Introduction: Used Tired Raised Garden & Tree Ring

Picture of Used Tired Raised Garden & Tree Ring

Ever wonder what to do with those old tires? Do you want to have a garden without the need to till soil? We have found that used tires make GREAT raised garden beds!

Please note that we are using some serious saws to cut the tire. It's important that you are familiar with and comfortable using power tools to make these projects. While the cuts are not difficult, the tires do have steel wires in the sidewall that can be resistant to sawing initially. BE CAREFUL AND WATCH WHERE YOU PLACE YOUR HANDS/FINGERS!


- Used tires:
We saved our tires when we replaced them. This actually saved us the cost of the disposal fee! We also asked a couple of friends to save their tires for us as well since we knew we'd need several for various gardens.

- Sharp Knife:
You will want to use a sharp knife but not one that would bother you if it's used in your garden.

- Jig Saw:
This saw is used to cut the side off the tire.

- Dual Saw:
This is the saw we used to cut a slit in the side of the tire. It cuts through the steel bands easily. Again, BE CAREFUL!

- Landscape Fabric:
You could also use several layers of newspaper to create a weed/grass block.

- Garden Soil:
You can purchase garden soil, compost material, or find a friend/acquaintance who needs to have soil hauled away.

Step 2: Preparing to Remove Sidewall

Picture of Preparing to Remove Sidewall

All you really need to do in this step is make a "hole" to put the jig saw blade into.

Step 3: Cutting Away the Sidewall With Jigsaw

Picture of Cutting Away the Sidewall With Jigsaw

Now all you have to do is cut around the tire! We didn't use a special blade. The general purpose blade works just fine.

You should also note that it isn't necessary to remove both sidewalls. We've tried this both ways and have found that the tire is much more stable if you only remove one side. Also, you have a trough that allows a little water to pool into a reservoir which helps with fluid retention and watering. Another benefit is the way this second sidewall will hold the landscape fabric and soil without allowing it to run out the bottom.

Step 4: The Sidewall Is Removed!

Picture of The Sidewall Is Removed!

This is what you're left with after removing the sidewall.

Since I believe you're intelligent enough to figure out where to put the soil and landscape fabric, I'm not showing photos of that step. All you need to do is, PLACE THE TIRE WHERE YOU WANT IT SINCE THERE WILL BE NO WAY YOU CAN MOVE IT ONCE THE SOIL IS IN. Once you have the tire in place you will need to line it with the landscape fabric. Then fill the tire with soil and plant!

Now wasn't that easy???


Step 5: Splitting the Tree Ring

Picture of Splitting the Tree Ring

This step is optional depending on the size of your tree or shrub. If the plant is too large for the ring to go over it then you will need to cut the split.

Again I'd like to caution you about where your hands and fingers are placed. Make sure that you have the tree ring placed on a safe surface with an adequate work surface for cutting. Take time to make sure the electrical cord isn't in the way of your blade!

You will need to use a Dual Saw for cutting through the steel belting. It's usually a very narrow band of metal that requires cutting. Be prepared to feel a give and easier cutting after you get through the metal band. The most difficult part of cutting is the curvature of the sidewall. We suggest using a cutting surface that you can cut into.

Step 6: Now You've Made Two Projects Out of One Tire!

Picture of Now You've Made Two Projects Out of One Tire!

This picture shows a tree ring in place around a small shrub. We didn't need to cut this ring because the ring was so small.

Our rings have stayed in place through several mowings without any pinning or stakes. However, it would be easy enough to drill some holes to drive stakes into for holding the ring in place. We have also filled in some tree rings with mulch now and it stays put really well.

*Additional tip for "lawn stakes":
Everyone I know has more wire hangers than any reasonable person could sanely use. (I say sanely because I find it insanity inducing to untangle the tangle of wire hangers when doing laundry!) Wire hangers make GREAT lawn stakes. We've used them for years and since you will typically pick these up for free, they are also CHEAP! (That's one of my favorite words!)


JamesB473 (author)2016-05-15

can anyone give me an idea of how much soil I would need to half fill a Larry tyre. The bottom half is filled with stones.

