Tire Garden Planting: Are Tires Good Planters For Edibles

Plants Growing In Tire Garden Planters
tire crops
(Image credit: PhanuwatNandee)

Are old tires in the garden a menace to your health, or a responsible and eco-friendly solution to a real pollution problem? That depends entirely upon who you ask. Tire garden planting is a hotly debated topic, with both sides making passionate and convincing arguments. 

Since there doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast “official” stance, we are not here to champion one side over the other, but rather to lay out the facts. So, keep reading to learn more about growing vegetables in tires.

Is It Safe to Grow Food in Tires?

That question is the crux of the problem. Both sides aren’t arguing whether it’s tasteful to use old tires as garden planters, but whether they’re leaching out harmful chemicals into the soil and, therefore, your food. 

It all comes down to a simple question: Are tires toxic? The short answer is that yes, they are. Tires contain a host of chemicals and metals that should not be in the human body. They do gradually erode and break down, leaching those chemicals into the environment. It’s because of these pollution concerns that it’s so hard to dispose of old tires legally. 

That leads directly to the other side of the argument: since it’s so hard to dispose of old tires legally, the things are building up and causing a real waste problem. You would think that any opportunity to put the old things to good use would be worth it – like using them to grow food. 

After all, it’s a common practice in many places to grow potatoes in tires.

Are Tires Good Planters?

Another argument for growing vegetables in tires is that their degrading process takes place on such a lengthy timeframe. There is a certain amount of off-gassing in the first year or so of the tire’s life (the source of that new-tire-smell), but that almost always occurs while the tire is on a car, not near your potatoes. 

By the time it reaches your garden, the tire is breaking down very slowly, more on a scale of decades, and the amount of chemicals that end up in your food is probably negligible. There is, however, a certain amount of leaching happening at all times. 

The levels of that leaching are not particularly well known yet. In the end, most sources agree that while growing vegetables in tires might be fine, it’s not worth it to take the risk, especially when there are so many safer alternatives. In the end, however, it’s up to you.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.