Raised garden beds are frames that come in a variety of materials, wood being the most commonly used one.
Raised garden beds for a vegetable or flower garden, helps plants thrive. They take care of poor soil, sloping terrain, and many other issues. A raised garden bed is a rectangular wooden frame that you fill with fresh soil. It results in a ready-made garden bed that doesn’t need tilling or turning.
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)
This wood makes perfect raised garden beds. The main reason is that redwood is naturally rot-resistant. Therefore, 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 lbf. (Janka hardness)
- Density: 450-850 (103 Kg/M3)
- Workability: Easy to cut, saw, and drill
- Cost: Quite expensive
Cedar (Moderately costly but long-lasting)
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 lbf. (Janka hardness)
- Density: 380 (103 Kg/M3)
- Workability: Easy to cut and drill
- Cost: Moderately expensive
Douglas Fir (Cost-effective, and relatively durable)
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 lbf. (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)
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 lbf. (103 Kg/M3)
- Workability: A bit hard to work by hand, but machines well
- Cost: Moderately expensive
White Oak (reasonably-priced hardwood)
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 lbf. (Janka hardness)
- Density: 770 (103 Kg/M3)
- Workability: Good finish if machined
- Cost: Moderately-priced, but some cuts can be expensive
Factors to Consider for Making Wooden Raised Garden Beds
If you plan to make wooden raised beds, here are a few things you could consider before procuring your wood:
As a responsible woodworker, you should procure wood that is grown and harvested sustainably. Buying FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood, ensures that your wood is sustainable.
Buy wood that is locally available. It adds to the convenience of the project, and at the same time serves as a cost-effective solution.
Avoid treated wood that may contain harmful chemicals and contaminate your plants. It is especially important if you plan to grow vegetables in your raised beds.
Ensure that the types of wood you choose are durable and suitable for outdoor use. The woods that we have described here are some of the best, but you can find other alternative types of wood in the market, now that you know what to look for.
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.
Wood And Raised Garden Beds: FAQs
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. However, 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 like discarded railway ties (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.
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