Since putting up the the post on how we developed our tire garden -- and since it was subsequently featured on SurvivalBlog -- many people have asked additional questions about the infrastructure of our garden. Here is where I'll answer them.
NOTE: I had some sort of weird glitch which duplicated this post, so I deleted what I thought was the duplicate. In fact, I deleted the original ... which means all the comments were deleted as well. My apologies to those who left comments on the original post.
One question was where we got our billboard tarps -- which we use to block weeds and which are anchored with gravel -- and how much we paid for them.
I know billboard tarps (usually the gigantic ones you see on highway billboards) are available for sale on eBay and other online sites. The prices are fairly decent, but we decided to scout around and see if we could find a more local source.
So I called a tarp company in Spokane and inquired how much it would cost to purchase old tarps, and explained what we intended to use them for. They put me in touch with one specific fellow with the company, and he told me the tarps were FREE. I was shocked and delighted. Since at the time I was going into Spokane about once a week (the girls had music, French, or gymnastics lessons), we made this company a routine stop and brought home dozens of tarps the span of a couple months. I always called my liaison ahead of time to see if it was convenient for me to stop in, and I always thanked him profusely after we'd loaded up.
Then one day I called to inquire if I could pick up some tarps. My liaison, embarrassed, said no. Here's why.
Someone -- I don't like to think it was a blog reader, but it may have been -- apparently went into the same company and demanded free billboard tarps. He actually threatened the receptionist if he didn't get some. The poor woman was understandably shaken. As a result, a company-wide policy was enacted in which the tarps were no longer given away. Thus ended a wonderful free resource, all because someone acted like a bully and a jerk, demanding free stuff he had no right to and threatening innocent people.
I was horrified when my liaison told me what happened, but policy was policy. That ended the billboard tarps.
Now this was several years ago, and it was only with one company. If anyone is interested in billboard tarps, it's worth calling around and simply asking. Nicely.
The other question I was asked is how to cut large tractor tires in half safely.
These tires can weigh anywhere from 150 to 600 pounds, so safety in handling them is paramount. Not all tires need to be cut in half -- it all depends on the depth. Most tires just need to have one sidewall cut out (use a Sawzall with a beefy blade) and it's good to go. But for very thick tires, it's helpful to slice them in half lengthwise (like a humongous bagel) to yield two open halves. Here's how we did it.
Originally we tried just propping a tire up on other tires. This worked, sorta, but it tended to bind the saw blade.
Instead, we learned it's better to stand the tire up. This is where pets and children should be kept strictly away. You don't want to risk one of these halves flopping down and hurting anyone.
We used a Saws-all to cut through the tires. Don't use anything smaller than a "fang-tip" blade. The really gnarly blades are designed to cut through thick surfaces. Start the blade at a shallow angle – lay the teeth at the spot you want to cut – and then tilt as the cut deepens. The blade should dive in. Like everything else, it takes a little practice.
Cutting tires is ideally a two-person job. To prevent the tires halves from flopping open when cutting, the second person should tie the tire halves as the first person cuts and works his way around the perimeter.
Even though a tire may be tied, it's still unsteady in this upright position, so be sure to cut it where it won't damage anything if it falls. And above all, never put yourself in a position where it can fall on you.
In this instance, the tire fell over just as Don finished slicing it in half, and the sudden unsteadiness of two loose halves sent it crashing into a small nearby trailer.
Tying the tire as it's cut has a secondary benefit -- both halves can be picked up by a tractor and moved at the same time.
Tires on or off the tarps?
Another mistake we made at first -- and quickly rectified -- was putting the tires directly on the ground and then cutting the tarps to fit around them.
Big mistake. Big mistake!
We did this early on mostly because some of the tractor tires were already in place by the time we started using tarps for weed control. We didn't want to have to move the tires, so we cut the tarps to fit around them. But of course weeds still grew up through the tires (I've mostly gotten this under control through diligent weeding), and forever after weeds continue to grow around the outer rims of these tires since there's a little space between the tire and the tarp. It's fairly controllable, but it's always an issue. Thankfully only four tires have this problem. The rest of the garden doesn't, because we rapidly learned tires should just be placed directly on the tarp.
Here we placed a couple of tires directly on the tarps with no gravel.
But once again, as part of our learning curve, we learned to put the gravel down first. Not only does this anchor the tarps, but the drainage it provides to the tires is superb.
I hope this info helps someone with their own tire garden!