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Using Pine boards for raised beds.

Somerset, NJ(Zone 6b)

Having made the mistake last year of putting in some raised beds for my veggies using the 'new' pressure treated lumber, & looking at paying $5 per foot for cedar, I'm thinking of putting in more raised beds ( and replacing the pressure treated boards) from pine.

Does anyone here use pine for their raised beds?

Do I/should I use some sort of sealant or waterproofer on the boards, or is that just as bad as using pressured treated to begin with?


Kerrville, TX

I use cedar fence boards for raised beds. In my area, each board cost about two bucks. I can build a 3x6 bed for $6.00. The boards are thin.....5/8 inch thick, 6 inch wide and 6 foot long. The trick is to put a good strong cleat at each corner, at least a 2x2. If you have heavy dirt in your beds, that may tend to bow out the fence boards but you can cure that by driving a stob into the ground to stabilize them. Works good and lasts a long time.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Three summers ago we purchased plain old pine boards. They are still doing fine - we didn't do anything other than set them on their sides and use bamboo stakes to keep them in place. By the looks of them they are going to do at least another two years before the rot sets in.

Riverdale, NJ(Zone 6a)

I put in an 8' x 4' raised bed last year using 2x12 boards. Cedar would have cost me well over $100 here. I used plain old Douglas fir. It is as cheap (or cheaper) than pine and a lot more weather resistant. I did give mine a coat of water seal/ UV protection before I fastened it together.

I think if you dig a shallow (4" - 6" deep) trench slightly wider than the board, around where the wood will go, and fill it with gravel, it provides drainage. Allowing the board to drain easily should increase its life. Renewing the UV protection on the sunny side every year should be a big help too. I guess we will find out. Ask me again in ten years.

Saint Paul, MN

I recycled and reuse pine boards from construction sites or wherever I can find them. If they rot away then they are just doing what nature wants them to do and I replace them. I usually get about 5 years or so out a board on the ground before I need to replace it, twice that for boards not in contact with the ground.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Originally posted by GreenGuvnor:
Having made the mistake last year of putting in some raised beds for my veggies using the 'new' pressure treated lumber

Why is this a mistake? Pressure treated lumber no longer uses arsenic or arsenide. There is no reason it cannot be used for vegetables.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

By the way, untreated wood from Lowe's/Home Depot/etc. will break down in about 2 years here in S.E. Texas due to termite activity. I'm already going to have to replace one of my beds after less than 3 years of use.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

We're using yellow pine for our beds. DH said something about it not being as brittle as regular pine. I don't know, I was just along for the ride and moral support when he went shopping!! LOL

Riverdale, NJ(Zone 6a)

Doesn't Texas have those Formosan termites, like NJ termites on steroids? I suspect good drainage may slow the termites down, since they usually prefer wet wood.

Personally, I no longer trust any government agency to tell me what is safe. Those copper salts in the new PT wood look like good candidates for the next recall. Have you considered concrete blocks?

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

We do have termites, but I don't know what kind they are. We treat our yard with nematodes and they've kept the termites away.

Saint Paul, MN

I wouldn't trust the pressure treated wood either. The "cide" in fugicide and pesticide does mean "death" afterall. Remember when smoking and asbestos were perfectly safe?

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Corn Gluten Meal can be used as a herbicide. Also Vinegar. Heck., boiling water.
Bleach is an effective fungicide.

Dalton, GA(Zone 7b)


this is a good article about the arsenic in pressure treated lumber--when compared to the pesticide on the veggies grown commercially, the small amount of chemical I might get from a raised bed seems a small risk

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Eventually, we'd like to go to something more permanent like native stone. The pine was the most cost efficient way for us to go this time. Don't want to use cement or cinder block or concrete pavers as they get way too hot down here in the dead of summer. Native stone tends to reflect the heat better. Pine doesn't seem to absorb as much heat either.

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Glad to hear that pine is ok!!! ....I just built an 8' x 8' x 12" high raised bed, made of 2" x 12" pine, for my strawberries last weekend!! Whew!
:) Glenda

Tonto Basin, AZ

feldon30, I see no reason to fear the current vintage of treated lumber for framing a raised bed.


Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

originally posted by rah127:

this is a good article about the arsenic in pressure treated lumber--when compared to the pesticide on the veggies grown commercially, the small amount of chemical I might get from a raised bed seems a small risk

That article must be rather old because pressure treated wood has not contained arsenic or arsenide since January 1, 2004.

This message was edited Apr 28, 2009 11:48 AM

Dalton, GA(Zone 7b)

true--but it said the copper compounds used now are safe too--guess I was just saying the small amount that might leach is probably not harmful

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks for that.

Incidentially, copper spray has been used for years as an "organic" bactericide. Now there is concern on using too much of it. I say too much of *anything* is a bad thing. :)

Somerset, NJ(Zone 6b)

I ended up making my beds out of 2X8s from Lowes. I have four 4' x 8' PT beds from last year, and built an additional 6 of them for my expanding veg compound. Strangely enough, I relocated one of the original beds made from PT lumber and when I flipped the thing over, you could see the decay starting to happen (no termites though... phew!)

Brooklyn, NY

yeah even though wood no longer has arsenic they do have a host of othe rotentially harmful compounds. i went with doug fir and my uncle is a very knowledgeable carpenter and said it will rot but should last for years.

