Raised Bed-treated or untreated wood-or something else?

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

We're planning on doing a BIG raised bed this year and I can't remember what material is best. Any advice? What's your experience?

Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

we built ours out of railroad ties. You can get them untreated but ours were treated which I worried about. It was fine though. They just won't rot. They were 8 foot long and so we built a 16x16 raised garden. We have also built smaller ones out of cheap pr free cinder blocks.

This message was edited Jan 15, 2013 12:03 PM

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

Cedar lasts longer, but is $$$.

You could use pressure treated pine (what I use). They don't use the arsenic in the wood treatment anymore, so it's perfectly safe for building veggie beds.

Go to the Ana Smith website, and you can see a building plan. She does reclaimed cedar fence pickets to build beds for $10!!!! SUH-WEET!


My next set of raised beds will be built like the ones above, since I can get culled cedar pickets for free from my local lumber yard.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I use paving stones from Home Depot, around $1.20 each.

8" x 16" 3/4" thick or
]12" x 12" 1 inch thick

They are easy to set up and relocate. You can change the size of shape of a bed as easily as moving furniture.

Lean them inwards a few degrees and they're stable.

If the corners dry out too fast or leak too much soil, cut up a heavy plastic bag (from potting soil, peat moss or manure) and line just the corners below soil level.

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Delhi, LA

I've used cinder blocks, landscape timbers and cross ties. They will all work and all have disadvantages. The cinder blocks were to expensive for my taste and I was constantly having to stand them up or line them up. That was probably my fault. It also took a good bit of time. Land scape timbers are quick and easy if you have a good drill for pilot holes. They can get expensive because I found they needed to be about three high to work right and they will rot. I prefer cross ties and used ones are only eight or nine dollars here. I like them because I'm old enough to like to sit while I work. The big disadvantage is they are heavy. I use to could pick one up but those days are gone. Now I shove or pull them in line with my lawn mower.

A word of advice, don't get them over four feet wide, inside measure. You can reach to the middle from both sides . Much narrower and you will get your stuff to close together. Air circulation is a big factor. You can make most every thing you grow run up. Squash, cukes, tomatoes all love cages. I've found that zuccine like to sprawl so I save them a place on the end of the bed. I have beds of all length, 40ft., 24ft and about 18ft. eighteen is about the length of two cross ties. If I was doing it all ove, I would keep them all about 18ft.

You'll love the beds and will raise more than you can eat or give away.

By the way, slow watering is the key to successful gardening in raised beds. A hose from the top just doesn't do it. Some type of soaker hose or drip real slow is by far the best.

Happy Gardening, JIm

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

We used reclaimed RR ties and put them together with 12" lag screws, but you'll need a 1/2" air impact wrench to put them together... It worked great putting the tall side up, making the bed about 12" deep.... 17' by 4 1/2' across, decent size...

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

My next raised beds they will be build using those corners.
My friend did make hers with those metal braces and she loves them. It took her very short time.
They are not cheap, but you can use them forever and take them with you when you move.
Just an idea

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

Thanks SO much for all the wonderful suggestions! I'll let you all know how it turns out. Still a lot of planning to do . . .and have to figure out the watering plan! Helps me look past this cursed winter into Spring!!!

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

Simple, pvc drip irrigation system for raised beds...


BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

dr thor, checked out the link you had for the corner braces. They are nice and they are expensive.

Linda, a good link for a basic system, but it needs a couple tweaks, that will give a lot more flexibility for just a few dollars.

Instead of drilling all those holes in the row pipes you could use a short pipe and 1/4" drip line that has the holes at intervals. With a valve in the system, you can vary the amount to each row if plants have different water requirements. Just a thought....

This message was edited Jan 18, 2013 1:52 AM

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


Tell me more about how to do this before I buy the components. I need it in place by February 16th.


Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

We used plain pine boards for our raised beds. They last about six summers before needing to be replaced. Hubby cut bamboo stakes to hold up the sides.

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

If you run by Home Depot, Lowe's doesn't carry it, go to the Plumbing Dept. and look for the irrigation section. Ask one of the guys there for the "DIG Corp." installation book. It has all the info on how to design & install a drip system. You can also go to www.digcorp.com online and look at it there, but it's nice to have a hard catalog.

I put an underground system in for my raised beds in the back yard and all I have to do is go to the faucet at the back of the house and turn it on. I use the drip-emitter line that has little 1/4" valves that I can shut off sections that don't need as much water. With the drip line you have the ability to design it for your beds. The other nice thing is it's fairly cheap. You can use the PVC pipe to run your main line to the bed and then use the DIG tubing & fittings for the rest of the system.

