What do tires, troughs and wood palettes have in common? You can grow plants in them.
For the second year, the Noble Research Institute held a workshop focusing on how to grow food in environments where space is scarce by using the right planters, soil and irrigation, even if the end product looks a bit unusual for a backyard garden. Steve Upson, a horticulture specialist with the Noble Research Institute, led groups of visitors through rows planters, some of which were designed by the institute.  
“Our goal here is to demonstrate all these different types of containers and or raised bed apparatuses and systems,” Upson said. “Not only for us, but to let you see what they look like in the real world.”
Upson covered the longevity and cost of wood versus metal, plastic versus cement blocks and vinyl versus rubber as he outlined the different kits, materials and different building methods.
“All of these give you the opportunity to garden where you don’t have soil or you have limited space,” Upson said.
Some designs involved repurposing other equipment, like a plastic bottomed steel feed bunk converted into a container.
“A lot of people are using this technique, the problem is it’s fairly lowland it’s not very deep, so you’ve got to watch your watering on this,” Upson said. “It doesn’t have much capacity, so it dries out.”
He said a steel water trough is another option along those lines but would need to be treated to avoid rust. Using straw bale as a planter is a popular option, because they’re affordable, resistant to weeds and break down into compost over time. In another part of the garden, a section of lateral septic line was converted into a planter with a frame.
“In a bed, the medium has contact with the soil, so roots can go right into the existing soil,” Upson said. “A container really has a bottom and you really have to be careful what kind of mix you put in it. A container needs a loose mix, a raised bed can have garden soil in it.”  
Several planters were made from wooden pallets, another abundant and cheap material.
“This is cool,” Upson said. “Now, it’s wood, it’s going to splinter, but you could coat that before you put the liner in there.”
Upson lead the group through a series of planters made from recycled tires. Instructions for recreating them are available on the Noble Research Institute website.
“We’ve been recommending people use tires to grow in for years,” Upson said. “We were looking for something that was strong, cheap and had a real service life, and tires are around forever. Why not just use them any way we can?”
Leon Sloan with Leon’s Kingston Greenhouses also addressed the group, giving instructions for converting buckets into planters.
“That is a bucket you can grow anything in,” Sloan said, gesturing to the 5 gallon bucket at his feet.
The process involves drilling a single hole on the side of the bucket, then placing a second, smaller bucket inside the first.
“You can Google ‘self-wicking buckets’ on Youtube and you’ll find hundreds of people showing you how to build them,” Sloan said. “This is no secret. I like to repurpose anything I can.”