together in a pyramid pattern as a raised tiered/terraced garden. You can opt for a mixture of different plants to add some interest, or maybe even try a larger mass planting.
Again, I prefer a more muted material and colour palette. But if you want them to stand out, go for it!
3. Try Making Raised Vegetable Gardens From Old Tires
Another simple idea like the planters above, but you use tires to build a raised vegetable garden. This time you can be a little more utilitarian in your style, because the main focus is the produce you are growing.
Large truck tires are a good dimension for raised veggies gardens. Two or three stacked on each other are a good height and they are wide enough to hold a decent amount of produce, but not so wide that you can’t reach the middle from all sides.
There are some potential concerns with planting food you will eat within old tires, but the research is somewhat mixed and not targeted. Learn more looking through the QnA below.
4. Create Tire Chairs & Tables For A Little Garden Hideaway
A little bit of work and creativity can net you a cute little set of chairs and tables. Stack a few tires together to create a base for your chairs and /or table, and finish with a solid top.
You can place these in a little secluded part of your garden – or a place to enjoy a nice drink in the morning or afternoon.
5. Cut & Shape Tires Into Garden Sculptures
If you’d like something a little more eye-catching, why not try to craft some interesting little sculptures out of old tires? Tire rubber is strong, flexible and long lasting, so you know they’ll survive whatever nature can throw at them.
6. Make Hanging Tire Planters
If you block and seal the bottom side, you can make some nifty hanging planters out of old tires. Add a feature plant with some trailing options around the edges and you’ve found a cheap way to create some large, heavy duty hanging pots.
You can hang them from balconies, patios, verandahs, under stairs or even trees!
7. Mount Tires On Walls For More Vertical Plantings
Easier to put up than hanging tires, wall mounted tires offer a similar effect. Place a few tires at strategic spots along your wall and you have a number of interesting items that can support some soil and vertical plants.
The tires may also offer a little protection and capture and funnel some water as well.
8. Add Tires Around A Sand Pit For More Things To Jump On
If you have one adding tires around a sandpit – or in one- is a great way to add another versatile and engaging element. Kids can run along them, jump off them and even fill them with sand as they play.
9. Half-Buried Tires Can Become Playful Stepping Pads For Children
Like adding them to a sand pit, another way to use up old tires is to focus on more playful options. Half-burying a row of tires creates a ground set of bouncy steps that kids love to jump and run across.
If you get really adventurous you could plant a number of rows in a tessellating pattern, so kids can jump from one row to another easily.
10. Lay Tires In Rows Like A Giant Hopscotch Pattern
Another option is to place them flat and treat them like oversized hopscotch layout. This is both interesting and challenging to kids, something they can run along, jump through and (probably) fall over.
You probably want to partially fill the inside or bury them a touch, to prevent them sliding and moving around – or, like the image below, place posts around the sides.
11. Make A Tire Seesaw For Young Children
Another simple idea is to create a seesaw for kids. Cut a tire in half and pin them to the bottom of a wide plank of wood. Mount some handles suitable for small kids and you have a simple, inexpensive seesaw!
12. Add An Age-Old Tire Swing To Your Garden
An oldy but a goody – hang a tire swing in your garden!
Few things evoke more nostalgia than a tyre swing hanging from a beautiful old tree. Help create similar memories for your children or grandchildren by adding your own tire swing in your garden.
13. Create A Stairway Made Entirely From Old Tires
Now we’re getting into the more heavy duty ideas. If you have an informal slope or hill, instead of using timber slats backfilled with soil or gravel, why not try using some solid packed tires as steps instead?
Pack them with dirt, pin them down to prevent them sliding, and you’ll find you have a handy set off steps that are fully recycled.
14. Build A Tire Retaining Wall & Fill With Plants
Similar to the steps above, instead of spending a lot of money trying to manage a slope, try to create a more staggered retaining wall made from old tires.
Just like building one from blocks, you can stagger it down the slope and fill each tire solidly with earth. Some of the holes may even prove useful in supporting plants like groundcovers.
15. Use Tires As A Base To Build Your Own Planted Mounds Or Berms
Similar to the tiered planter idea but you add more tires and stack them up into mounds. Then you can cover them in soil and plant a range of plants. The idea is to be less of a tiered garden bed and more of a large mound.
This sounds strange but adding level changes into your garden can be a great way to introduce some interest and dynamism. It’s also a lot cheaper to create a support structure out of tires than hire an excavator to cut or fill the actual ground.
Add a few mounds or berms in certain places and you can completely change the feel of your space. And if you leave a few tire edges partially uncovered you have some planting pockets to support groundcovers, climbers, larger feature plants – or, as above, some steps.
16. Plaster Filled Tires To Create Amazing Benches
Perhaps the most complex idea on this list, a great way to use tires is to build out a bench along a wall or slope. Similar to the retaining wall, you want to ensure the tires are properly packed with earth and stacked safely.
