Pressure treated wood garden


Using Pressure Treated Wood For Raised
Gardens…Is It Safe For Growing Food??

A few months back, Popular Mechanics Magazine ran an article about their partnership with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia. In June of 2010, they worked with local volunteers (as part of a wider series of repair and rebuilding projects) to build a series of raised gardens so the local folk could grow some of their own produce (see photo below).

What struck me is the use of pressure treated wood for the gardens! I have been pelted with questions for years concerning the safety of using pressure treated wood for vegetable gardens. Though I had feelings on the subject (and have built dozens of them for friends and clients) it was only recently that I felt there was enough information to make a firm recommendation on this website.

Yes, the “new” pressure treated wood is safe for use for raised garden frames… with a few precautions!

Up until 2003, the most common preservative used for pressure treated wood was chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a compound using arsenic as its primary rot protectant. Over years, the industry, in cooperation with government recommendations, phased out the use of CCA for all residential and most commercial wood pressure treatment. Part of the reason was the fear that the arsenic would poison the soil and anyone who touched it. Though actual cases of poisoning via pressure treated wood use by the public were hard to find, there was enough circumstantial evidence of soil contamination to warrant a change.

New preservatives with either copper or chromium as the primary preservative replaced CCA, and that changed the safety dynamic dramatically. Unlike arsenic, which is well absorbed into and retained by the body (explaining its toxicity even in long-term, small exposures), these new products (though toxic in large amounts) are not absorbed efficiently by the body so the miniscule exposures from touching or working with these products are safe provided simple exposure precautions are taken, such as hand washing and collection of the sawdust.

Do plants absorb the preservative in pressure treated wood raised garden frames?

Yes, plants can absorb these preservatives, but tests have shown that the amount of preservative leached from the newer PT wood products is so low that it is virtually undetectable. According to my reading, the primary toxicity concern raised so far in the effect of the new preservatives on lower plant life such as algae, which wouldn’t affect most homeowners unless you have a lake nearby.

Applying a sealer can protect against CCA exposure…

According to the EPA, studies show that the application of a penetrating oil finish can reduce or eliminate exposure to CCA in older decks and to the preservatives used in newer decks. So it is recommended that all pressure-treated surfaces that have human contact be coated with an oil finish as needed. It has been noted in some studies that paints and opaque exterior stains do not offer the protection of stains that are absorbed more deeply into the wood. They should be recoated at least every few years or when water no longer beads on the wood surface.

Some manufacturers are adding a water repellent to the preservative, which would make the need for a sealer less important or unnecessary for garden frames and rough structures, though for decks subject to abrasion and sun exposure regular sealing is still a good idea to preserve the surface.

How applicable or even necessary this is for a raised garden frame I’ll leave to your judgment.

Tips for working with pressure-treated wood…

  • Predrill any nail or screw holes within an inch of the end of the board. This lessens the chance of splitting the board while fastening it. Even if it doesn’t split when you initially fasten it down without predrilling, it will very likely do so later as the wood dries out. BE SURE TO CLEAN UP ALL SAWDUST!
  • Use the right fasteners. Use only screws or nails that are galvanized and designed for use with the newer copper-based pressure-treated wood.
  • Be sure you are purchasing the correct grade of PT wood for your project. The newer PT wood products are more expensive so there are more grades available to keep the cost down. You must use ground-contact grade for raised gardens if you want them to last the “test of time”.

So here we are!!

Obviously, there will be more information on this topic and I will keep on top of any changes or new studies that might help you make the best decision. Best of luck with your project!!

Yes, you can use treated lumber for your raised vegetable garden beds.

Homeowners ask if it is safe to use treated lumber for garden beds. While there is scientific consensus that it is safe to use for garden beds, the information below explains what chemicals are used in Viance Ground Contact treated wood for residential use and the results of numerous scientific studies.

The American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) specifies the use of treated lumber for horticultural purposes to be Ground Contact. In the AWPA Book of Standards, copper azole (CA) and alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) are listed preservatives for Ground Contact use in residential applications. CA and ACQ are both available from Viance under the brand name Preserve.

