Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:57 pm
It’s a common question among health-conscious people who want to take charge of their nutrition. How do you plant your food and eat healthy in tight 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, a common challenge is choosing which wood to use for the bed.
So what is the best wood to use for my raised garden bed?
Naturally rot-proof and dense wood such as cedar, juniper, redwood and black locust are some of the best materials to use when building a raised garden bed. Before choosing a particular wood, it is important to know the distinctive characteristics of the wood and their 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 that you can enjoy a natural, all-organic diet, a raised garden is not only a great idea, but a cost-effective way to feed yourself. Raised beds are not just for city dwellers. Beds are an effective strategy for weed, pest and erosion control. The big problem is that many new gardeners are lost when it comes to choosing wood to make a raised garden bed. Not to worry. In this piece, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the different types of wood you can use to make a raised garden bed, what qualities to look 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 locally sourced, sustainable wood from responsibly managed sources. Wood is an excellent choice for raised garden beds because it is affordable and readily available. Here are some of the wood species to choose from.
Cedar: This wood is naturally rot-proof and western red cedar can last for over 20 years. Cedar has a beautiful appearance that will add style to your garden. It is also easy to paint or stain and you can get the wood from sustainable tree farms, even if most of it is imported. The downside is that cedar is more expensive than most other tree species.
Sequoia and Black Locust: These dense woods have a natural defense against decay and will continue to serve you for over two decades. Both woods are also beautiful and elegant. Plus, they are chemical-free. However, these trees do have a premium. If you’re considering redwood or black locust, be prepared to spend up to 3 to 4 times the price of cheaper alternatives.
Juniper: If you like your wood durable and rustic, juniper is a great choice. This wood can last over 50 years and it’s affordable. The wood will make a nice contrast in modern gardens. However, the species shifts, making it unsuitable if you plan to install a vertical garden bed.
Douglas Fir: Douglas Fir offers a modest longevity of 5 to 7 years, but they are the least expensive. If you plan to move in a few years, the species may be the right choice 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 it
Factors to consider when choosing a wood to build your raised garden bed
Choosing the right wood for your raised garden bed requires more than knowing the names of the best wood species. There are other essential factors to consider for maximum value from your purchase. Here are the factors to consider before choosing a specific wood species.
Local and sustainable: Why buy wood from unsustainable sources to pursue a sustainable and environmentally friendly goal? Locally sourced wood from tree farms or sustainably managed forests is the best wood choice. Not only is it less expensive, but you’ll also be helping to protect and conserve environmental resources. Wood from clear-cut forests may be stronger and more durable, but it does more damage to the ecosystem.
Decay resistant and durable: the climatic conditions in your area will determine how long your raised beds will last. But you can increase the longevity of the beds by purchasing naturally rot-resistant wood species. Species such as cedar, juniper, redwood, black locust and other dense woods can provide 10+ years of service.
FCS Certification: The Forest Stewardship Council, otherwise known as FSC, issues certifications for trees from sustainably managed forests. By all means, try to buy FSC-certified wood, especially if you are buying imported wood.
Wood treatment: When using treated wood, make sure the chemical treatment will not compromise your garden. Check and double check to exclude any chemicals that may contaminate the food you grow in your garden. The following are methods of treating wood that are accepted by regulatory agencies.
- Alkaline quaternary copper (ACQ)
- Micronized quaternary copper (MCQ)
- Copper azole (CA)
- Sodium Borate (SBX)
Do not use wood treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) as there is a concern that plants will absorb the arsenate which is a harmful metal. Manufacturers no longer use CCA for wood preservation, but it is advisable to check if you are using old wood. Also, avoid using pressure-treated and reclaimed wood if you are not sure of the origin of the wood.
It is always safer and preferable to use untreated wood for your raised garden, but this is not always possible. If you do use treated wood, make sure the substance does not harm your food or the environment.
Can pressure treated wood be used in a vegetable garden?
Yes, but it depends on the pressure treatment. For many decades, gardeners have relied on the longevity of pressure-treated wood to make durable, long-lasting raised beds and posts. The compound of choice for pressure treating wood was chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Manufacturers claimed that the compound could not leach into the soil and that plants could not absorb the CCA, making it safe and healthy. However, there were rumors that CCA was not safe because 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 CCA-treated wood led to a voluntary halt in the use of the compound to treat wood for residential use. Copper-based pressure-treated wood is now available that is considered safe for plants and humans and suitable for gardens.
New compounds used for wood treatment 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. University of Washington assistant research professor Sally Brown noted that people who use CCA-treated wood don’t need to panic because plants will only absorb the metal if they are phosphorus deficient. As long as you use lots of compost, it won’t be a problem. She adds that the risk associated with the copper treatment is also negligible. Plants that absorb too much copper will die before they mature. Also, the amount of metal a plant can absorb is too small to cause any adverse effects on humans.
Raised Garden Designs
Raised gardens are not only functional, but can also be aesthetically pleasing with the right design. Here are some beautiful raised garden designs worth looking into.
Built-in raised gardens: These garden beds are integrated into the structure of your home. They can be made of wood, brick, cement and other suitable materials. You will find them on the patio of many homes.
Square foot raised beds: This design offers an improved garden layout, stimulates aeration and soil drainage and increases yield.
Spiral Garden Beds: Popularly used in permaculture, spiral gardens are shaped like a spiral and are usually made of stone, earth, brick or wood.
Raised bed border: If you have steep slopes on your property, a raised bed border garden provides the balance you need for normal soil and air circulation in the root zone.
Are you considering installing a raised garden bed? What types of wood do you plan to use for the bed?