If you are looking for an alternative to cheap raised garden beds, wood is a great option. This is a common question among the health-conscious people who want to take charge of their nutrition. How do you plant your food and eat healthy in cramped city spaces or where erosion and weeds make a traditional garden a nightmare? A raised garden bed is the short and simple answer. However, for many people who want to make their own raised garden beds, one common challenge is the choice of wood to use for the bed.
So what is the best wood to use for my raised garden bed? Naturally rot-resistant and dense wood such as cedar, juniper, redwood, and black locust are some of the best materials to use when constructing a raised garden bed. Before choosing a particular wood, it is important to know the distinctive features of the wood and its effect on the longevity of the garden bed and the productivity of your plants.
If your goal is to plant your fruits and vegetables so you can enjoy a natural and fully organic diet, a DIY raised garden bed is not only a great idea but a cost-effective way of feeding. Raised garden beds are not only for city dwellers. The beds are an effective strategy for weed, pest, and erosion control. The big problem is that many new gardeners are at a loss when it’s time to choose the wood to make a raised garden bed. Don’t worry. In this piece, you will learn all there is to know about the different wood species you can use to make a raised garden bed, the qualities to look out for, what to avoid, and more.
The Best Woods to Use for a Raised Garden Bed
The best wood to use for a raised garden bed is a durable, locally sourced wood from responsibly managed sources. Wood is an excellent choice for raised garden beds because it’s affordable and readily available. Here are some wood species to choose from.
Cedar: This wood is naturally rot-resistant and the Western Red Cedar can last for over 20 years. Cedar has a beautiful appearance that will add flair to your garden. It is also easy to paint or stain and you can get the wood from sustainable tree farms although most of it is imported. The downside is that cedar is expensive than most other tree species.
Redwood and Black Locust: These dense woods have a natural defense against rot and will continue to serve you for over two decades. Both kinds of wood also make for a beautiful vegetable garden and stylish. Plus, they are chemical-free. However, these trees come at a premium. If you plan to buy redwood or black locust, prepare to spend upwards of 3-4 times the price of cheaper alternatives.
Juniper: if you love your wood long-lasting and rustic, juniper is an excellent choice. This wood can last for over 50 years and it’s affordable. The wood will make for a nice contrast in modern gardens. However, the species moves which makes it unsuitable if you plan to install a vertical garden bed.
Douglas Fir: Douglas Fir offers modest longevity of 5-7 years, but they are the least expensive. If you plan to move in a few years’ time, the species may be the right pick for your raised garden bed.
Wood species such as Yew, Black Walnut, White Oak, Spruce, and Pine are also suitable for making raised garden beds. However, cedar, juniper, redwood, and black locust are the best choice if you can afford them.
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Wood to Build Your Raised Garden Bed
Selecting the right wood for your raised garden requires more than knowing the names of the best wood species. There are other vital factors to consider for maximum value from your purchase. The following are factors to consider before picking a specific wood species.
Local and Sustainable: Why buy wood from unsustainable sources to pursue a sustainable and eco-friendly objective? Locally sourced wood from tree farms or forests under sustainable management are the best choice of wood. Not only is this cheaper, but you will also help to protect and conserve environmental resources. Wood from clear-cutting forests might be stronger and more durable, but they do more damage to the ecosystem.
Rot-Resistant and Durability: The climatic condition of your area will determine how long your raised beds will last. But you can increase the longevity of the beds by buying naturally rot-resistant wood species. Species such as cedar, juniper, redwood, black locust, and other dense woods can deliver upwards of 10 years of service or more.
FCS Certification: The Forest Stewardship Council, otherwise known as the FSC issues certifications for trees sourced from sustainably managed forests. By all means, try to buy wood that is FSC-certified, especially if you are buying imported lumber.
Wood Treatment: When using a treated wood, make sure the chemical treatment will not compromise your garden. Check and double-check to rule out any chemical that can contaminate the food you grow in your garden. The following are the wood treatment methods that regulators accept.
- Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ)
- Micronized Copper Quaternary (MCQ)
- Copper Azole (CA)
- Sodium Borate (SBX)
Don’t use wood treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) as there is a fear that the plants will uptake the arsenate which is a harmful metal. Manufacturers don’t use CCA for wood preservation anymore but it’s advisable to check if you are using old wood. Also, avoid using pressure-treated wood and reclaimed wood if you are not sure of the origin of the wood.
It is always safer and better to use untreated wood for your raised garden, but this may not always be possible. If you will use treated wood, make sure the substance poses none harm to your food and the environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it OK to Use Pressure Treated Wood in a Vegetable Garden?
Yes, but it depends on the pressure treatment. For many decades, gardeners relied on the longevity of pressure-treated wood to make durable and long-lasting raised beds and posts. The compound of choice for pressure-treating wood was Chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Manufacturers claimed the compound could not leach into the soil and plants cannot uptake CCA, making it safe and healthy. However, there were rumors that CCA was not as safe as the arsenic in the compound leached into the soil. This led the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the sale of wood treated with the compound on the last day of December 2003. The ban and the concerns of people who use lumber treated with CCA led to the voluntary discontinuation of using the compound for treating wood for residential use. Now there is copper-based pressure-treated lumber which is considered safe for plants and humans and suitable for gardens.
The new compounds used for treating wood include Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ), Micronized Copper Quaternary (MCQ), Copper Azole (CA), and Sodium Borate (SBX). According to agricultural experts, compounds such as ACQ and MCQ are safer and have an insecticidal and fungicidal effect. The University of Washington Professor research assistant professor Sally Brown noted that people who use CCA-treated wood need not panic because plants will only take up the metal if they have a phosphorus deficiency. As long as you use plenty of compost, this will not be a problem. She adds that the risk associated with copper-based treatment is also negligible. This is because plants that take up excessive copper will die before maturity. Plus, the amount of metal that a plant can take up is too minimal to cause any adverse effect on humans.
Raised Bed Garden Designs
Raised bed gardens are not only functional but can also be aesthetic with the right design. Here are lovely raised garden designs worth considering.
Built-in Raised Bed Gardens: These garden beds are built into the structure of your home. They can be made of lumber, brick, cement, and other suitable materials. You will find these on the patio of many homes.
Square Foot Raised Beds: This design offers an improved garden layout, boosts soil aeration and drainage, and increases yield.
Spiral Garden Beds: Popularly used in permaculture, spiral gardens take the shape of a spiral and are usually made of stone, soil, brick or wood.
Raised Bed Border: If you have steep slopes on your property, a raised bed border garden offers the balance you need for normal soil and air circulation in the root region.
Are you planning to install a raised garden bed? What wood species do you plan on using for the bed?