Raised Bed Question - non-treated lumber??

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Wannabee, Jan 3, 2005.

  1. Wannabee

    Wannabee Foggy Dew Farms

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    Hi, I am a definite newbie as far as raised beds go. I've read some threads on railroad ties versus treated lumber, and I have heard pros and cons.

    The question I have is, in zone 5, if you would use regular, non-treated lumber, and use lag screws or nails, how long will that lumber last before rotting out????? Is that the best method? I want it to be attractive, yet functional. If I paint the outside for looks and protection, how soon will it rot on the soil-side???

    Thanks a bunch!
     
  2. kjerckie

    kjerckie Well-Known Member

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    I asked the same question to a friend who has beds. He said to use the 8"x16" cinder blocks. Wood attracts carpenter ants, termites and other bugs. Plus they won't rot. So thats what I using.
     

  3. marvella

    marvella Well-Known Member

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    i use cinder blocks too. takes 14 to make a roughly 4 x 4 bed, just the right size to reach into. last year was the first time i ever had raised beds and had the best garden i ever. seems like it helped keep stuff from getting frost bitten too, maybe because they hold heat better. and they last forever.
     
  4. Ray_Scheel

    Ray_Scheel Well-Known Member

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    I also use cinder blocks, and would not use RR ties under and circumstance. I use a little treated wood for some of the larger bits of latticework and posts for trellises, etc.

    If appearances are important, a thin mortar bed of concrete to set the blocks and a coat of hypertyffa can make cinder blocks look amazing, but don't do that until you've had the bed a year and are sure you like its placement.

    For wood, a layer of plastic on the soil side will help keep it from staying saturated with soil moisture, and there are also "natural" treatments like boiled linseed oil to help waterproof the wood before placing it in ground contact.
     
  5. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    I haven't tried it yet but been thinking about trying some composit deck material. Anyone tried this?
     
  6. BJ

    BJ Well-Known Member

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    Is your raised bed...just the depth of 1 level of blocks? I've tried to raise strawberries..they do great until the summer weeds creep into their area. We often see cinder blocks sell really cheap at farm sales....sounds like a great idea! :)
     
  7. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    When i did my garden i ordered fir or pine boards from the lumber company. They accidentally dropped off pressure treated and hubby actually built the frame without noticing. When i noticed, i called the lumber company came and took it apart and put it together with the right boards. Of course, the pressure treated lumber was worth a lot to them!

    My boards are 3 years old and doing great. My garden is 12' long and 8 feet wide. I put patio stones lenghwise right down the middle so i could walk down it. I would suggest planting some bushy marigolds infront of it and then you don't have to worry about painting or anything and they bloom all summer.

    I then have a strawberry patch on the side with it's own plastic edging.

    I also have an herb garden 8 x 4 made out of wood.

    This year, i'm starting another section of garden twice that size. I want to grow more.

    How do you do a cinderblock raised bed? Do you just put two upon each other or is one good enough? Definitely cheaper than wood.
     
  8. mistletoad

    mistletoad Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We have 6 raised beds each is 4'x70'. We built them all with reclaimed 1x8 and 1x10 untreated lumber. Orginally the boards were supported with sweetgum stakes but as these rot out we will be replacing with rebar. The stakes are on alternate sides of the boards about 4' apart. This design makes it very easy to replace a single board without rebuilding the entire bed. The paths between the beds are about 3' wide and mulched with free wood chips from the county. Overall the look is very uniform and tidy (except when my tomatoes are sprawling) and we will be adding more as materials become available.
     
  9. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is almost exactly what I plan to do. I saved all the 1x8's and 1x10's that were used in the construction of our house (frames for pouring concrete). I tried to get out to the construction site as often as possible because they loved to burn all their scraps...they burned huge piles of usable stuff. Made me sick.

    I'm going to use willow to support the boards. Hubby cut down a thicket of them at the edge of the pond and I had him save them. My biggest problem will be ants. Fire ants are terrible here. Hubby just plowed up the one acre plot I'm going to convert to a raised bed garden. I'll mulch with leaves, etc. from the woods. Plan to use this in my walkways between beds as well.
     
  10. MountainMama

    MountainMama Well-Known Member

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    I use the cow feeders that are made to feed animals in. They are about 2 1/2 feet wide and about 12 feet long and are up on about 2 foot metal legs. They are wonderful and all my vegetables came up great with minimal weeds.
     
  11. john#4

    john#4 Well-Known Member

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    Wannabe,

    Hi I just thought I’d let you know I’m posting a non toxic wood treatment I just found. ‘Lifetime’ Hope it will help you.
    John#4
     
  12. Wannabee

    Wannabee Foggy Dew Farms

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    Hi I just thought I’d let you know I’m posting a non toxic wood treatment I just found. ‘Lifetime’ Hope it will help you.


