The Q&A Archives: Treated Wood and Fruit-Vegetable Gardens

Question: I heard treated wood is safe now for raised garden beds that have fruits or vegetables growing in them. I would like to know if that is the case as I would like to grow tomatoes, green peppers and strawberries. If not what is an alternative that is inexpensive?

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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