Monday, May 20, 2013

Oodles and oodles of strawberries

Last year, unsurprisingly, I gave up on my beautiful strawberry beds after the deer absolutely decimated them. And I mean decimated. Plants were ripped up by the roots, still-rooted plants were eaten down to nubbins... No matter how much bird netting I draped over them, and no matter how cleverly or securely the netting was draped, the deer found their way in. They were aggressive in their hunt for my precious strawberries. By the end of the season, my strawberry beds were so destroyed that I figured nothing was salvageable. I didn't even bother to mulch the beds with straw before winter.

Fast forward to early spring. The beds still looked stripped and bare, but much to my surprise, some of the plants had survived both the winter and the deer.

So in early April I did some weeding and tried to assess what was still alive. My goodness some of the weeds had long roots.

A lot of the strawberry plants were dried and crunchy and thoroughly dead.

Or were they? I had to look them over very carefully to make sure.

Nonetheless, despite more strawberries surviving than I thought, my beds were sadly depleted. So in a moment of giddy exuberance (this was before Don got sick and we had to watch our spending), I ordered three hundred bareroot strawberry plants from Miller Nurseries.

These were shipped in early May.

I guess I didn't realize just how many three hundred really is. While I knew I wanted some extra strawberry beds, now that the plants were here I had to figure out where to put them. I decided to use larger tractor tires (split in half) for strawberry beds.

So I heaved our truck over the hills into Washington to a place that changes tractor tires for farmers. They loaded two tires into the truck for me. These tire centers are always glad to get rid of tractor tires, because it costs a lot of money for them to recycle them.

Two tires were all they could fit into the truck, and frankly I was pretty nervous driving home because of the weight (the tires are about 500 lbs each). I kept expecting the truck to tip over, so I crawled home at low speeds. Good thing the route isn't busy.

But it gave me an idea. If these guys have to PAY to have the old tractor tires recycled, would they consider loading up a bunch and delivering them to our place for FREE? I'm strongly of the philosophy that It Never Hurts to Ask, so I did.

The response was almost comical. You want tires? Really? How many? When? Can you take them this afternoon?

Next thing we knew, a fellow named Jason had loaded up twelve tires onto a flatbed truck and was on his way to our place. It was satisfactory for both parties: he got to "recycle" his tires for just the cost of delivery, and we got twelve enormous tires for free, delivered straight to our door.

Now that we have a free source for these monstrous things, there are a lot of possibilities for their uses. Besides raised beds in the garden, some larger uncut tires would work for fruit tree planters. Tires with just the sidewalls cut out would work for cattle feeders and potato beds. Jason said he would hold for us some enormously wide (3 feet deep or so) tractor tires from a rig he's changing next week.

We also have neighbors who are thinking about raised beds in tractor tires. Bottom line, Jason could get rid of a lot of tires through us!

Over the next couple of days, whenever we had a few minutes to spare, Don and I would slice a tire or two in half length-wise. When we had a bunch cut up, we borrowed the tractor, chained them up, and moved them into the garden.

It took us a solid day's work to move all the tire halves and fill them with compost and dirt, but finally the beds were ready to plant with strawberries. With ten new beds, we're, um, gonna have a lotta berries.

But first the strawberries have to be planted. I took them out of their packaging and soaked the roots for a few hours.

Time to plant.

I laid out the strawberries first. I found I could fit about 30 strawberries per tire, so my estimate of ten tire halves was spot-on.

Before planting, I trimmed the roots of each plant to about four inches in length. After many hours, I got all 300 plants in the ground.

Oh and by the way, we're putting in nuclear fencing this summer. No deer allowed.


  1. I read on the internet, I don´t remember the site, that rubber tires are toxic in the garden and give off harmful chemicals... please look into this.

    1. This apparently is incorrect. Please see this link:

      - Patrice

  2. Wow. Go you and congratulations!
    If you end up with a lot of strawberries, perhaps a thank you to the place that delivered the tires?
    Great job. I about died when we got 100 onion sets to plant.
    Have a blessed week!

  3. Oh Patrice those are awesome! What a savings they were from building raised beds. Bet they will be tickled to bring you more. Thanks for the link above. Finally an a clearly written document to explain and clear up the confusion. 300 plants? Sounds like you'll need a stall at the local farmers market for berries and jams next year!

  4. I would love to have a few of those tires to make tree swings out of them. But as heavy as they are, the tree limb might just snap....that's on my list of things to do before much longer...not as expensive as buiding a barn. You're going to have soooooo many delicous strawberries. Have a great and blessed week! Alicia

  5. Hi Patrice, to save our garden from the deer, we used a double fence. The main fence was 8 feet high with a second fence 4 feet high placed 3 feet outside the main fence. It was fun watching the deer circle and circle trying to figure out how to get in. Apparently, they do not have enough room within that 3 foot area to make a second jump. Saved our garden for us! pigzzilla

  6. i am not sure if it is the same in the states as it is here in canada, but most garages will give away tires for free as it saves them the money/time/labour of having to get rid of them. most garages won't have the huge tractor tires, but they do have tons of regular sized tires for building your raised beds.

  7. If deer can get past your defences and strip your strawberries what chance does a suburban grower have of keeping their back-garden grown food safe from their starving neighbours in a SHTF scenario? Most of the sheeple are stupid but are still more cunning than a deer and opposable thumbs will let them open latches and cut wire fencing.

  8. Alicia, when we were kids, our dad made swings out of regular car tires. Not nearly as heavy as the big tires. They work wonderfully well and provided untold hours of swinging fun. Just make sure to cut a hole in the bottom of the tire after you hang it out of the tree so that rain water can drain out.

    Patrice, everything I've read says that for the first year strawberries should have all the blooms picked off of them so the plants will send all their energy to the roots and become well established. I tried it last year and it seems to work. This is the second year for my berries and the plants are enormous and the berries are pretty huge too. Might be worth considering although with 300 plants, picking blooms might be a full-time job. :-) Let us know how they turn out.

    1. Thanks Kay!..I hadn't thought of making a hole in the bottom. I will definitely remember that. Have a blessed week. :)

  9. I understand that old tractor tires can be cut up and made into water proof tea coasters. Necessity is truly the mother of invention.


  10. We get our tires, truck and heavy equipment, for free, from our local Les Schwab dealer.

    They are more than happy to get rid of them.


  11. Thats awesome. I wish I could find someone here who wanted to get rid of their large tires like that. I've left messages at two different places that handle tractor trailer and tractor tires and neither has called me back. I was reduced to begging on craigslist to find the one I got.

  12. 300 Strawberry plants! You must really love them. Good for making the call, as my father used to say, what do you have to lose all they can say is no. In your case you scored.

  13. I planted 18 plants last year and they have completely filled a 4'x20' raised bed and surrounding area. I think you are going to end up hating strawberries! They will be like zucchini and you will be giving them away unless you decide to pick them and then sell at the farmer's market next year when they start producing. I think I would have found homes for the extra plants.