Repurposing Items for the Garden: Old Tires
Pictured here is my pride and joy of the summer of 2014: a homemade tire planter. I had longed for one of these ever since the 1980s, back when I first noticed them at the edge of grassy yards along country roads; I had thought that they were made from metal or stone.
I simply liked the look, especially when these planters were fluted. Someone informed me that such a planter is made from an automobile tire.
What? I could not wrap my head around HOW these planters could be made from a TIRE until I Googled it and found a YouTube video that informed me that it was true. And to top it off, the tire must be turned inside out.
Bingo! So that's how to flute the tire, I thought.
Luckily for me, my husband keeps old tires in the back of the yard, not so much out of laziness as the fact that a vulcanized rubber tire is an awesome product that is impossible for the average homeowner to throw away or recycle, at least in rural areas.
After asking for his permission to deface the old tires in the back, I selected a large one and began the cutting process, using a utility knife. It only took a few seconds of slicing for me to realize that my tire of choice was a steel-belted radial. Setting my jaw in the stubborn way that I can do from time to time, I continued all the way around the circumference of the tire until all the cuts were finished.
I was simply making straight slits about six inches apart and five–six inches long, working from the center hole toward the outer edge. It took a very long time. I was cutting through rubber and steel.
The next step was to turn the whole tire inside out. The process of turning a tire inside-out is a challenging one that required multiple attempts. Now that I have experience in this task, I would not advise anyone to try it all alone; please get a buddy. I was pigheaded and could have hurt myself. But thankfully, I did not.
What kept me going? I was fighting the tire, and I did not want the tire to win. And I had visions of pretty flowers growing from my tire planter, visible to passersby on my rural country road.
So, with the help of a tree and a cinderblock (for counterforce), two hours later, the tire was inside-out. For the first time in twenty years, this tire was dry on the inside because now the inside was the outside. After recovering from that exercise (It took at least a few days), I sat down outside with the tire to finalize my design. The "flutes" were angled more to give my cuts a pointy look, using a kitchen shears.
Black tires can get very hot sitting in the sun on a summer's day, so I knew that I should paint the black rubber surface with a lighter color if I expected plants to live inside of it without getting cooked to death. Would you believe that I poured diluted wall paint over the tire? We had been soaking paint rollers in buckets of water outdoors, so I poured the white water on top of the tire, going over the treads repeatedly with a paint brush as the diluted paint ran off.
This worked to a degree, giving my tire planter an aged, somewhat whitewashed look, but the effect was uneven and too thinly applied. A can of white spray paint finished the job a few days later. I covered both the outside and the inside of the tire with one can of spray paint.
Where to locate the tire planter was a concern because I wanted to be mindful of foot traffic, car traffic, and lawnmower movement across the yard in that spot. In addition, I planned to put sun-loving flowers inside of it, so I settled on placing my tire planter on the southwest side of a cedar tree at the entrance of the driveway.
After laying a few old roofing shingles on the ground to keep weeds at bay and to provide a makeshift bottom, I placed the tire planter on top of the shingles and filled it with a mixture of potting soil and compost. A good watering with the garden hose tested the soil mix to see whether it would wash out of the tire and how fast the drainage was. It was perfect.
That was earlier in the season. Now my tire planter vision is complete with blooming zinnias that attract cute little yellow finches that love to chow down on the zinnia heads ...
Will I make another tire planter? Absolutely, but with a helper! This is my warning: Don't be a hero. Doing this tire all by myself was almost impossible. YouTube videos and Pinterest posts make this project look beautiful and easy, but the process is not easy. First of all, you must be very careful while cutting the tire. I would advise to wear Mechanics gloves to protect your hands from injury, and to go slowly. Furthermore, turning the tire inside-out is not for the faint-hearted and requires a lot of muscle, which is why it is important to have a partner to help you.
To end this story on a positive note, the painting part is fun! Anyone can do it. I just wanted a white tire for starters, but there is no end to the colors and designs that can be painted on the tire. There are many decorative ideas to find if you just Google "Tire Planter" (choose "images" to instantly see some creative results). Some folks even leave the rim on! Including the rim gives your tire planter a small pedestal, lending a vase-like look.
That is my next venture with an old rubber tire, but I am in no hurry to repeat the process. It will have to wait until my husband and sons are available to do the physically strenous part. But that is okay since doing something together makes a project more meaningful.
Oh, yes! I almost forgot the absolute best part of all of this—when you get to place your seeds or flowers inside of the soil in the tire planter and watch them grow. There is nothing in the world quite like watching one's creation take shape according to the vision that prompted the project in the first place. Learning to see potential usefulness in discarded things is a great adventure.
Discussion about this article: