Beginner’s Guide to the Xeriscaping Revolution

Tires-Easy Just For Fun, Lawn and Garden tires

How used tires are being used for landscaping – rubber mulch, paths, retaining walls:

As the need to conserve water grows, so does the popularity of xeriscaping. With xeriscaping, you can reuse old tires in creative ways. This is in keeping with the spirit of conservation and sustainability that characterizes xeriscaping as a practice.

Above all, xeriscaping is an environmentally sound landscaping method that replaces costly and water-consuming grasses with plants native to your environment. These plants require very little water compared to lawns, and they’re gorgeous. Rocks, bark, and pathways fill out the space between plants. Old tires complement the space, too.

Ready to learn what it takes to xeriscape your space? You can either do it yourself or hire a professional. This mini-guide provides an overview of best practices and equipment, so you can make the decision for yourself.

Natural Design Best Practices

xeriscaping and tiresXeriscaping is about coming close to nature in the same way a landscape painter imitates the appearance of a scene. Fortunately, you don’t have to be versed in specialized techniques like you do with painting. You just have to have a reasonable appreciation of your native environment.

Award-winning co-author of Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change, Larry Weaner identifies the elements of natural design:

  • Appreciate the beauty of nature: Study a landscape, such as an old field, and note the diversity of plants that makes it beautiful
  • Prioritize native growth: If there are any pre-existing native plants in your yard, think about how you can incorporate them in your design
  • Think about authenticity: You can either emulate the native landscape as much as possible, or choose layout and plants based more on aesthetics
  • Think woodlands, open spaces, transitions: Even on a small property, allocating open areas and gracefully transitioning into areas with trees will create the illusion of space
  • Study native plant communities: Natural design is best when it mirrors the way native plant communities interact
  • Plan for natural forces: Note the natural landscapes in your area that hold up well over time, but be aware you’ll need to be flexible for continuing change
  • Fill it up: Wherever you don’t need paths, plant plants or put down rocks, because otherwise something (weeds) will grow there
  • Retain water: Ponds, irrigation catchments, porous paving surfaces, bog gardens, and water-tolerant plants in low, wet areas will all help you take maximum advantage of rainfall
  • Plant alternative lawns: Instead of grass monoculture, plant creeping broadleaf plants, drought and disease-resistant grass cultivars, or native grass species
  • Avoid invasive exotics: Although sometimes popular, exotic, non-native plants can destroy biodiversity

Sound like a lot to consider? Mastering natural design can be the pursuit of a lifetime. Thankfully, you’ll do well by keeping the elements of natural design as basic pointers during your xeriscaping journey. Next, you’ll want to consider tools for the job.


xeriscaping and tires

Here are some of the tools you’ll need:

Graph paper and pencil: For diagramming the yard; label distances between structures

Sun chart: Record how long each section of your space gets sun throughout a normal summer day

Wheelbarrow: For carting materials; you’ll be doing a lot of this, so check out this guide on repairing wheelbarrow tires when you need to, or buy cheap wheelbarrow tires to replace irreparable tires

Hand tools: You’ll need to break up the soil for planting, and you’ll need pruning shears later on

Mulch and compost: An inch or two of compost integrated six inches below the surface will help with water retention in arid zones; about three inches of mulch on top of soil will limit weed growth and moderate soil temp

Trailer: If you’re going to be doing a lot of xeriscaping, you’ll need a trailer for hauling materials; make sure trailer tires are in good shape

One of the great things about xeriscaping is that power tools are optional. You may want a hedge trimmer for shrubs and a mower for grassy spaces, but other than that you can do trimming by hand.

Tires and Xeriscaping


xeriscaping and tiresDo you have any worn-out tires in need of a home? Xeriscaping provides the perfect opportunity to reuse them. Tires inevitably wear out, and when you replace them, there’s a disposal fee. Sending tires to the recycling plant requires energy, and if they don’t get recycled, 11 percent end up in landfills. Upcycling your tires saves you the disposal fee, cuts down on energy usage, and keeps them from wasting space in landfills.

Here are some great ways to include tires in your xeriscaping:

  • Use them as planters: You can make a fantastic raised garden, just be aware you’ll have to use power tools and a sharp knife
  • Make rubber mulch: This helps the ground retain moisture and keeps weeds from growing; you can do it yourself in 6 steps
  • Make retaining walls: If you have any sharply sloping areas where you’re xeriscaping, a retaining wall will hold soil and maintain the integrity of the slope; architect Ken Anderson uses tires to make retaining walls up to 25 feet high
  • Make tire swings
  • Make hanging flower containers
  • Make paths: Tire rubber makes for a porous surface that is flexible for tree roots, non-slip, and easy on the feet; check for a rubber pathway manufacturer in your area

There are so many ways to upcycle tires, so use your imagination. Tires are good for xeriscaping because rubber is resilient. It can corral soil, hold up for a long time as mulch, and let water through while maintaining consistency and strength.

The Environment Will Thank You

The key to effective xeriscaping is grouping drought-resistant plants in arid zones and plants that require more water in oasis zones. In transition zones, choose plants that don’t require a ton of water but require more than arid zone plants. Follow the natural design best practices throughout.

You’ll be strategically turning your space into a well-arranged garden that mimics the way plants grow in your native environment. Xeriscaped lawns are vibrant, healthy, and they conserve water, along with limiting the use of fossil fuels. That’s a win-win for you and the environment. For a step-by-step guide, check out the Wiki on xeriscaping.

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