CA and ACQ preservatives contain copper, the primary fungicide and termiticide in Viance’s ground contact product. The fungicide prevents soil fungus from attacking the lumber and works to deter insects, including termites. Copper is also a common fungicide for food crops used by consumers for growing vegetables and is a disinfectant in swimming pool chemicals.

Of interest to the home gardener is whether or not any of the preservative components in treated wood used to construct a raised bed garden could render the food crop unsafe for consumption. The available evidence suggests no. John Harrison, President of JRH Toxicology, a consulting firm specializing in scientific advice to the industry and government, writes in 2017 that CA and ACQ have been carefully evaluated for safety and registered by the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for use in residential construction applications. He stated in a bulletin titled, Treated Wood in Raised Bed Gardening, “Scientific evidence and data have shown that using pressure treated wood for raised bed or box gardening is safe to adults and children in terms of the plants grown and used in these containers.” He further explains, “All chemicals in consumer products have a toxicity and most are very low, so they are not a problem, especially those regulated by the federal government. This is also the case with currently registered wood preservatives that contain copper. In fact, small amounts of copper are necessary for human and plant life and termed “an essential trace element”.

Dr. Scott Leavengood, Associate Professor College of Forestry at Oregon State University and Director of the Oregon Wood Innovation Center authored an article for the OSU Extension Service, titled “Raised bed lumber, pressure treated safe?” In this article, Leavengood gives his opinion that the consensus among researchers is that the low levels of chemicals in preservative treated wood that leach out of the wood into the soil are likely to be taken up by the plants only in very small amounts. There has been no evidence to suggest that the level of the chemicals is significant enough to be of concern for human health.

In a 2014 study, wood research scientists Love, Gardner and Morrell at Oregon State University found that in growing radishes, carrots and potatoes in a copper azole treated Douglas-fir planter, the copper levels were not higher in roots or tubers of radishes, carrots or potatoes compared to beds constructed from untreated wood. They also state that when people are concerned about the migration of wood preservatives, they can use polyethylene (plastic) to line the inside of the planter. Their scientific results indicate that although plastic lining is “not entirely necessary”, it can be used if there are safety concerns. The use of a plastic barrier will also extend the life of the preserved wood and help keep the raised bed garden soil within the bed area. For proper drainage, the plastic material should not be used underneath the raised bed garden.

Safe practices for working with treated wood recommend treated wood not be used where it may come into direct or indirect contact with drinking water or a component of food, animal feed or beehives. The USDA prohibits treated lumber for soil contact use in their certified National Organic Program published in 2011. The updated draft dated September 5, 2018 states that CA and ACQ are not currently allowed because they are not included on the National List of allowed synthetic materials (7 CFR part 205, page 425).

Viance recommends for those who have concerns to line the interior walls only with heavy plastic sheeting. There have been no justified claims that today’s treated lumber causes any negative effects from leaching into the soil.


Love, Connie & Gardner, Benjamin & J. Morrell, Jeffrey, (2014) Metal accumulation in root crops grown in planters constructed from copper azole treated lumber European Journal of Wood and Wood Products. 72. 10.1007/s00107-014-0789-5.

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Gardening is one of the great joys in life, and vegetable gardening, in particular, has grown in popularity in recent years. If you’re one of the 35 percent of Americans who love to grow your own food— or if you’re thinking of joining their ranks — adding raised beds to your property is an easy way to increase your crop.

But what materials should you use to build your garden beds? Southern Yellow Pine is a great choice, and choosing pressure treated lumber will ensure that your project lasts for many years to come. Best of all, pressure treated SYP is safe for growing food.

Understanding Modern Pressure Treated Wood

Much of the concern about pressure treated lumber comes from a fear of adding arsenic to the soil. While arsenic is indeed dangerous, it hasn’t been used to treat residential lumber in over a decade. Since 2004, the EPA ended use of arsenic in residential applications, so today’s lumber is treated with copper to prevent decay. Copper is a mineral that your body actually needs trace amounts of, and it’s much less dangerous than arsenic. If you buy new pressure treated SYP for your raised bed project, you can feel good about using it for garden projects where you plan to grow food.

