Some people have a gift for using junk creatively. Others of us have to be trained to see beyond the obvious. My husband is always tutoring me in Reuse Possibilities 101. For instance, many years ago he came back from the local recycling and salvage with some strange metal bottomless boxes for me to use for compost bins. After using them that way for a while, a couple of years ago, I suddenly realized they “were” raised beds. Right now, they have zucchini growing in them. Since they are taller than traditional raised beds, 20 inches high, weeding and hunting squash bugs is easier.

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Extra high raised beds have the added benefit of adding space to the garden. If the plants can cascade downward, it is the same basic effect as trellising, but without having to attach the plants to anything. One friend of mine inherited a multitude of supersized plastic pots from her father-in-law. The story is that he found them along the roads of rural Idaho while driving his delivery routes. Some are obviously nursery pots from something like large trees, but other containers remind us of stock watering troughs, perchance remnants of D&B Supply purchases. Drainage holes have been verified or drilled in everything.

My dad likes to use old tires to make raised beds. These are of a more standard height, but they are indestructible and heat absorbing. Les Schwab Tire Center lets him have them for free. He cuts the sides off with a jig saw and turns them inside out. Think of it as a garden version of a tire swing. He takes the pieces back to the tire center, which leaves them with 75% less to throw away.

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Finally, there might be promising large pots or receptacles at a thrift store, like the big old glass bowl, past good kitchen use, that my dad drilled a hole in with a silicone carbide masonry drill-bit. It’s like finding hidden pictures. I’m even now eyeing an old wooden crate in my own backyard, left over from something being shipped.  Maybe it is time for a scavenger hunt, looking at everything as having potential artistic garden utility.

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  1. Denise says:

    Hi! Love the tire idea…are they normal size tires or tractor/semi? Do you know if it would be easy for a beginner to cut sides off? What tool?

    Thank you, really enjoyed your ideas!! 🙂

    • lauraimprovises says:

      Hey, Denise – That was something my dad did, so I checked with him about it. He says they are large sized auto (think ‘Suburban’) and pickup-truck tires. He got them from the Schwab Tire throwaway pile. He trimmed off the sidewalls, then turned the remaining part of the tire inside out. He used a ‘Sawsall’ to cut some of the tires, but later found that his regular shop jig saw with a metal cutting blade worked fine as well. He has now used some of these tires as straight wall for a rectangular raised bed (just had to cut them to open them out flat. A little bit of creative staking and viola they can be forced into a straight raised-bed edge.)

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