Most people have no use for worn-out tires, grass clippings from the lawnmower, cracked-up cement from an old patio, etc.

Most people have no use for worn-out tires, grass clippings from the lawnmower, cracked-up cement from an old patio, etc.
“So many people, when something has been used for its normal purpose, they just throw it away,” said Don Thompson, rural Pittsburg. “We believe in reusing and re-purposing things. I’ll take stuff, even if I don’t know yet what I’ll use it for. Then, when I do have a project for it, I’ll just take it off the pile.”
“We use the grass clippings to keep weeds down between our planting beds,” said his wife, Pam Thompson.
The tires become raised beds for plants.
“I cut the side walls out of the tires and put them around the tomatoes,” Thompson said. “I think I’ll put some around the trees, too, to keep the weeds away from there.”
Old glass windows or doors are also prized items.
“When I first started this garden, I used a lot of windows,” said Mrs. Thompson, pointing to hinged glass doors over a planting bed. “I have tomatoes, peppers and some carrots there in their own little greenhouse. The glass does make a difference — it keeps in the heat and the condensation helps with moisture.”
The Thompson garden also currently includes snap peas, green onions and lettuce, as well as strawberries and spinach.
“I’m growing some cilantro for salsa, and it’s doing pretty well,” Mrs. Thompson said. “I’ve got potatoes already blooming.”
She’s also planted blackberries and blueberries to go along with the strawberries.
But recent heavy rains have caused them problems.
“It’s been a slow season because of the rain,” Thompson said. “We had a big area tilled up and planted. We thought we’d done good because we got it in ahead of the rain, but we lost about half of it.”
“We spent $6 on some corn from Iowa that’s supposed to be super-sweet, but I think only one little seed grew,” Mrs. Thompson said.
“We need to put more tire beds in,” her husband said. “The water can’t stay in them because of that big hole in the middle.”
He is property manager at the First Christian Church, and noted that the rain has also been causing problems for the community garden that has been started behind the church.
“The garden has just been tilled, and it may not do too well this year,” he said. “But I think it will get better and better each year.”
The Thompson family moved to  Pittsburg four years ago from Minnesota, partly because it was just too cold to spend much time outdoors or have much of a garden there.
“It took us a year to thaw out,” Mrs. Thompson said. “But we did have some amazing raspberries in Minnesota.”
“We went from having a quarter of an acre there to three acres here,” her husband added.
Mrs. Thompson said she and her husband both come from gardening families.
“Don’s mother always had a good garden in Arkansas, despite all the rocks, and it helped feed their five kids,” she said.
Having fresh, healthy vegetables and berries is one good reason for their garden, but not the only one. 
“We try to teach our kids where things come from and how precious they are,” Mrs. Thompson said. “I don’t think people teach these basics enough.”
She and her husband have two sons who served in the U.S. Army, One is now home and attending Labette Community College, and the other is still serving in Baghdad. Their two younger children attend school in Cherokee.
“We do not have cable TV and our kids don’t have game boxes,” Mrs. Thompson said. “We have too many luxuries today, and the kids miss a lot.”
“If the economy gets worse, the garden might become more than just a hobby,” her husband added.
Mrs. Thompson is employed by Southeast Kansas Interlocal No. 637 in an early intervention classroom. Her husband is an electronics engineer.
“I’ve got three or four patents filed from previous jobs,” Thompson said. “I’m always coming up with new ways  to do things.”
Right now he’s adding a gardening shed to his garage and plans to enlarge a low spot by the driveway — which has a basis of broken cement from old patios — and turn it into a small pond. Right now the low spot, which accumulates rain water, is full of tadpoles, and Thompson will probably add some fish as well.
“Everything at our place is a work in progress,” Mrs. Thompson said.