Once you’ve positioned them, you can fill in the chinks and gaps and apply a plaster on the outside surface of the tires. Add in some timber or smooth out the ‘seat’ row and you’ve got an interesting, unique place to sit, eat, read and chat.
Things To Know When Using Tires In Your Garden
Are Tyres Toxic For Gardening?
The short answer is yes. The more nuanced answer is it depends on the timeframe.
Tires are made from a combination of synthetic materials, chemicals and heavy metals. As they decompose or degrade, they release gases and elements that can be harmful or carcinogenic.
If tires are left in a garden for a long time – decades – they are likely to decompose and potentially cause harm in some way. It could be to the surrounding plants, or through degrading the quality of the soil, or perhaps leaching into water.
They are likely to decompose faster if they’re exposed to high temperatures, being water logged – through freezing and thawing – and if they’re in lots of sunlight.
It’s for this reason using tires in things like ponds – especially if you plan to keep fish in them – may not be a great idea. This is speculative, however water and possibly the plants within them may quicken the leaching process from tire walls.
If you have a shorter timeframe than 50-100 years, and plan to replace the tires or remove them – there is less of a concern they could negatively impact your garden.
Much of the research around recycling tires relates to specific industries such as certain types of Astroturf or the springy ground surface around playgrounds. In these cases the tires are essentially “minced” and used in the base material, and in doing so they are exposed to the conditions we outlined above.
One thing the research does suggest is using materials containing recycled tires indoors is not recommended as the small amounts of gases they release over time can build up in an enclosed space. This, however, has less of an impact outside in the different ideas we’ve explored above.
Why Use Tires In Your Garden?
Many gardeners in favour of using tires as vegetable planters do so as a way to reuse a material that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to recycle or destroy. They view it as an overall net positive for the environment – taking an object and upcycling it to be useful again.
Others are against the practise – particularly if you are planting food within tires – that can break down and release chemical compounds that may be unsafe. This is unlikely to occur quickly – as mentioned above, the risk grows over longer timeframes, and a lot of it depends on where and how you are using the tires.
Ultimately it is up to you on the risks vs rewards of using tires in your garden. Using them opportunistically, and ensuring they are not exposed to extreme conditions, will improve your chances of using them safely.
Is It Safe To Plant Vegetables In Old Tires?
Tires contain many chemicals and heavy metals, elements that can be released over time as the tire decomposes.
This can be a concern when using tires as planting beds for vegetables or herbs you will eat as there is a small possibility plants can absorb minor traces of these broken down elements through their roots.
Research is mixed on exactly how harmful intact tires can be when growing food within them, however evidence suggests they can take decades to decompose or degrade to a point where they are likely to be harmful.
The majority of research investigating the dangers of using recycled tires looks at industries and products that change or destroy the structure of the tire. This may skew the perceived danger of using tires in the garden, especially if they are intact.
Astroturf or crumb rubber used in playgrounds involve cutting the tire into small granules, increasing the overall surface area and exposure to conditions that can increase the rate of decomposition.
This may result in the same amount of harmful chemical compounds being released from a tire in a much shorter time frame than if the tire were used, intact, in a garden.
Measures To Take When Using Tires In Your Garden
A good place to start is to choose tires that are still intact – especially along the inside wall. If you want to plant vegetables or herbs within them, give them a good clean prior to using them.
Try to use tires that do not have wear or cracks on the inside – something plant roots could split and widen, perhaps hastening the deterioration of the tire.
Given their slow rate of decomposition, another suitable approach may be to change the tires you plant in every five or ten years – before there is a chance for long term leaching or breakdown of the tire due to plant roots or the weather.
Another approach is to pack and cover them in earth or render so they are less exposed to the elements, they may decompose at a much slower, and safer, rate.
One option to prevent roots from potentially damaging the inside walls is to line them with a weed mat or root barrier. If you can’t line it along the wall itself, you could simply place it around the growing area of the plants themselves – between the tire wall and the root ball of the plant.
Having an offset zone between roots and tire wall is likely to help prevent any potential uptake of harmful chemical traces from the walls themselves. As noted above, this is a very slow process – over multiple decades – and the compounds released may be quite low volume.
Still, having an extra layer in between may lower that risk further still, giving you more peace of mind. And if you replace the tires after a decade – and use them somewhere you aren’t growing plants you will eat – you will probably miss the end stages of decomposition.
If this is something you are still concerned about, you may be better off opting for a different material. Or using tires sparingly and keeping them in more protected parts of your garden.
Ultimately this is a personal decision for the individual gardener. If you are truly concerned about the potential long term health impacts of planting food within a tire, you are better off opting for another material to plant in, and perhaps use tires in other ways we’ve looked at above.