What material to use for building a garden bed?

Toronto, ON

I would like to get some tips to build a raised vegetable garden bed. I heard that raised beds are more efficient and easy for cultivation in the backyard.
I am confused which material to use for the bed. Some are that wood is better, since it is easy to build, while the others are suggesting concrete. I also read about the use of Cinder blocks, steel and stock tanks. ( http://inthebackyard.ca/8-important-materials-for-a-raised-garden-bed/ ) I have some cinder blocks left in the shed, Which I was hoping to use for building the bed. I would like to know if it is durable. Will the water and roots damages the blocks, thus, requiring more maintenance?
Please share your suggestions.

Thanks!

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

You can use just about anything. My 3x8' bed is made with 2x8" wood. Concrete blocks are also good. I believe the newer "pressure treated" woods are treated with safe stuff now as opposed to years ago. Check with your local stores to make sure.

Lynnwood, WA

We build a fair amount of garden beds for clients each year

I would avoid any treated wood regardless of what the industry says, it took over 20 years for them to acknowledge there was a problem
The cheapest is to buy white wood from lowes or home depot and you could treat the outside with linseed oil to preserve- I have had beds of this material for years and use timber lok screws to screw together- easy to assemble or disassemble as needed
Natural stone provides the greatest longevity
We have used Pennsylvania broken standing flagstone set on edge for some projects- not only beautiful but it does not take up much space
In the Pacific Northwest, we use a lot of 6x6x8 juniper timbers for bed construction
not cheap, but naturally rot resistant and makes a good seat when you need a mid-gardening break

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I've used pressure treated lumber from Home Depot for years. It's perfectly safe for veggie garden raised beds.

Check out this YouTube series for beginner gardeners. I follow this guy very closely. He gardens with budgeting in mind, and uses frugal, affordable, and common sense practices to produce fantastic vegetables in a small garden.

Beginning Gardening Playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLApXYvbprElyBWtdepbZyhIGFkc3YCbxv

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Beware of using cinder blocks- fly ash is used in the construction and it is BAD for you- since plants uptake their environment and transfer it to the consumer

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I've used pressure treated lumber from Home Depot for years. It's perfectly safe for veggie garden raised beds.

Check out this YouTube series for beginner gardeners. I follow this guy very closely. He gardens with budgeting in mind, and uses frugal, affordable, and common sense practices to produce fantastic vegetables in a small garden.

Beginning Gardening Playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLApXYvbprElyBWtdepbZyhIGFkc3YCbxv

orangeville, Canada

Regarding you question "Will the water and roots damages the blocks, thus, requiring more maintenance?" No, the roots will not damage the blocks.

Glendale, UT(Zone 5a)

Quote from kittriana :
Beware of using cinder blocks- fly ash is used in the construction and it is BAD for you- since plants uptake their environment and transfer it to the consumer


the amount of "fly ash" in cinderblock is very low- and does not "leach" into surrounding soils. Studies that show traceable amounts of heavy metals and arsenic in food crops involved fertilizing with large amounts of fly ash.
IE:

" Crops grown in quantities of fly ash ranging from 5 to 20 percent of soil weight absorbed toxic metals, according to a study by Indiana State University researchers.

When the amount of fly ash increased, the crops absorbed higher concentrations of arsenic and titanium. Basil and zucchini contained potentially toxic amounts of arsenic exceeding 6 parts per million. Concentrations of greater than 2 ppm had severe effects on vegetables, damaging the plants and decreasing production, wrote the scientists in a 2004 paper published in Environmental Geology.

Although the potential human health effects are unknown, fly ash fertilization can lead to possible toxic accumulation in crops if not monitored properly, concluded the scientists.

Plants grown with smaller amounts of fly ash have fared much better. In a three-year study, University of Florida researchers applied 22,000 pounds of fly ash per acre (1.1 percent of soil weight).

Mixed with yard waste compost, the fly ash increased tomato yields by up to 70 percent. The study found no groundwater contamination or soil-fertility decline after three years, while the presence of trace metals remained low." http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/recycling-coal-waste-at-farms

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Excellant research! I also believe this was conducted in soils that have no predisposition toward these tendencies? Nor long term usage? Chuckl, simply this, Be Aware of the composition of your materials and how they contribute to your efforts, of the soils you use and how they contribute to your plants. There are plants grown deliberately to cleanse soils, their disposal is also important...that said, there are as many forms of containment as there are plants. Not all of them pleasing- tho I am fond of straw bales...

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I have made beds from a number of materials. I would not use railroad ties or treated wood for veges although I'm sure the later has been made safe in recent years. I did a raised bed garden in cinder blocks and it worked out fine, they will probably last longer than you do, LOL. I grew strawberries in the open cells. They make "fake" wood now with recycled plastic, that is another option. I had a deck made with it once and it is an attractive way to have something woody without using wood. You don't need to overthink the cinder block bed, just get it level. They stay in place pretty good without even staking them. You could even just stake the corners to keep them in place. More importantly research your soil mix, I was not happy with what I decided on and spent years amending it to get it right.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

The blocks will be fine. Do be sure to put some sort of weed/grass barrier under the bottom of the raised bed. That will keep any strong weeds or grasses from growing up from underlying soil. Something as simple as a complete layer of cardboard boxes, or a good thickness of newspaper (for anyone that still reads print) will go a long way to controlling growth from under the bed. As DomeHomeDee says, be sure you pick a well-drained, high-percentage of organics, light soil mix. General "dirt" won't do the job without a lot of extra work.

David

This message was edited Jan 18, 2017 5:25 PM

Glendale, UT(Zone 5a)

I agree with "Dreaves"
--- if you live in an area with bermuda, or Johnson grass- or another "runner type" "weed",-- cardboard sure helps,[at least for a year or two] - so does digging [to start building your bed sides] down into the soil a foot..

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

That last post got me thinking. We have gophers so I put aviary wire under my raised block bed.

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