One of the easiest ways to have a small, successful garden is to plant in raised beds. Raised beds are container boxes often constructed out of wood, and they allow you to grow your garden just about anywhere quickly.
Raised beds help provide the perfect conditions for a small garden. They provide a level surface area for crops. Raised beds allow you to make changes to the soil and use the ideal blend for your selected crops. Building a raised bed is simple once you choose your building material. Wood is one of the most common and affordable options for making raised beds. But all woods aren’t suitable for gardening. Climate, upfront costs, and the lifespan of the wood all play a role in choosing the wood for a raised bed garden.
This article will explore the best woods based on durability, longevity, and affordability. Keep reading to discover which wood is best for your raised bed.
Things to Consider When Choosing Wood for Raised Beds
To get the most out of your raised bed, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Think about how long you want the raised bed to last and the weather the bed will endure over its lifespan. It’s essential to choose a rot-resistant wood, food/soil safe, durable, and sustainable.
Some varieties of wood naturally produce oils that make the wood water-resistant. Cedar, redwood, and yew are all great water-resistant choices. These woods are great for raised beds because they’ll last longer without any additional treatments.
If using a wood that isn’t rot-resistant, there are a couple of non-toxic treatments that can lengthen the wood’s lifespan. Linseed oil is made from flax seeds and is water-resistant. It takes weeks to dry, so allow ample time for the wood to dry after applying linseed oil. Another natural treatment is tung oil. Tung oil dries down to a hard, clear finish and will leave the wood more rot-resistant than linseed oil.
Some wood types, like cedar, redwood, and yew, naturally resist rot due to their oils. Non-resistant woods can be treated with linseed or tung oil for increased durability in raised beds.
A common use for raised beds is growing fruits and vegetables. When planting food, it’s essential to know if the wood used to build the beds is safe for growing these crops. If using treated wood for your raised bed, this is something to consider. Some types of treated wood are okay for raised beds, while others contain toxic chemicals. ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) is the safest option if using treated wood, and it’s a water-based alternative that is both non-toxic and durable. Traditional methods to treat wood often used arsenate. ACQ is considered low risk and is acceptable for crops, humans, and pets. Previous treatment methods like CCA (chromate copper arsenate) used arsenate, and these methods have been banned from household use.
Always know the history of the wood. It’s okay to use recycled wood, but only if you know what it’s been treated with. If you’re unsure if it’s been treated or stained, it’s better to spend a little more to buy wood that you’re sure is food safe.
When growing food in raised beds, ensure wood is safe and non-toxic. ACQ-treated wood is a safe option, while older treatments like CCA are banned. Use recycled wood only if its treatment history is known.
Related: How to start a vegetable garden
Durability is another important quality when selecting wood for raised beds. Some woods will last longer than others. Cedar and redwood are the most durable choices and will last around 10-20 years if left untreated. Pine, fir, juniper, and spruce are less stable, and they’ll survive about 4-7 years. The thickness of the wood used is also essential. When building a raised bed, the wood chosen should be around 1-2 inches thick. The thickness plays a direct role in durability. The thicker the wood, the more wear it can withstand. So for more durability, go with wood two inches thick.
Cedar and redwood are durable choices for raised beds, lasting 10-20 years untreated. Less stable options like pine, fir, juniper, and spruce last 4-7 years. Thicker wood (1-2 inches) offers more durability.
When using natural resources, it’s best to use the most sustainable option. There are a few things you can consider to choose the most sustainable option for you. Locally sourced wood is always a good choice. The further the wood travels, the less sustainable it is, so look for something local. Also, try to use wood that is FSC (Forest Stewardship Certified). The FSC is a non-profit organization focused on ensuring that the world’s forests are appropriately taken care of.
Choose sustainable wood by opting for locally sourced materials and FSC-certified products, which ensure responsible forest management and reduce the environmental impact of wood transportation.
Best Wood for Raised Beds: Options
Now let’s break down the best wood options for raised beds. First, you’ll want to consider how long you want the bed to last. It’s also important to think about how much money you’ll want to spend upfront. These answers will help you choose the best wood for your raised bed. Read on for more details on the best wood options.
Cedar is a popular choice for building raised beds. With a number of excellent qualities, it’s easy to see why. First, cedar is a durable softwood, and it’s denser than pine and absorbs liquid slowly. In addition to being water-resistant, cedar also produces oils that repel insects. So, no need to worry about termites with cedar. Cedar is also aesthetically pleasing. The wood can range in color from pale pink to dark brown. This strong wood will hold up against the weight of the soil with minimal bowing, and you can expect a bed made out of cedar to last 10-15 years.
Redwood is the superior choice when it comes to building raised beds. This wood is naturally rot and insect resistant like cedar but has the upper hand when it comes to strength and durability. These qualities mean it comes with the steepest price tag, though. The increased price is due to the fact that redwood is a more limited resource and its strength. A bed made out of redwood will last anywhere up to 20 years. And this super-strong wood comes in reddish brown shades that age beautifully.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, pine is the best choice. It’s reasonably priced and easy to find in lumber and hardware stores. Keep in mind that pine is less durable than cedar and redwood, so pine beds will need to be replaced more often. The lifespan of pine is shorter because the wood isn’t resistant to water or insects. You can expect pine to begin to warp and rots after 3-5 years. In order to extend the lifespan, treat the wood with either linseed or tung oil.
A little more durable than pine, Cypress is another option suitable for raised beds. It’s similar in appearance to cedar, so it’ll make an attractive raised bed. It’s cheaper than cedar but would need to be replaced more often. Cypress has some water and insect resistance, but not enough to overpower constant contact with moist soil. The lifespan of a raised bed made of Cypress is about 5-7 years.
Another affordable option is Douglas Fir. As you might expect, this cheaper price tag comes with a shorter lifespan, and fir will last around 5-7 years. Using fir could also come with bug problems as this wood is a favorite for termites. Douglas Fir doesn’t fare well with constant moisture. It’s a good idea to treat with linseed or tung oil to extend the lifespan of your raised bed.
Hardwoods like White Oak, Black Walnut, and Black Locust are also great options for raised beds. They’re denser, which makes them pretty durable. The denser the wood, the slower it absorbs moisture. You can expect a bed made out of hardwood to last around ten years. They’re more expensive than pine but less than Cedar and Redwood.
A raised bed is an attractive way to solve many gardening problems and an easy way to create the perfect gardening area, even in small spaces. Wood is the most inexpensive way to make a raised bed with a number of options to suit any gardener’s needs. If you have any questions about building your own raised bed, feel free to ask in the comments below. And don’t forget to share this with your gardening friends on social media.