Best Wood to Make Raised Garden Beds (5 Good Types of Wood)


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If you use raised beds for a vegetable or flower garden, your plants will thrive. A raised garden bed will take care of poor soil, sloping terrain, and lots of other issues. These beds consist of rectangular wooden frames that you can raise to the desired height and then fill with fresh soil. That way, you get a readymade garden bed that doesn’t need tilling or turning.

Another advantage of having raised garden beds is that you can place them on raised platforms for better access to older adults. Although these frames come in a variety of materials, wood is the most commonly used one.

Organic vegetables planted on raised garden beds
Organic vegetables planted on raised garden beds (Image: Local Food Initiative)

Raised garden beds are so simple to make that almost anyone can knock them together. However, you need to use suitable wood for making the frames. Here are some of the best woods to build garden beds:

Best Wood To Make Raised Garden Beds

Redwood (Expensive but long-lasting)

GroGardens 2' x 4' x 11" Redwood Raised Garden Bed, Grow Fresh Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers. Chemical Free, All Natural, Organic Raised Garden Bed, Tool-Free, No Tools Required.
Redwood Raised Garden Bed. (Amazon)

This wood makes perfect raised garden beds. The main reason is that redwood Is naturally rot-resistant. Hence, you can use redwood without having to treat it or apply any finish. Redwood has been known to last for up to 20 years. The downside of this wood, of course, is its high cost.

Salient Features Of Redwood

  • Appearance: Reddish-brown
  • Durability: Highly-durable even if not treated
  • Hardness: 402 (Janka hardness)
  • Density: 450-850 (103 Kg/M3)
  • Workability: Easy to cut, saw and drill
  • Cost: Quite expensive

Cedar (Moderately costly but long-lasting)

Greenes Fence Cedar Raised Garden Bed, (4 Ft. X 4 Ft. X 10.5 In.)
Cedar Raised Garden Bed. (Amazon)

Here, we have another wood that has a natural resistance to rot. Hence, it will fare well if exposed to damp soil even for years. Cedar is known to last up to 10 to 15 years. Another advantage is that it has good looks. Here again, like redwood, cedar costs more than several other varieties of wood but is cheaper than redwood.

Salient Features Of Cedar

  • Appearance: Color may range from reddish-brown to a pale off-white
  • Durability: Highly durable even without being treated
  • Hardness: 580-1,006 (Janka hardness)
  • Density: 380 (103 Kg/M3)
  • Workability: Easy to cut and drill
  • Cost: Expensive

Douglas Fir (Cost-effective, and relatively durable)

Best Choice Products 8x2ft OutdoorWooden Raised Garden Bed Planter for Grass, Lawn, Yard - Natural
 Douglas Fir Raised Garden Bed. (Amazon)

If you have budget considerations, Douglas fir may be the perfect choice for you. With a fair degree of durability at five to seven years, Douglas fir is also far more affordable than expensive varieties of wood than redwood or cedar.

Salient Features Of Douglas Fir

  • Appearance: Light brown to reddish or yellowish-brown
  • Durability: Some degree of rot resistance but susceptible to insect attack
  • Hardness: 660 (Janka hardness)
  • Density: 0.3 (103 Kg/M3)
  • Workability: Easy to cut and drill but can impact the sharpness of blades
  • Cost: Moderately expensive to reasonably-priced

Black Locust (Another hardwood alternative)

Black Locust (wikimedia.org)

If you are looking for a more robust alternative, you can opt for a hardwood like Black Locust. This wood belongs to North America; hence you can easily get it in the United States. However, the high demand for Black locust has pushed the price up. But, if you are looking for a hardwood that has a natural resistance to rot, you will find this wood quite suitable.

Salient Features Of Black Locust

  • Appearance: Light green to dark brown
  • Durability: Can use without finishing
  • Hardness: 1,700 (Janka hardness)
  • Density: 402 (103 Kg/M3)
  • Workability: A bit hard to work by hand, but machines well
  • Cost: Moderately expensive

White Oak (reasonably-priced hardwood)

Box of 3/4" Thick Boards - White Oak
White Oak (Amazon)

Here is another variety of hardwood that you can use for making raised garden beds. Although white oak lasts longer if oiled or painted, this wood exhibits natural resistance to rot and moisture, untreated. It ages well. However, you need to exercise caution while hammering in nails as it tends to split.

Salient Features Of White Oak

  • Appearance: Light brown to medium brown
  • Durability: Highly durable
  • Hardness: 1,360 (Janka hardness)
  • Density: 770 (103 Kg/M3)
  • Workability: Good finish if machined
  • Cost: Moderately-priced, but some cuts can be expensive

Wood And Raised Garden Beds: FAQs

Chili chives planted in a raised garden bed
Chili chives planted in a raised garden bed (Image: AndreasGoellner)

Having read so much about raised garden beds and their wood, you may have a few questions. With this in mind, here are a few common FAQs regarding wood used for raised garden beds:

Can you use treated wood for raised beds?

There is no simple answer to this question. In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of lumber with added chromate copper arsenate (CCA), due to the copper and arsenic content. If you already have raised beds made of treated wood, you needn’t panic.

Plants normally don’t absorb arsenic unless the soil has a phosphorus deficiency (more info here). You can alleviate this issue through regular composting. Excessive copper will kill a plant.

However, if you are planning on new raised garden beds, avoid using old treated wood (with CCA) to prevent this issue.

How long will untreated wood last in raised beds?

The durability of untreated wood used for raised beds largely depends on the type of wood used. A cedar frame can last up to 10 years, but one made of Douglas fir may last only 5 to 7 years. A redwood raised garden bed, however, can last up to 20 years.

Should you finish untreated wood used for raised beds?

Even natural oils like boiled linseed oil (BLO) contain inorganic additives. Rather than get into the never-ending discussion of what finishes are or aren’t suitable to use, it is better to use untreated wood.

You can select varieties of wood that have a natural resistance to rot and insects. Another good option would be to choose hardwoods. This variety of wood, although relatively more expensive than softwood, has a much longer life expectancy.

How long will pine last in the ground?

How long pinewood lasts in the ground depends on many things like weather, the thickness of the wood, and exposure to direct sunlight. Even in adverse conditions, pinewood can last anywhere from four to six years.

Conclusion

Having read about the advantages of raised garden beds, you will now be motivated to get involved in such projects. You also will be aware of the best wood to make raised garden beds. You need to take care of many things, but with suitable wood, you can create good garden beds which can take your gardening efforts to the next level.

 

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