Is It Really Safe To Grow Fruits & Vegetables In Tires?

Well That All Depends Upon Who You Talk To

My husband Rick loves watermelon!
So every year we grow a couple of watermelon plants in one of our two our vegetable gardens.  The soil in our gardens is perfect for melons, and summer rainfall is usually more than adequate.  

By September if we’ve had a warm spring and summer, we often end up with more melons than we can possibly use and always give the surplus away.

September Watermelon With Apple & Pears

September Watermelon With Apple & Pears

But so far this spring has been much cooler than normal.
The weather has been a bit of a hindrance because watermelons required hot sunny days and warm nights.  So when my husband planted this year’s melons he decided to plant them inside of old tires.

Watermelon Being Grown In An Old Tire

Watermelon Being Grown In An Old Tire

Tires have two primary growing advantages for planting certain crops. The first is that weeds are kept down around the plants and the second is that warmth loving plants have the benefit of the tires radiating heat back to them at night.

But tires also have a major drawback.
At present there is controversy regarding the safety of using tires for growing food – especially old tires.

That’s because when tires are burned or shredded they release polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other pollutants into the air and soil. Long term exposures to PAHs are associated with an increased risk of cancer. The residue from burned tires will result in a harsh and toxic soil that will grow nothing and ground water contamination.

The controversy is that some people believe that as tires degrade they may convey PAH’s and other toxic pollutants into the ground. Those toxins will then be absorbed by the growing plant – which sure doesn’t sound too appetizing.

There’s been no actual scientific research or controlled studies regarding growing food in tires that I’m aware of.
The consensus at present among tire garden aficionados is that tires in good condition pose little risk of contamination and make fantastic containers for all types of vegetable and flowering plants.

My own personal opinion is that newer tires are probably safe for growing food.  But old tires that are disintegrating or cut maybe aren’t so safe.
So this weekend the two old tires around the two watermelon plants in our big garden will be removed and we will hope for warmer summer days.

  2 comments for “Is It Really Safe To Grow Fruits & Vegetables In Tires?

    June 14, 2013 at 9:42 am

    the new/old tire refers to when it was manufactured. The newer methods are safer. The contaminant comes from what the tire picks up on the road, so they should be taken to a car wash and power washed inside and out, but first, take a sawsall and cut out the top side, just short of the edge. Never cut into the bead. If you don’t cut it out, it is very hard to fill it with dirt and it just creates another place for insects to breed and bacteria and fungi to grow. The car washes have a recapture tank for their water, as the water coming off cars that have been on the road is always contaminated and they have to do some pre treatment before it can even go back into the sewers, (that is what I have been told, not personal knowledge).

  2. Mary
    June 15, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    I just don’t feel comfortable growing food in tires. One of my other favorite blogs has articles on tire gardening, but I only have a few tire “gardens” with flowers, no food!

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