Horticulture: Grow vegetables in a tyre garden

Creative and practical, South African musician Jason Hartman gives us a model for small-scale sustainable farming with his innovative idea of planting vegetables in old tyres.

Anyone can grow vegetables, whether they live in town or on a farm, says Jason. “As recently as 80 years ago it would have been considered unusual not to grow your own food. Nowadays, there is a predominant culture of buying food and this means that self- sustainability is lost to many people,” says Jason.

Tyres are good containers as they retain water in the bottom rim. The black surface absorbs and holds heat, which makes it possible to grow vegetables year round, even in cold climates.

Planting in tyres means you don’t have to worry about surface runoff and erosion.


Old tyres are readily available from most tyre dealerships, if you don’t already have a couple lying around. “It’s absolutely safe to use scrap tyres because once the tyre has run its course on the road, all the chemicals have been leached out,” Jason explains.

Remove the top rim of the tyre before you fill it with soil. “Once you have cut off many rims, use them to make another container by stacking them on top of each other,” he adds.

Sieve the soil to take out small rocks and impurities and to oxygenate the soil before you plant. Add some well-rotted compost to each tyre. ”Everyone should have a compost heap in their gardens, or on their smallholdings. It gives you good soil when you need it.”

Jason Hartmann reaps a good harvest from his tyre-based vegetable garden. Aspiring veggie farmers can use the most unproductive spaces to plant these gardens.


Plant 5 equally spaced seedlings in a car tyre, or more if the tyre is bigger. “The tallest seedling should go in the middle with smaller plants around it. You have to use space wisely when you plant in a tyre,” says Jason.

Avoid monocropping because it attracts pests and diseases. Planting companion crops in one tyre is a good way to practice organic pest control.

If you place the tyres next to each other in parallel rows, you can plant into the spaces between the tyres once you have filled them with the same mix as you have in the tyres.

If you want to trellis vegetables like beans put the tyres against a wall and run some wire along the wall. You can also place tyres next to trees and let them use the trunks as supports.


Jason promotes seed harvesting and says there is value in keeping original seed strains to use again the next season.

You can plant year round in your tyre garden because the black surfaces retain heat, or you can stagger plantings so that you have a continuous harvest.

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