Wakefield, RI

Did you ever consider concrete block? I have used them for years. No bugs eating them, nothing causing them to rot, no paint, no preservatives, no waterproofing. They are wide enough and heavy enough so you do not have to anchor them in any way. I fill the holes with soil and am able to plant in them also. The block are 8" high, 8" deep, and 16" long. They cost less than a buck each at Lowes or Home Depot. A bed 4'x10' will cost you about twenty dollars

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

I'm about to dig up and redo a small veggie bed the cats got into, and I'm inclined to go with the concrete blocks. Could you post a pic of yours? Thanks!


Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Remember that concrete holds in the heat so it will elevate the temps of your soil some, especially near the blocks. Your soil might tend to dry out a bit more quickly, too.

Wakefield, RI

Gymgirl, I am still in the stone age and not equipped to post photos on the internet. I do not own a digital camera or a cell phone. I read the comments made by stephanietx. I live in Rhode Island and prolonged high temps are not an issue here. We generally have temps in the high 80's to low 90's from early July to about mid August and we only get perhaps 10 days over 90. I know you guys in Texas get some pretty brutal temps for a longer period of time. As I type this we have had only 1-2 days above 80 this spring. I have never had a problem with heat build up and I water these beds no more often my regular garden. I grow strawberries in 2 beds that are 4'x20'. I have 3 other beds 4'x30'. I plant one with plum tomatoes and peppers and the other 2 are planted with assorted flowers used for cutting. All I do for my 20' bed is lay 16 block in a straight line then turn the corner and place 3 block at a 90 degree angle then turn the corner and lay 16 more block parallel to the first 16 then finish the opposite end with 3 more block. All you are doing is making a rectangle. The3 end block go inside the two parallel rows of 16 block. When I built mine a number of years ago the block cost about 70 cents each. I have not purchased any in a while but I was told they are about 95 cents now.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Cyclops, send us that cooler weather!! LOL

Pensacola, FL

The blocks I saw last week were 1.69, ouch. My old boat Captin had several 8x24 raised beds made out of PT land scape timbers, they last for years on in. His crop tasted great,but I never ask him why he had 12 toes. :)

Somerset, NJ(Zone 6b)

That's a great idea about the cement blocks. I wish I'd have been told that sooner. No rot, and I could even mortar in the gaps. And I wouldn't have to worry about those pesky carpenter ants setting up shop.

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

Thanks Cyclops101!

At this point, I need to rebuild my veggie bed for my root crops. I need to expand in a hurry, and the concrete blocks may be the quickest way form me to go. I actually have it outlined now with regular bricks, stacked two-high, although I just appropriated 30 more. Problem with these bricks is they fall over if you lean on em. The concrete blocks would also allow me to go deeper in this bed and still have the height of a wall around me.


Somerset, NJ(Zone 6b)


Another good thing about using concrete cinder blocks is that you can also secure them in the ground by hammering rebar through the holes to secure them so they don't topple over... gets better & better!

Tallahassee, FL

Another option for raised beds is plastic lumber. It is guaranteed for 50 years, so if you are as old as me you may not think the expense is worth it. Here is a link to a source. I can't say if it is available for less elsewhere. I have been using cedar and spruce 2x6 x8's. The spruce I found in a trash pile after someone remodeled. I had to pull alot of nails but I ended up having enough for a super sturdy waterbed frame and the rest have been raised beds for two years. They are getting eaten up but will probably go another year, or two. http://www.growerssupply.com/farm/supplies/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10001&langId=-1&division=GrowersSupply&productId=22431
Hope this link works. Bob

Somerset, NJ(Zone 6b)

Thanks Bob!

I made a small raised bed for my blueberries out of a couple of pieces of composite decking from Lowes. They are great because they are maintenance-free but as you say, cost a hell of a lot. The good thing is that with this kind of material is that if you ever move house, depending on how you assemble the bed, you can simply unscrew the boards, rinse them off, and take them with you.

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

I especially like that

take them with you

Delhi, LA

I guess I'm not long for this world. Dad dusted everything with toxaphene. When Methyl Parithion came out he used that. I use Pounce a cotton poison to control about every thing. Sevin and Malathion before that. I use Railroad crossties and landscape timbers for raised beds. I'm 68 and I guess I won't make over two more decades. Dad died at the young age of 85 and poor old Mom succomed at 101. I guess it was the poison that killed them. Huh? Me thinks we worry over much. If you'll eat when you are hungry, sleep at least 4 hours a night and work from sun up to sun set. I think you'll be OK.

Saint Paul, MN

That sounds a lot like the people who tell me their grandpa smoked three packs a day and ate butter and bacon at every meal and he lived to be 98, therefore I can too. For every person who wins the genetic lottery there are many more who don't. There is a reason certain chemicals becomed banned over time, after the damage is done and possibly irreversible. I don't worry about myself being OK, I worry about my kids and grandkids being OK.

The bottom line is you should build your raised beds out of whatever you're comfortable using.

Eaton, IN

I read somewhere to use pallets. Many places will give you what they need because there product comes in on them and they just take up space. There would be some work involved and I'm sure they wouldn't last more than a couple years but for a beginner gardner they would be cheap and they would work.

Bellingham, WA

Hi, I'm a newbie here, this is my first post! But since we just built a raised bed from fir, hemlock, and cedar, I thought I'd share what we used for the fir and hemlock (the cedar didn't need treating, of course). We treated the fir and hemlock with something called Preservawood. It's supposed to be 60% rose oil. Very expensive for the can (about the same price as really good interior paint) but it was easy to apply (one coat that dried completely in a few hours), low VOC, and is supposed to last for a couple of years. We only used a tiny amount to treat 8 entire 12' 2x6" hemlock and fir boards. The rest of the can will last for years. I've heard that around here, Thompson's, which is the cheaper alternative, only lasts a few months because of the damp. So we're trying this to see how this stuff holds up.

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