Planting Chives and Strawberries

At the tail end of the Wartime Garden (which we are revisiting this year for the 80th Anniversary of Dig For Victory, you can find posts on a Wednesday here and on twitter under the hashtag #wartimewednesday) we came across a letter sent in to Mr Middleton by a gardener in Lincolnshire in 1945. In it the gardener was using old tyres that where 'fit for nothing' to plant strawberries in them. At first we were kind of horrified as the whole argument around tyres is one of chemicals and cancer. The upshot though when you look at tyres is that by the time they get to you to plant in most of those chemicals have oxidised. The great thing about tyres is that they are great planters and if you are a disabled daft duffer like me, prone to falling over, they are a godsend to land on. They are more preferable to fall into than a hedge or bamboo or bricks (brick paths hurt like buggery). Back in 2015 we tried them in the old field area and the crop was respectable but they ate up a lot of compost as any planter does. We wanted to think our way out of that problem, and sat down to think about that with some cake and a beer. Several beers later and a Victoria Sponge we felt we had cracked it.

Tyre planters

We could solve the problem of compost, because let's face facts my days of humping bags of compost is more of less behind me because of my back by adopting a modified version of Hugelkultur. I came across an article in Permaculture about Hugelkultur and modified this for tyre planting in 2017. The upshot of this experiment was to take branches from cutting the hedge the year before and weeds, lots of annual weeds before they set seed and then pack them into the tyre until the tyre was two thirds full and cap with garden compost. That meant no humping of compost in bags but more a gentle stroll with a bucket from the compost heap. This modified Hugelkultur in a tyre created a miniature hot bed as the materials broke down releasing valuable minerals and bacteria. My first worry was that the soil level would drastically drop, it didn't but it did drop in the second spring. Last year we modified this further and took grass cuttings, branches, cardboard and annual weeds and jammed tyres full of them but with no compost cap, call it revenge or micro composting. This time we could make sure that any breakdown of material wouldn't mean a drop in soil levels because we would keep topping up with weeds. By this spring the material in four tyres had turned into compost, were full of microbial life and worms, and we planted them up with strawberries and chives. Three strawberry plants and one fat bunch of chives. This is our companion plant for strawberries and we swear by it. The great thing about doing this was that we could pull out weeds as we went and start another further four tyres for next year and we are not short of tyres here to use as planters. They're great for those of us with buggered backs (this is the formal medical term for someone with missing discs, it translates into Latin as Contritum Spina or Contrary Mary Barely Walking) as you can sit on them, fall on them, sleep on them, rest in them and roll down hill in them. So, don't dismiss tyres as planters. You can scream about the toxins as much as you want but sadly if you live in the North of England your soil is teeming with heavy metals thanks to the Industrial Revolution, cripes you should see what the UN and WHO think of soil round here, it would turn your hair white and bugger your back. Which is what happened to me, thankfully I only got white in my beard, I got off easy. Now I'm off to kip in some tyres.


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