TSmith9699 (author)2016-01-10

My grandparents used tires in flower landscaping. Instead of cutting off the side wall they cut slits to make triangles, then turned tire inside out and the triangles folded out and looked like flower petals. Granny then painted them pretty colors to improve the looks. Also it improved the looks as the inside of tire is smooth rather than the treads which are rough. Just another view point if you want something to look at bit better.

doug.aultman.1 (author)2015-03-04

For cutting the sidewall I have found a sawzall to be the perfect tool... use a metal cutting blade and the sidewall will cut like warm butter!

scoot1973atl (author)2015-02-21

People want to go back to doing things the way people did before the world became so fast paced, so chemically involved...with hormones and pesticides on all our foods....Well, tires have been used for years and years as planters....they just happened to be the huge tractor tires and you'd see them out in the country on old homesteads instead of car/truck tires and seeing them closer to cities. I'm pretty sure our elders didn't die from eating food grown in tractor tires. As a matter of fact, most of them lived to ripe old ages! I for one love this tutorial. I've used tires before, and will use them again. I've never cut the sidewall, (so thanks for that), and I also like the bonus tree ring. I think it would be good for holding mulch in place (as we get very high winds where I am). So thanks again! :-)

ourmoneypit (author)2009-06-25

Used tires can safely be used for all sorts of similar projects. One can even build a retaining wall with them. A huge retaining wall was built in South America by this method and the project was a success. Some folks combine the planter with the retaining wall and this is something I plan to do. Seems like a great way to cultivate. One caution, however: the metal in the tires can leach toxic chemicals into the ground over time. I personally would not use any tire where the cut metal was exposed and could leach in this way.

My cousin & a friend of his got a patent on a wall of tires 20+ yrs ago it is built in Indiana.

finton (author)ourmoneypit2013-05-02

Hi ourmoneypit. I'm just a bit curious as to what toxic chemicals the "cut metal" would leach. If you're talking about the wires in the beading and tread, surely they're made of steel which afaik would only leach iron and carbon...

christhi (author)2014-03-11

Has anyone tried to cut tires with the circular saw instead of this sabre saw?

metqa (author)2013-05-14

I tried using my jigsaw and the blade just moved up and down and moved the rubber up and down with it. No cutting happened at all this afternoon. Any tips on how to get it to work. I used the regular blade nothing special.

auntwrennyz (author)metqa2013-05-15

I just realized that you can't see my husband's hand in the photo. We hold the inner edge of the tire BEHIND the saw. This cuts down on the jumping and makes it easier to cut. There will still be vibration and you do need to keep inching your hand along as you cut.
I will say this as an encouragement, my hubby did this on his own and he is NOT a power tool user! He almost put a spade bit into his chest one time (He was saved by the bit being tangled in the open flaps of his button-up shirt tangling around the bit) and he has also electrocuted himself trying to "help" me install a ceiling fan. Tools are not his thing...he's the cook. :-) That being said, If he can do it, I know you can get there. Just be very careful and keep your hands BEHIND THE BLADE - NEVER IN FRONT!

metqa (author)auntwrennyz2013-05-15

Yes, Ma'am! Thanks. I'll try that! We just installed 3 ceiling fans this past week. I'm glad to say that no one was electrocuted. I told my BF that he had to shout "CLEAR" and hear a reply of "clear" before he was to flip any switches! LOL

MerriWinter (author)2011-12-05

I like the idea of using newspaper in the bottom of the tyre - thanks. I have used tyres in my garden for the last year or so mainly because I have had a large area of new bed to 'better'. The soil is a heavy clay that need loads of compost and since we live on the slopes of a river, carting kitchen waste to the official compost site it just too labour intensive. So.... I have planted some tyres in my bed and use them as compost sites until they have served their purpose and are then moved to another site. BTW, I used a small bladed kitchen knife to cut the rims off. It works pretty well but only if you keep a tin of water near by and keep dipping it into the water - no electric saw needed.

tim_n (author)2010-10-12

Just looking at putting in some fruit trees - looks like a great idea even though I'm not mowing, it'll stop the climbers from so easily getting a hold


kirnex (author)2010-05-28

 An awesome idea for an easy raised bed!  Thanks for sharing it!

Can I just offer an idea with regard for it?  If you could, you might want to consider lining your planter with a layer of cement/concrete, even hypertufa or ferrocement.  I know it sounds strange, but I mention this for a couple of reasons:

1) Rubber (especially tire rubber) contains chemicals which will most assuredly break down more quickly with such constant, unlimited exposure to the sun and elements.  Those chemicals will, in turn, be absorbed by your plants.  Not only can it impact the health of your plants, but especially if you are growing edibles in this environment you would not want to ingest plant matter which has been grown this way. The cement/concrete or other similar
matter offers a layer of protection against this.  

