railroad ties

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Jennifer Brewer, May 20, 2006.

  1. Jennifer Brewer

    Jennifer Brewer Jennifer

    Aug 3, 2005
    i've got some old rail road ties given to me, and I need to expand my garden, so I was think of using them around the perimiter to raise up a bit ( they are 8 in x 8 in aprox) not raised beds, but the whole garden (roughly 32x24).

    but they treat railroad ties with something. These are very old though, you think they're okay to use?

    grandpa used to use railroad ties to buil raised beds and retaining walls and such

    i know alot of people did/do- but I want to be safe!
  2. Spotted Crow

    Spotted Crow Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2004
    It's probably creosote...I know they used to use it on phone poles. Should be okay in the garden.

  3. gardentalk

    gardentalk Well-Known Member

    May 30, 2005
    I've heard that creosote is not something you want leaching into your soil from those railroad ties.
  4. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Guest

    If there was any significant amount of creosote left in the ties they wouldn't have started rotting away thus the railroad company wouldn't have replaced them.

    I wouldn't have any problems using them in my garden.

  5. northstarpermie

    northstarpermie Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2006
    Northern Minnesota
    Sorry, but I would bring the railroad ties to the dump no matter how old they are. Creosote leaches into not only into the soil but the groundwater. It takes for ever for it to break down(which is why they used it on what they did). It's not good & not safe. They are using something new on railroad ties & poles that is suppose to be safe. Organic standards won't allow either. I wouldn't trust putting anything that has chemicals in it near my soil in which I grow my food.

    We used rocks for our raised beds, but we have plenty of them where I live. It is more labor intensive, but well worth it. They will never rot either. Maybe you could get some free from a farmer if you choose to go that route.

    Just adding the railroad ties are not always just replaced because they are old. Most railroads in MN just were not used anymore & the ties were not worn out. So they were ripped up & sold. They usually make the railroad bed into a bike path or something useful.
  6. Kee Wan

    Kee Wan Well-Known Member

    Sep 20, 2005
    As a chemist, there's no way that I'd use it in my garden. Here's an MSDS for creosote treated wood:

    Actually, here's the link.....


    For the layman - it essentially says:

    It's a carcinogen.
    Industry standard is wood 85%/creosote15%
    It is flamable and can cause explosive gasses upon combustion, and it can also emmit low Moleculate weight hydrocarbons (like methane and propane) when burned.
    It may be a photo toxin (made reactive in teh body by exposure to the sun)
    You don't want it on your hands, skin, eyes, or inhaling vapors. Dust from cutting it may be toxic. Vapors from buring it may be toxic, or explosive.
    Concentrated dust from creosote treated wood can spontaneously explode
    Msds';s are often "worse case scenerios" but still - carcinogens in the garden??

    Hope this helps.....
  7. vulcan

    vulcan Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2006
    My grandfather used rocks for his risen bed and guess what I am still using them is wonderful just to guess what my grandfather planted in those beds years ago. :)
  8. gardentalk

    gardentalk Well-Known Member

    May 30, 2005
    It doesn't take a significant amount of creosote to find its way into your food. Just trying to help. :angel: