The Q&A Archives: Pressure treated wood and vegetable gardens

Question: We just built 2 raised beds for growing vegetables (8'L X5'W X1' D) using ACQ pressure treated lumber because we have a lot of termite problems in our area (Los Angeles). We read in a gardening book that it may be hazardous to use ACA pressure treated lumber in the vicinity of growing vegetables. We also added Jasco Termin-8 Wood preservative to the ends of the wood that had been exposed due to cutting the wood for the beds. Have we just built garden beds in which we cannot grow edible plants?? Please help.

Answer: There are two sides to the story concerning the safety of pressure treated wood in gardens. One says such products are safe, and cites studies showing little or no leaching of arsenate for years. The other side has it's own studies and says heavy metals and toxins do leach at dangerous levels. So, I err on the cautious side and recommend gardeners not use pressure-treated wood, especially for food plants. Try cedar, redwood, hemlock, plastic wood or cement blocks as alternatives. If you already have the wood and want to use it, line the inside of the planter with plastic to reduce the risk of the chemicals leaching into the soil, then fill with the topsoil of your choice.

I'd go a step further and not plant root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes or radishes close to the edges of the beds. Above-ground veggies should be just fine. So as not to waste space, I plant sturdy annuals such as marigolds along the edges of my raised beds - it's attractive and will sometimes keep insects at bay.

Hope you have a bountiful harvest!

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