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CTA. 1993. Tyre gardens. Spore 44. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49093
Enterprising gardeners with limited space at their disposal have been growing food in containers from earliest times. The ancient Greeks, for example, grew food in earthenware pots: these are still widely used today to increase growing space. A...
Enterprising gardeners with limited space at their disposal have been growing food in containers from earliest times. The ancient Greeks, for example, grew food in earthenware pots: these are still widely used today to increase growing space. A comparable modern-day practice is to grow food in worn-out vehicle tyres or large plastic drinks bottles. While these may not, on the face of it, seem to have much decorative value, they make useful containers at very little or no cost and the plants themselves provide plenty of aesthetic interest. Growing food in tyre gardens is not a trivial activity. Towns and cities and the unplanned settlements which extend them, rarely allow much space for agricultural production. The amount of space available per family is small and quite possibly covered in concrete or some equally unfertile substance. As families grow, each individual patch is divided to give the next generation a small space of their own and what little land there was, disappears. Poverty is a problem too. Sometimes the only way people can obtain the fresh vegetables that they need for a healthy diet is to grow them themselves. The vitamins they provide are particularly important for nursing mothers and young children. Gardening in tyres, pots, troughs or even drinks bottles is not only an enjoyable occupation, it can be surprisingly productive as innovative gardeners have already found. Many different and useful plants, such as lettuces, carrots, onions, cabbages, spinach, tomatoes and peppers, can be grown in tyre gardens. Plastic bottles will support plants as large as celery, onions, lettuce and peppers. In Barbados the design of tyre gardens has become quite sophisticated, thanks to the promotional work of Carib-Agro Industries Ltd. Tyres, which can be purchased from vehicle repair shops, bus or trucking companies, are being arranged in a number of ways and to a variety of heights, depending on the space available. (See Fig. 1) Before stacking and filling with growing medium, each tyre must have a hole drilled in one wall. This is for watering or drainage, depending on the ultimate position of the tyre. If there is any danger of tree roots growing up into the tyre garden, a thick plastic sheet should be laid beneath the bottom layer. The bottom layers of tyres are placed with the holes in each tyre facing downwards for drainage. Each tyre is filled with any suitable material which can support root growth. Usually this will be soil or subsoil but in Barbados, discarded flyash (soot) which is available from a local sugar factory has been found to be very satisfactory. It is important to make sure that the filling material is pushed well into the walls of the tyres. Each tyre in the top layer is placed with the hole facing upwards and in the most convenient position for watering. A layer of gravel is spread around the lower wall of each of the tyres in this top layer. A tube is pushed through the watering hole until it rests on this gravel. The idea is to make sure that water will pass freely and quickly into this ring of gravel so that it is easily accessible to the plants' roots. The final stage, before planting, is to put a layer of the best quality growing medium available on to the top of the gravel. In Barbados, a compost made from chicken litter, flyash, bagasse, filter mud and furnace ash from sugar factories has been found to give excellent results. Once the tyre garden has been built, it is essential to paint the tyres white to keep them cool. And once planted, it is advisable to mulch the soil surface to protect the plant roots from the heat of the sun. It is relatively easy to keep an eye out for pests and diseases and to control them as necessary, but it has been found that they are less of a problem in tyre gardens because of the diversity of plants grown and the size of the operation. Bottle gardens are suitable for spaces even too small for tyres. They need to be cut so that the top (neck end) is inserted upside down into a bottom section of a bottle, which then forms a stable base for the planter. The cut should be made about two-thirds of the way down and a strip of cloth placed through the neck of the bottle. This will draw water from the base into the planter, rather like a wick, or artificial root for the young plant. Once the planter has been filled with soil, seeds can be sown or a young plant transplanted. By growing plants in plastic bottles, the growing root system can be seen, which makes bottle gardening particularly interesting for young children. It is also easy to see when water is needed. A further advantage is that the tight fit of the planter into its base stops mosquitoes from breeding in the water. Using old tyres or plastic bottles as containers for vegetable gardening turns what would otherwise be a pollution risk into useful and productive articles.