The Q&A Archives: Building a boxed garden

Question: Locally, there are alot of RailRoad beams/ties stacked up - UNUSED.

Can I use these RR beams to build a couple of 3'x6' (3'high) garden boxes w/o damage to the plants (since the R/R beams are coated with something - possibly an chemical that prevents rot or fire).

Answer: Railroad ties are treated with creosote which isn't the best chemical to put in your yard. While the wood won't rot for decades, the substance can leach out into the soil so I wouldn't recommend using them to build planter boxes. Instead, use concrete blocks or bricks for a permanent structure, or untreated landscape timbers such as redwood or cedar which are naturally rot resistant and will last longer than softer woods. Good luck with your new planter boxes.

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