Admittedly the title first caught my eye, but once I picked up Edible Balconies: Growing Fresh Produce in Small Spaces I wanted to tackle pretty much every project in it. The new gardening book (no relation to this mag, it’s published by Rodale, eco-gardening’s longtime brain trust) covers everything from rooftop honey to soil-free hydroponics, all with a city sensibility. Its DIY ideas for balcony-friendly farming show how to grow in stuff your neighbors put out for sanitation trucks—like growing lettuce in wall-mounted gutters, herbs in a retired hanging shoe organizer, zucchini in an old metal drawer and pole beans up a reclaimed coat rack.
But I screeched to a halt at the sight of the trash-to-treasure planter pictured on page 76, right. We’ve all seen tires transformed into petunia planters in a kind of auto homage. But like our suburban ancestors who mow around them, that rotund American icon has spawned a skinny city kid—one with an unexpected penchant for growing food in close quarters.
Ready to sew rubber and splice hipsterdom’s twin stereotypes? It’s easy—and freegan-friendly. Turns out bike shops are glad to give away old tires rather than toss em; nab a half-dozen (more for a taller tower). Then, using scissors or your mixologist-roommate’s ice pick, poke holes in the rubber so you can thread plastic cable ties through them to keep your crops from wiping out. Line your new post-consumer planter with a garbage bag, poking holes in it, too, for drainage. Then, as the car kind say, fill ’er up—with potting mix and seedlings. Because tires naturally hold heat, they make a happy home for anything from basil and tomatoes to towers of strawberries and sweet potatoes. Short on space? Tot bike tires will reduce your footprint—in more ways than one.
We hope a critical mass of these will soon dot Brooklyn. Now if only we could raise tilapia in a drum set and turn that old amp into a beehive.
Dirt, bike. This freegan-friendly bike-to-balcony planter grows food where the rubber leaves the road. Photo credit: Sarah Cuttle.