Lumber for Raised Bed Vegetable Garden - Knowledgebase Question

Baltimore, Ma
Question by rusinga04
January 29, 2010
Hi My name is Robert and we are starting a community school garden and have been overwhelemed with the debate over what type of wood to build a raised vegetable garden with. Our soil has been tested and is free of lead. We are in Baltimore city and are on a budget. Thanks in advance.

Answer from NGA
January 29, 2010


You're in good company! The debate is still on as to the danger of using pressure treated wood in the garden. While little leaches out of intact timbers in a garden, some gardeners prefer to avoid it. The same is true for old railroad ties. Non treated woods will decay so fast that they are not worth the time and money. You may be able to extend the life of the wood by treating it with linseed oil. It's food grade and acceptable to organic gardeners. It's a treatment you'll need to repeat every two or three years. There are other woods that work well and resist decay, but may be very expensive. These include cedar, redwood and cypress. Another option if you want to use treated wood, is to line the bed walls with a thick plastic sheeting to prevent the roots and soil from contacting the treated wood. Other materials you might use to build a raised bed include cinder blocks, decorative stone, and preformed retaining wall stones sold by home improvement centers. Then again, you could just use a non-bordered raised bed and count on doing some occasional work to keep them maintained as erosion wears them down. I'm sure I didn't solve the debate but I hope you find the information useful. As for materials, quite often you can get donations, especially if it is a community or school garden. Check with local lumber or home improvement stores. Sometimes they have wood that is aged and better suited to garden use than home building. You never know! Best wishes with your new garden!

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