2)  Concrete, cement, hypertufa and ferrocement (the latter two of which are created utilizing cement) contain lime, which will naturally (with exposure to water) leech at a minimal rate into the soil and provide a natural source of lime to your plants.  This is especially beneficial if you are growing plants which prefer a base environment.  If you want to grow plants which prefer an acidic environment, you would simply use a liberal amount of peat moss in your soil mixture (I'd use as much as possible--even a ratio of 3 parts peat to 1 part soil or compost would be fabulous). 

Hope this gives prospective tire-gardeners something to consider.  I am absolutely all for repurposing items in any way you can, it's always good to consider the long-term effects of such a practice on not only the environment, but also your own health.

origamifox (author)2010-04-06

You don't say anything about what to do with the sidewall once you have removed it.  I have found that you can invert the sidewall and place inside the tire, over your landscape cloth.  This will help hold the landscape cloth in place inside the tire. 

auntwrenny (author)origamifox2010-04-06

If you look at step #5, we actually split the sidewall and use it as a tree ring. The reason we didn't use it in the bottom of the tire was because it will block root growth more harshly than landscape fabric.

However, we have lately been starting up our gardens again and switched from using landscape fabric to using 2 layers of newspaper. The roots can get through the newspaper but it does block the weeds very well.

Also, I just planted potatoes in 3 tires on Good Friday. I'm anxious to see if this works as well as I hope but the plan is to:
1. Cut off both sidewalls.
2. Put the potatoes 3"-4" into the ground, just inside the tire ring.
3. After I have about 6" of green growth from the potatoes I'm going to fill the tires with straw. The potatoes should have 8"-10" of straw on top of them and I'm hoping that the tire ring will hold the straw in place better and keep me from needing such a high mound.

appieh58 (author)2010-03-19

I think that I will give it a try....

I have seen this before, but with very large tires only, without removing the sidewall.

Thank you for sharing this great gardening information

Grtz Albert


auntwrenny (author)appieh582010-03-19

We just went through a nasty winter around here. We actually had some onions survive the winter in one of our tire rings! When the snow melted away we had some nice sized onions that had been insulated unter 4 feet of snow. That was a really nice surprise!!

yodaandmoody (author)2010-03-14

This is a great idea I needed a raised garden and using tires we already have for it worked out super of course I did put my own spin on this idea.Thank you for sharing. I love being able to recycle and have fresh vegtables, herbs and flowers .I have one area done and working on another when I am finished I will have 10 raised bed gardens from your original idea. Thank you. Bonnie

Many years ago I used to work in one of the companies down in Ninnesee (I wont give them a full ten) that makes the rubber for Firestone tires. I'm sure its still done the same today as it has always been done. a conveyor line getting all the carbon powder, neoprene, chemicals and plastic baggies of oils and such poured onto ( By very hot dirty, VERY DIRTY men)then timed to go into a heated mixing vat for about 5-7 minutes (only long enough for a couple guys to lift nearly a thousand pounds of ingredients back onto the belt. Then when it hits the right temp and mix time its dumped down onto two steele rollers and rolled and mixed again BY HAND! there is a gap between the rollers of about half an inch and you take a blade from the side you cut into the edge making a big roll as the rollers spin, being careful not to get sucked into the gap(lotsa one armed guys there) then once its an even texture it gets a slice cut and onto more rollers and cutters and so on and so on. These guys live in this stuff 10 hrs or so a day. I only spent a few weeks doing it through a slave, ahem, Temp service, for 6.75 an hour. that job was THE hardest and most dangerous I've ever tried (and did ok at too) Over the years I was the MIKE ROWE of the temp agencies and saw a LOT of weird stuff but tire rubbe once its been round the roads is probably just as safe to use as a planter as any other synthetic pcb/bha/ holocost leeching plastics or concretes(also very dirty and chemically crazy) used today. most of the treated lumber or railroad ties or any number of things are INHO less safe than tires. But I could also be harboring a full twin of cancer in me and not know it too.(that might come from either the involutary testing in the military or the radio waves when I was in Radio

Actually, as most tires are now made in China, I am sure things are different now.

I would also surmise that as today's tire have improved wear characteristics over tires from years ago, that different compounds have been added to the mix to accomplish this. What are they, and how do they degrade when not used as intended, but rather put in dirrect contact with dirt? Who knows, as the manufacturers do not have to divulge their "Trade Secrets." 

auntwrenny (author)Rahdzhillaxxx2009-06-25

Thanks for your input.