Madras, OR

I have used dry stack cement, boulders, untreated woods, fir mostly (2 " thick and so far no rotting in the 8th year), and just dirt piled up and leveled off 4' wide and 12' long. works for me, and if you do not walk on it, the bed will hold its shape with just a little shape up at the beginning of the next garden year.

I use a home made broad fork to loosen the soil each year but do not turn the beds over to avoid messing with the worms and other activities going on in good organic soil. Each fall i add about 2 inches of compost and a could dozen worms to each bed,

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

Great operation you've got going there!

I have a couple ??:

What is you're Sweetie bed filled with, and how big is it? How many slips in that bed, and what's your average yield? What variety do you grow?

I tried sweeties in a Rubbermade tub last season, and didn't do so well. I got just a few fat ones, N a lot of skinnies. I was advised I shouldnt have let the vine run outside the tub, cause it stole energy from the wipers.




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Madras, OR

All my beds are filled with local sandy soil, heavily amended with compost. The berries are mulched with pine straw to hold the moisture, and they seem to tolerate any increased acidity it might add

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

Are those sweeties in the top left pic?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Linda, what are "wipers?"

Madras, OR

No top left picture is harcot green beans, bush style, skinny ones for market and stir-frying

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

LOL! "Tubers"

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

How deep do you all make your raised beds?

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

My three RBs are 11" deep. The soil below was tilled 8-10" before the bed was set and filled.

Won't do any more tilling, so as to not disturb the microorganisms and wigglies! Will probably use a pronged spade to lightly (gently) loosen the soil for upcoming planting.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

If I could afford to fill 24" deep beds, that would be my preference so as to raise them above our red clay soil.

I started with 6" deep raised beds, but found them to be too shallow.

They are now 10" deep, but I still have to water them in the summer.

If you have ground with good "tilth" you don't need raised beds.

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

We have clay too. . .I think we should probably till first. Linda, did you use a rototiller initially? "Bee"-did you till beneath as well?

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

Yes. My neighbor tilled the ground about 8-10" deep, then we set the bed and filled it. The bed is 11" high, so there was a good 19-20" total depth from the top of the RB..

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

My theory is that if you till below grade, you should make sure of adequate drainage, or the new open spaces may fill with water that takes days to drain. If your subsoil is decent, no problem, it can drain straight down. If the RB is on a slope, probably no problem, or a short slit trench will fix you up.

I'm just obsessed with drainage, for some reason. Maybe I'm part mole.

Also, once I've dug down to knee level, I amend with anything organic or coarse that I can get my hands on. Compost, manure, coarse or fine bark or coir or peat or grit or sand ...

If it decomposes later and tries to settle, I don't mind: at least settling will create voids. And if roots or worms penetrate the sub-soil before it settles, their channels may become permanent.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

We put drip irrigation throughout our whole garden 2 years ago. At ground level. Very expensive. Timers on each section which is 2.

Every year I have to pull it all out to add manure etc. to garden and till it with tiller on back of my Kubota. Really a pain in the neck. Would never do it again. Was husb. idea to conserve water from our well. Punching all those little holes and putting in emitters kills your fingers also. My job. Never again. Emitters get plugged up easily or fall out. Have to check the whole thing before setting it back up and planting.

Lesson learned.

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

Thanks everyone. . .we can learn a lot from each other. Saves a lot of headaches. I'm so impulsive, I just charge ahead sometimes and not plan carefully enough. I get SO anxious, I just jump right in there!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Punching all those little holes and putting in emitters kills your fingers also. My job. Never again. Emitters get plugged up easily or fall out. Have to check the whole thing before setting it back up and planting.

Dripline or T-Tape saves the fingers! A 1/4" or 1/2" line has emitters built into it every 6, 8, or 12 inches.

Sprayers may not be as efficient if evaporation is a problem, but it sure is easier to string together 5-10 sprayers than to set up 100 drippers. And you c an place them around the border so they don'/t get in the way of forking or tilling.

DG has an Irrigation Forum now:

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

It's nice to have the beds with the drip irrigation systems. DIG Corp. has inexpensive, quality components and they are easy to work with. The only problem is that Home Depot only handles a limited assortment of parts, but their prices are good, and they're just down the street.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I agree about HD convenience and sometimes price. But I'm fond of Dripworks.

BTW: have you ever seen a "Spot Spitter" that works directly with 1/4" tubing instead of 1/8" tubing? I have and like the John Deer / Roberts "Spot Spitters" , but someone on the Irrrigation forum says there is a 1/4" version available somewhere.




BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

Completely forgot about Dripworks... Bought some items from them a couple of years ago...

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