COMPOSTING (in tire towers)
Compost is the polite word for rotted organic material.
Compost is the well-rotted material we find at the bottom of a pile of last year's leaves in the spring, the sweet, crumbly material at the bottom of a manure pile or a pile of old hay or lawn clippings. It is a natural process and part of the cycle of regeneration.
We know that using compost by returning it to the soil as a nutrient or using it as a top dressing or mulch is one of the best garden practices.
Nature takes its time decomposing organic material. We are in a hurry and want to speed up the process. Assuming that we are looking for composting processes that are simple, require little or no work, inexpensive, allow us to manage garden and kitchen waste in our own yards and are socially acceptable - here is one option. Composting in a 'tower' of three vehicle tires tires is cost and work free.
Initially, give some thought to the amount of organic material you estimate your home and garden will generate for the tire composters. For example, a single person with a small garden or a collection of patio pots can utilize a stack of three passenger car tires or trailer tires. Additionally, a tire tower can be sited in the garden or at its edge which makes it very easy to dispose of garden waste.
The tires can be had (free) for the asking from almost all tire centers. Because there is no heavy lifting of the tires and nothing has to be 'turned' to produce the compost, there is no real purpose is getting large truck or tractor tires for the home gardener.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS
The process is unbelievably simple and relies on the partnership and cooperation of DETRITIVORES (illustration at left) that will inhabit the environment of decomposing organic material created by your biodegrading yard and kitchen waste.
Detritivores are the ants, worms, pill bugs, small beetles, centipedes and millipeds and a multitude of beneficial bacteria and fungi - all of which are feasting on the organic material, feasting on each other, reproducing, making their own manure and in general, hastening the rotting process.
There are few exceptions to what can be put in the tire composter. DO NOT add dairy products, meat, oils or dog and cat feces. DO add ripped up toilet and paper towel rolls, coffee filters and tea bags with kitchen waste (fruit and veggie peels and coffee grounds and egg shells). During the gardening season, fling the contents of your weed bucket (unless the weeds are setting seeds) and the general garden material - spent flowers, pruned bits and pieces. Each time you add material, top if off with a handful or two of old cut grass, old hay, coffee grounds or shredded, soaking newspaper. This will discourage any flies from being interested.
PUTTING THE TIRE TOWER TOGETHER
To begin, place one tire directly on the soil in a level spot. Add material to fill the inside of the tire. It helps if the material is wet. If it is not, add some water. Cover the tire with a heavy screen. (Old stove racks and refrigerator racks work well.) If appearance trumps thrift, then make a frame that will cover the tire either of wood slats or a screen with a firm rim. Place a heavy object on the 'lid' to provide the ultimate discouragement for a wandering dog, racoon, chicken or other panhandling critter.
You will find that the material you put in the tire will 'slump' rapidly and it might take longer than you had originally thought to 'fill' the first tire.
When that happens, add the second empty tire and continue the process. When that fills, add the third tire. You will find that you can add material almost indefinitely when you are at the three tire stage.
HARVEST TWICE A YEAR
Tire composters started in the spring can usually be harvested in the fall. Those started in the fall can be harvested in the spring. The process is simplicity itself.
To harvest the compost, slide the top tire off the pile and place it, as the new bottom tire, next to the other two and on level soil. Then, with a trowel or your hands, begin to remove the material from the remaining tires. There will be some material inside the rim of the tires. There will also be a large population of detritivores. This is the bonus. You will put them, with the almost totally rotted material into the soil to continue their good work there.
When the harvesting is done, you should have a wheelbarrow filled with lovely compost and one tire on the ground with material in it and two waiting to be added.
If the idea of having a stack of tires in or near the garden offends your concept of beauty, build a little fence around the tires or plant sunflowers or other plants to 'hide' it.
In the spring it is quite possible that ameadow mouse or two might have over-wintered in the tires. Who can blame them? Food at the ready and protection from the elements - what a deal, for mice. However, they are easily dispatched in the harvesting process.
In general, this type of composting costs nothing because it utilizes tires that are given away. One tire tower will deliver a wheelbarrow load of compost from kitchen and garden waste that will never reach the municipal waste stream two times a year - spring and fall. It is producing essential nutrients for the garden and fostering a huge and beneficial community of detritivores. It produces no odors, requires no hard labor.
Read also about temporary gardens from tires.