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Hi folks!
We have had a few warm days, so I am trying to get everything together for my vegetable garden. I am going to try raised beds this time. My parents have some old RR crossties that I can use, but my wife has read that the chemicals used to treat them can cause soil contamination. I have heard of this using treated lumber because of the arsenic contamination. The crossties are old and cracked, but would make good borders. All of the crissole used to treat them appears to have been worn off for some time. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated as always. Thanks. GOR
 

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goodoldreb said:
Hi folks!
We have had a few warm days, so I am trying to get everything together for my vegetable garden. I am going to try raised beds this time. My parents have some old RR crossties that I can use, but my wife has read that the chemicals used to treat them can cause soil contamination. I have heard of this using treated lumber because of the arsenic contamination. The crossties are old and cracked, but would make good borders. All of the crissole used to treat them appears to have been worn off for some time. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated as always. Thanks. GOR
I have used railroad ties around my beds all the time. We used them to border my moms raised garden, around flower beds, strawberries etc. They work great, dont rot for LONG LONG time, and if there is any soil contamination the plants dont seem to mind and we havent died yet or glow in the dark from it. I say USE EM :)
 

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I wouldn't use them for anything you're going to eat. We just built some raised beds ourselves, and used plain, untreated pine, 2 x 12's 8 feet long. I know they'll likely only last a few years, but they're very inexpensive, and you can just take the old rotted boards off and replace with a new one right in place.
 

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We can't afford the wood this year for both the deer fence and the raised beds, so we are building our raised beds in cardboard boxes. Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have chipped away at it, and can surround the composting cardboard with wood. We've used railroad ties at previous locations, but it really makes me nervous. The last time out, we encased them with black plastic mulch. That worked, until the neighbors cat started clawing around there :no:
 

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My wooden boxes are 15 years old and show little or no signs of wear.

Attach a layer of heavy plastic to the inside edges of the boxes to cover the wood. This will protect the soil from whatever kind of wood you use and protect the wood from the soil. I fold the top edge of the plastic over bender board or plastic boarder edging (4" x 25'). Then I screw the edging to the box an inch or so from the top. It gives a tight top edge on the plastic that keeps soil from getting in-between.

Dont use wood screw or lag screws to hold them together. Use brackets in the corners. Screws or nails rely on the wood for holding, and the wood gradually lets loose. Drill holes through the wood and bolt the corners together. Use nuts and bolts and washers. This clamps the wood to the bracket instead of using the wood for the support.

I have a few pictures, but the details don't show.

http://community.webshots.com/user/nogobug
 

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Those photos are so inspirational! On the one from your roof, are we facing the east or west? just wondering...

melinda in houston
until summer anyway...
 

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Nice pics Gobug...

I have done well without boxes. I just till and rake up 'mesas' (3'x12 or so) about 2' high. Plant stuff on the sides as well. Mi dos centavos.

mc
 

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thank you,

It is still a work in progress, I try to improve something each year. It started as a typical all grass back yard. When we bought the house there had been water damage in the basement. The engineer said it was due to the yard sloping toward the house and all I had to do was slope it away. Easy to say. The biggest problem was the redwood deck. I had to take it apart; hence, the boxes.

I planned the design to use all the wood and be a little more complex than just rectangles. I dug 24" deep in each box space before I assembled the boxes. (overkill) Then I bought good garden compost/soil and filled them. At first I didn't protect the wood. After all, it was redwood.

I had tried garden boxes in my first house and used long screws or lag screws in the corners. All the joints broke loose in a few years. So, with this set of boxes I used aluminum angle in all the corners. This arrangement is now 15 years old and still structural. Aluminum is overkill, angle iron would work fine and save a few bucks.

I didn't realize it at first, but gradually it dawned on me that the drainage in the boxes was poor. All the plants showed syptoms of poor drainage. So I had to dig a trench through all the boxes and run a tile out of the yard. This took 2 growing seasons to complete; could have been done in a few hours when the boxes were being built.

When I ran a drainage tile through each box I noticed Mother Nature was breaking down the redwood where it contacted the soil. The single box I lined with plastic was in perfect shape. So I raised the redwood 2x6's onto green treated landscape timbers and lined the inside edges of all the boxes with plastic.

Some of the boards warped over a few years. The boxes also bowed in the middle. When I added drainage and plastic liner, I drove 4' rebar into the soil against the outsides of the boxes and used "U" bolts to clamp the redwood to the rebar. You can see these supports in some of the photos.

the photos from the roof are facing north
 

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Hi, I was looking back a few pages and decided to revive this thread instead of starting a new one. I've been trying to figure out what to make raised beds with. Cost is a major point. If they only make it through this season, that's OK. I'll deal with next year when it gets here. The other concern is toxic chemicals. I have 2 small beds I used last year bordered by some old cement blocks and large rocks. It was the first time I've ever been able to grow tomatos here! I can't afford a tiller and have no access to borrow one. So anything dug has to be done by hand with a shovel. I was thinking kiddie pools for now and replacing them next year with either wood or block. Susan
 

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As mousecat said, you don't really need materials for the boxes. You can mound the soil. This is great if you don't have a master plan for the box layout, because you can change where the boxes are easily.

Use anything thats available. If you have rocks, cinderblocks, construction lumber, logs, or cement, use what you have. I don't like the idea of kiddie pools because of the bottom. Cut it off, if it doesn't ruin the structural aspects.

Don't bury wood. It wont last long. Set it on buried rocks to keep it out of the soil.

As for toxicity, I would be concerned with creosote from railroad ties and other wood that has been chemically treated. Just line the inside of the box with plastic. It will keep plant root systems away from the toxins.
 
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