Is It Safe To Grow Vegetables in Old Tires?

If you want to grow vegetables in your garden and have some old tires hanging around your home, you might be thinking of using them. But since tires contain a variety of potentially harmful chemicals, is it safe to grow vegetables in them?

It isn’t safe to grow vegetables in old tires because there are many chemicals that the soil and vegetables can absorb. Although there aren’t any concrete studies on the topic, growing edible plants in old tires isn’t worth the risk, hence the need to use alternative methods. 

The rest of this article will discuss the safety of growing vegetables in old tires in greater detail. It will also discuss the problems associated with keeping tires in the sun and some safer alternatives.

Can Old Tires Contaminate Vegetables?

Old tires can contaminate vegetables if they release harmful toxins into the soil and plants. Some of the toxic chemicals in recycled tires include phthalates, benzothiazole, and derivatives.

A ScienceDirect study found that not only were these chemicals present in recycled tires, but some of them were present in high amounts. Because of this evidence, it’s safe to say that growing anything edible (including vegetables) in any plastic tire is a bad idea and can have adverse health impacts on people.

However, some might still decide to use tires if they want to grow vegetables that don’t take long to harvest. In this way, the chance of contamination is lower because the vegetables are grown and harvested in a short period. 

Of course, you could try this. But you should only do so if you’re okay with the possible risks. Many people have used tires to grow vegetables with no problems, so it’s not always a dangerous process. 

However, it is advisable to weigh the pros and cons before deciding on planting edible plants in old tires. 

Chemicals in Old Recycled Tires

As I mentioned briefly, tires contain many harmful chemicals that are best kept away from vegetables and other edible materials. Before growing your vegetables in old tires, you should learn more about the most prominent chemicals. 

Below, I will discuss some of the dangerous chemicals found in old tires:

Carbon Black

Carbon black is a hazardous material present in most tires and has many similarities to graphite. Inhalation of this material can cause respiratory and lung problems, and continued exposure increases cancer risks.

Since this is a popular chemical used in tires, you should always assume that it’s present in your tires. It’s not ideal to have vegetables growing near this substance, which explains why you should avoid using tires as planters.


When people think of antioxidants, they usually think of fruits or supplements. There’s no doubt that antioxidants are essential for health, but excessive amounts can cause severe health problems (including death). 

Since tires contain high amounts of antioxidants, they should be considered unsafe for growing vegetables or any edible plants. Although it’s not guaranteed that your vegetables will be affected, it’s safer to assume they might be.


Phthalates are often present in tires and can cause a variety of health problems in humans. These issues include:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Lung damage
  • Reproductive damage

As you can imagine, they can be highly problematic, so it’s always best to avoid products that may contain phthalates (especially if you want to grow edible vegetables). 

Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Exposure to PAHs over long periods can increase the risk of cancer. And it’s not just one type of cancer—a few different types are associated with it, including: 

  • Skin cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer

Since these chemicals are found in tires, it’s not the best idea to place soil and vegetables in them. Again, it’s not certain that you’ll experience adverse health effects from using an old tire for growing vegetables. But it’s always good to be cautious and understand all the potential risks.

Keeping Tires in the Sun

If tires are constantly exposed to the sun’s heat, they are more likely to release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. But if you use them to grow vegetables and keep them in the sun, they will be more likely to release those chemicals directly into the soil and possibly your crops.

Another crucial thing to consider is a heat explosion. When you’re growing vegetables, it’s likely that you’ll need to grow them in full sun. This means you’ll need to keep your tires in full sun, too. But keeping tires in direct sunlight for extended periods creates pressure and can cause the tire to explode.

As you can imagine, this would be highly dangerous if anyone happened to be nearby as the explosion occurred. Because of that, you should keep any tires in the shade if you plan on using them for growing vegetables.

Alternatives for Old Tires in the Garden

Luckily, there are some safer alternatives for old tires that you can use in the garden. Since the safety of using tires for growing vegetables hasn’t been studied much, it’s better to use alternatives that come with little to no risks.  

Below, I’ll discuss some useful things you can use to grow your vegetables.

Raised Beds

Raised beds are some of the most popular planters used to grow vegetables and plants. They come in a variety of sizes, depending on what you need. 

If you have the time and expertise, you can make your own raised beds using wood or other easily available materials.

Alternatively, you can buy pre-made ones that you can place in your garden. Since raised beds are made from non-toxic materials (wood and concrete, for example), they’re safe to use for growing vegetables.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about being exposed to harmful chemicals daily. 

Raised beds can be only a few inches off the ground or much higher up. Once it’s ready, you can place the soil inside and plant your vegetables. It’s an efficient and straightforward way to grow many kinds of crops.


You could also try to grow your vegetables in pots. These are excellent if you don’t have a lot of space or you’re looking for a safer and more efficient alternative to tires. Of course, there isn’t a lot of space in pots, so you may have to use multiple ones to get your desired growth.

It’s also essential to ensure your pots have drainage holes at the bottom—the last thing you want to deal with is root rot!


You may want to use a tire for growing your vegetables because you find it challenging to grow them directly in the soil. But it’s worth a try to prepare the soil as best as you can and plant your vegetables directly in the ground. 

This is the most basic (and cheapest) method of growing plants and vegetables, so it’s certainly worth trying. 

Square Foot Gardening

If you want to grow different kinds of vegetables and feel like you don’t have a lot of space, you could consider square foot gardening. So what exactly does square foot gardening entail?  

Square foot gardening entails using a raised bed with lots of grid-like sections. You can plant a unique type of vegetable in each grid. This gives you the chance to grow various vegetables in a small space neatly, which is a lot safer than using a tire.

You can create the raised bed and grid using wood. 

If you make your own raised bed out of wood, you may want to seal it so that it lasts longer and doesn’t rot too quickly. 

Polyurethane is one sealer you can use, but there are other options you can also consider.  

Growing Vegetables in Tires

If you have no other choice, you may have to plant your vegetables in some old tires as long as you understand all the risks involved and try to make the potting alternative as safe as possible. 

To decrease the chance of chemical contamination, you could place some newspaper (or another kind of paper) around the tire. That way, your crops won’t have direct contact with the material. You could also use plastic, but plastic also contains some chemicals that may be harmful.

Additionally, it would help if you tried to keep any vegetables that you’re growing in tires out of direct sunlight. Keeping them in direct sunlight (especially if the weather is particularly hot) significantly increases the risk of explosion. 

If you have any other way to grow your vegetables (such as using a pot or raised bed), you should try to use that method instead.


Generally, it’s not a good idea to grow vegetables in old tires. Although there haven’t been many studies on this topic, it’s a known fact that there are many harmful chemicals present in tires.

Because of that, it’s possible for the chemicals in tires to seep into the soil and vegetables over time, which can cause health problems to you and others. Some safer alternatives to tires include raised beds and pots. 

If you decide to use a tire to grow your vegetables, try as much as possible to keep it away from direct sunlight. It’s also advisable to use paper or another material around the tire.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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