Lumber Selections for the Garden

I am building some raised vegetable beds that will be framed in wood. I don’t want to use treated lumber. What are my other options?

There is nothing more satisfying than the look and feel of real wood and when you can have the assurance that it is going to be around for a long time, it makes it even more appealing.

A few years ago, lumber was made weather resistant by treating it with a combination of chromium, copper and inorganic arsenic, also known as CCA. These days the process is more environmentally sound using a preservative called alkaline copper quat or ACQ®.

While this is good news for the environment, I still prefer to use naturally long lasting wood in the garden. There are several types of naturally long lasting wood that you can use for your vegetable beds as well as other garden projects.

Here is an overview of some of your options.
Western Red Cedar – This wood is my first choice for all of my outdoor projects. Red Cedar is super long lasting, about 15 to 25 years. Mother nature has equipped it with an all-natural preservative that protects it against the elements and insect damage. This quality is important with any outdoor structure, but especially with framed beds because the wood is in constant contact with the soil inside the box. I also like to use cedar because it is a renewable resource. Sustainable forestry practices ensure a perpetual abundance of cedar from North America’s forests.

Cypress – Cypress is extremely long lasting about 40 years. But you have to purchase first growth (old growth) heartwood cypress to benefit from this wood’s durability. The problem with cypress is that it can be hard to locate outside of its Southern habitat.