    So you just treat the wood with "Lifetime"??? Where did you pick it up??

    Thanks!!!!
     
  13. john#4

    john#4 Well-Known Member

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    Hi everyone.

    I just found this and thought you may be interested in it
    It is a natural wood treatment that is suppose to really be good.

    http://www.valhalco.com/contact.html

    You have to contact them to see where they sell it. Hope this helps you. Read about it at there site.

    John#4
     
  14. pointer_hunter

    pointer_hunter Well-Known Member

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    What kind of yeild can you get from a 4x10 raised bed? I am very interested in setting up a few to minimize space, but am wondering how many I will have to put together to get all my crops.
     
  15. EricG

    EricG Well-Known Member

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    Plain wood will last longer than you think. I know of a person who built hers over 10 years ago from 2x stock and they are just now rotting out. Ours are a few years old and no problems. I'll be making some more from some 2x material I salvaged from an old deck. The biggest challenge is they tend to want to warp so keep that in mind when you lag screw them together. The rebar idea sounds good. I bet the 1x will last pretty well and be easy to replace. Concrete will last forever but you have to reach over them...takes up some room if you have short arms.
     
  16. poultryprincess

    poultryprincess Well-Known Member

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    :) We are trying a cinder block garden for the 1st time this year. My garden was huge & the weeds always took over. Last fall we saw a bulldozer tearing down a house & we asked for some cinder blocks. It took us 3 truck loads of blocks & we had to clean all the concrete off of them. This garden will be much smaller 11 cinder blocks wide x 16 cinder blocks long.....but I am hoping that it Will keep the soil warmer as suggested. Up in the Great White North, we need all the help we can get! :haha:
     
  17. NativeRose

    NativeRose Texas Country Grandma

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    We used railroad ties and landscape timbers last year but the fire ants here in Texas love railroad ties. We dug them up and hauled them off. They attracted termites also. We are going to use cinder blocks this year and build frames so most of what I am planting will be off the ground and away from the fire ants. That way if I have to :no: treat the ants with something I won't be getting it in the soil in which I am planting.
     
  18. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Everything is toxic, so I look at ads which claim the product is non-toxic with scepticism. Toxicity is like temperature, everything has one. I could not discern from the site posted above what chemical is used to preserve the wood, but I suggest you request a safety data sheet before purchasing. It sounds like it could be a boric acid compound, which shouldn't be much of a problem anyway.

    I have had boxes which are in perfect shape for more than 15 years. The wood is not treated. The secret is to place a layer of plastic between the wood and soil. Also, wood screws and nails will fail wherever you use them. This is the weakness. You can get around this weakness by using corner brackets, drilling holes through the wood and bolting the boards to the corner brackets.

    Any portion of the wood which touches soil will degrade over time. Carpenter ants don't eat wood, they nest in it. So using 1x or 2x material will eliminate that risk. Termites could be a threat depending on where you live. If you live in a major termite area, the boric acid treatment will solve that problem. Boric acid is a herbacide, though, and it can steralize the soil. Chances are though, any boric acid based wood preservative will not leach much into your boxes, especially if you use plastic between the box sides and the soil.

    I raised my 2x material off the ground with some of the new treated landscape timbers. Since my plastic barrier goes below ground level I am not worried about the chemicals in these timbers. Now these timbers have a reasonably low toxicity preservative, not at all like pentachlorophenyl or creosote.

    I used rebar to prevent the sides from bulging. I drilled holes through the landscape timbers, pounded 4 foot rebars through the holes and used "U" bolts to clamp them to the box sides. It worked great.

    Check for drainage before you fill. I had to dig a trench through the bottom of all my boxes a few years after I built them because my plants had symptoms of too much water.

    Good luck
     
  19. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    My mom's railroad tie garden borders have lasted since I was a kid - let's say they were put in 35-40 years ago, so that seems pretty long lasting.

    Isn't there an issue with using pressure treated lumber, since it is really an arsenic-containing product which is applied under pressure into the wood? That doesn't seem too pleasant an idea for a vegetable garden border. Or are the new products okay now?

    Good luck - hope you enjoy your garden however you make it! :)
     
  20. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    dla asked:
    Arsenic is not used any more. The new preservatives are a lot better. Still, it's better to err on the side of the angels, and use a plastic barrier between the soil and treated wood.

    We live in a strange time. I read the MSDS for the new preservative and discovered that 2 states have listed hardwood sawdust as a hazardous material. It seems tests have shown that hardwood sawdust is carcinogenic!

    Railroad ties are a definite risk because the creosote does leach out. Still a layer of plastic will protect the planting soil.