Yes...go read the article like Undershelmed suggests, then go read the comments below the MotherEarth article.

auntwrenny (author)serpensphile2009-06-25

I'm really trying to stay out of this discussion. Do whatever research you wish and do whatever makes you comfortable. For me, I'm comfortable with using tires, even to grow food.

serpensphile (author)auntwrenny2009-07-01

LOL! If you read the comments directly below that specific MotherEarth article, they tear it to shreds! There is no data that shows that tires leach or produce toxins that are going to destroy the environment. This just shows you how many lemmings are jumping off the "green" cliff. Many more to follow too I'm afraid! What has happened to people actually THINKING instead of taking everything they hear second and third hand as FACT?

Actually, I was searching for an article published years ago on using tires for this exact purpose, and found that it was not in the archives.

The fact that some flak who is in the tire industry posted a conflicting comment is not proof enough for me that using old tire for food production is safe. I am not a "green" person, but I see no reason to poison myself or others just to be contrary.

Just because the tire manufacturers are now making tire mulch instead of actually recycling their tires, does not mean it is safe.

And as far as cliffs go, I hope you find yours soon.

auntwrenny (author)serpensphile2009-07-01

Thank you SOOO MUCH for saying this. I totally agree.

rippa700 (author)2009-07-04

A word of caution about using tyres are tree rings. We have a farm where this was done 20 years ago and I am really struggling to remove tyres from the larger trees as they are getting strangled. See my blog - we finally used a reciprocating saw to cut the tread and sidewalls and had to cut a wide access hole in the sidewall to get the bolt-cutters in to cut the bead. All this in undergrowth on dirt so not easy to hold the tyre steady. Be warned and cut the tyre before using it.

mamashawn (author)2009-07-03

You could also use a box cutter to remove the sidewalls. You do have to make two or three passes around the tire, pushing on the sidewall as you go to help open up the cut. Not at all difficult. Just an option for those who may not have a jigsaw.

rseethawake (author)2009-06-29

i have made this recently. and in my project , i turned side wall removed tire bad side. i just cant explain it due to my poor english. so i add an immage of it . now it is not look like a tire.

auntwrenny (author)rseethawake2009-06-30

That is very nice! I really like what you did. We have some tires with the rims (the part that attaches to the car) still in tact. We are planning on using those to make seating for the neighborhood kids who visit our yard. (They "help" us garden and weed as well as collecting several flowers for their moms.) We plan on using billboard vinyl to make pillows that can be placed in the tire. That way we don't have to worry about them getting wet and they should have interesting colors. I'll send pictures when we get one done.

Iyer2711 (author)2009-06-28

of course your project is very nice but more so is your words of caution. Almost like a friend. Thank you :)

randygl (author)2009-06-25

Good idea! I would use for flowers only though. I would have a concern with toxins in the tire leaching into the soil and then into any vegetable plant.

xnotxp (author)2009-06-25

You can make your own special blade: a knife edge blade. Take an old saw blade and grind a knife edge on the back edge and then use it with the knife facing forward. This cuts nicely and doesn't catch (but will get dull) when you hit the wires. It is better around the wire belts, cuts smooth edges in the rubber, and eliminates most of the saw dust but it's not necessarily easier. Use a hard steel blade instead of bimetal which is softer on the back edge.

artoftexas (author)2009-06-23

This is a GREAT Project! Thanks so much for submitting something that recycles those old tires and even makes use of the part of the tire you cut out! I have been wanting to put in raised beds and am going to do this as soon as possible. We have crape myrtles all around our driveway and it will make them so much more attractive to put a tire ring around them. We are going to paint ours with the paint that you can use on outdoor plastic furniture to dress them up a little. Maybe I'll add a picture when we are done. Thanks again!

auntwrenny (author)artoftexas2009-06-23

That sounds wonderful. Since you're growing Crape Myrtles I'm assuming you're down South somewhere. I envy you, being a "southern girl" myself I'm only in Iowa because my "yankee" husband dragged me up here. THE WINTERS ARE SOOOOO LONG!

