Lumber used in raised garden beds - Knowledgebase Question

Lees Summit, Mi
Question by SharCarl
November 19, 2009
Is it OK to use treated lumber for raised garden beds. (Cedar is too expensive) How long would untreated lumber last?


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Answer from NGA
November 19, 2009

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Pressure treated lumber is fine for ornamental beds but I would avoid using it for vegetable garden beds. There are two sides to the story concerning the safety of pressure treated wood in food 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 this answers your question.

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