artoftexas (author)auntwrenny2009-06-23

There are trade-offs with being in the South tho'. I am in the TX Hill Country and we are lucky to have two growing seasons but the heat in the summer can be a killer! You just have to get up super early to get anything productive done in the gardening or do it anytime after 7 pm. Our lack of water the past two years has been real hard on our pasture but luckily we have a well and can water when it is really bad. We bought like fifteen crape myrtles when we first bought our house ten years ago and have a huge circular drive with a park like set up in the center. We surrounded the circular drive with crape myrtles and it is amazing how heavy the branches get with blooms!! I love our raised beds that my husband made with large rocks (we have tons of rock on our property!). He worked really hard to make the center area beautiful and we have a small water feature and an old above ground swimming pool that we converted to a koi/goldfish pond! I really love all the ideas I get on Instructables. This site ROCKS! P.S. I have to admit I miss the fall colors and crisp mornings in the north but I praise God I don't have to deal with snow anymore!!

Uncle Kudzu (author)2009-06-22

as a variation on this theme, i've cut out only one sidewall and used a drill with a holesaw bit to make drainage holes in the other sidewall. (i had no use for the cut sidewall and didn't want two from every tire.) my plan was to make a small berm of modified stacked tires. it's great to see folks trying to find uses for the mountains of tires we're constantly generating. keep up the good work!

thepelton (author)2009-06-22

I recall reading about something like this in Mother Earth News about 30 years ago. The man that posted it was wheelchair bound, and was growing potatoes in stacks of tires. He harvested his potatoes by knocking over the stacks and pulling the potatoes out of the tires.

auntwrenny (author)thepelton2009-06-22

My husband would love to see that article. Considering both of us were in Junior High School then we were more interested in kissing the opposite sex than gardening. LOL ;-)

Goodhart (author)2009-06-22

GREAT instructable!, and very detailed explanation.

I had only one bit of trouble though. I was not familiar with a dual saw, so naturally, I Googled it, and most of the entries I came up with were a specialized saw that was a bit out of my price range ( as noted here ).

Is this what you mean by a dual saw or is it something else?

auntwrenny (author)Goodhart2009-06-22

Yes, Dual Saws are a bit pricey. We bought ours from Craftsman using some discount coupons we had. The advantage of a Dual Saw over other metal cutting saws it that it doesn't have the vibration of say a reciprocating saw. We've used it frequently since we got it a couple of months ago. You might want to look into it if you're doing any serious yard work, welding (which is an interest of my husband), or sawing through tougher items. You could probably gnaw your way through the tire with a large metal cutter/lopper or a hack saw but it will take you some time. Also, I really try to investigate what is the best tool for any given project. Since Shannon and I do a lot of "junking" we have accumulated quite a few tools and I will admit we probably have more tools that the average couple.

Goodhart (author)auntwrenny2009-06-22

Yeah, I have been forced, by lack of finances, to be a lot more eclectic, sadly; since many times that means it takes a lot longer. :-) but I understand what you mean.

auntwrenny (author)Goodhart2009-06-22

Something you may want to keep in mind is that you may not even need the saw. You only need to cut it IF the tree is too large to slip the ring over. You could also bind the branches together on a short tree/shrub so it's easier to slip the ring over. Most of the rings we used never had to be cut.

auntwrenny (author)Goodhart2009-06-22

I wanted to let you and everyone else know the actual dual saw we used for this project. The Craftsman Twin Cutter (#26829) is now available and retails for $179.99. Become a Craftsman Club member and you will likely get discounts that will help in your tool purchasing.

gsport george (author)2009-06-22

Nice work, but... In areas with a decent amount of rainfall it might be an idea to add some gravel or other drainage layer in the dip in the lower sidewall before putting the soil on top, I can imagine that area becoming waterlogged and leading to problems.

auntwrenny (author)gsport george2009-06-22

Actually it's been a VERY wet year in Iowa. We put several tires in what we fondly call our Flood Plain and the plants are thriving. We have this area sitting on top of a second layer of fabric so we can check the water level and seepage better. So far there hasn't been a bunch of run off and the soil isn't runny. The plants seem to be thriving, especially the tomatoes and squash which, as you probably know, need a lot of water to do well and increase yield.

NotACat (author)2009-06-22

It might seem obvious, but it took me a couple of goes to realise that the "tree-ring" in Step 5 is made from that first side-wall you cut off in Step 3. At first I thought you'd made it from a second tyre turned inside-out somehow. Maybe for those of us stricken with the Monday-morning thick, you could make this more explicit?

auntwrenny (author)NotACat2009-06-22

Thank you for your input. I'll look over the instructions and see where is the best place to fit that in.

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