Why Copper Is a Good Choice

Copper as an element binds strongly to soil, particularly to soils with a neutral pH of 6 to 7 and highly fertile soils. This means that the copper will stay put and is unlikely to be absorbed into plants you intend to eat. You probably won’t even have to think much about this, as vegetables grow best in neutral soil anyway. Keep fertility up by adding plenty of compost, and you’ll make your plants happy while keeping copper absorption to a minimum.

Tips for Healthy Veggies in Pressure Treated Beds

If you’re still concerned about growing purely organic fruits and veggies, there are steps you can take to minimize their exposure to your pressure treated wood:

  • Plant crops a foot away from the walls of your raised beds. The preservative is unlikely to leach into the soil beyond this point.
  • Line raised beds with plastic sheeting. This will create an impermeable barrier between your plants’ roots and the pressure treated lumber that edges your beds.
  • Peel root crops before eating. Roots tend to absorb more copper than other parts of the plant, but it’s stored right near the peel. Peeling will remove most traces.

Modern pressure treated lumber is a safe choice for edging beds in your home vegetable garden. Stay tuned for more great gardening ideas.

(Images courtesy SLMA member Christopher Kollwitz – Business Development and Marketing Manager for Viance)

Your garden is gorgeous, and it’s finally complete. It just needs one finishing touch: edging. When deciding what material to use for edging, timber is a great option. It adds a natural finish to your garden and is more attractive than metal options. It also stands up to weather and other environmental elements better than plastic edging and is cheaper than stone edging materials.

When using landscaping timber, you have a variety of options available. There are several different kinds of wood you can use, as well as different thicknesses and lengths of timber. You can easily stack the wood to create a wall from the timber you’ve chosen, or lay single logs end to end to create a simpler edging style.

We’ve researched and compiled plenty of information for you about timber garden edging. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this awesome landscaping look!

Types of Timber for Garden Edging

While there are many different types of wood in the world, only a few are good for landscaping with. You can get these woods in either treated or untreated versions. The treated versions will hold up better in the elements but have been treated with oil-based preservatives. If you want an organic garden, check the chemicals used on the treated timber before purchasing.

Cedar is a gorgeous red-colored wood that’s a good choice for landscaping. While it’s more expensive than synthetic material, it’s a rather affordable wood. This wood doesn’t absorb moisture easily, making it resistant to warping.

This wood does need consistent upkeep, however. In order to keep the warm red color of the wood, it needs to be cleaned and sealed every year or two. Even with this precautionary care, eventually the color will fade and the wood will gain a greyish white color tone.

This naturally rot-resistant wood is a great choice for garden edging. In the Southeastern parts of the US, it’s a good alternative to cedar price-wise, but in other parts of the country, it can quickly become a rather pricy option.

Cypress is a very durable wood, however, the durability is directly related to the age of that particular tree. Younger cypress wood is less durable, and also cheaper, while older cypress wood is more durable and more expensive.

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Redwood is a good choice for outdoor use as it’s resistant to bugs and rot as well as moisture. Using it for your garden’s edge will ensure you’ve got a great edging for many years. It holds stains well and will keep its color longer.

This wood’s natural resistance to moisture keeps it from warping, a great feature for timber used for garden edging. This wood is a good deal more expensive, however. There isn’t much of the older redwood left in the world, and the further you travel from the west coast of the US the more expensive redwood will be.

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Pros and Cons of Using Timber Edging

When choosing an edging material for your garden, there are many different aspects you need to consider. Durability, maintenance, and ease of installation are definite considerations, as well as the look of it. Here are a few pros and cons to help you make your landscape decision easier.


  • Versatile: Landscape timber is incredibly easy to customize. You can use one type of wood or many, lay it in a single layer or stack it, use logs or flat slices of wood, etc.
  • Sturdy: Timber won’t dry and crack in the sun like plastic, and the hardwoods used in landscaping aren’t prone to warping or splitting, making them a solid choice.
  • Easy to work with: Unlike stone, you can easily cut timbers to the exact lengths you need without the use of special tools. You can also have logs cut previously to being delivered, saving you the work.
  • Non-toxic: The lack of chemicals used in most landscape timbers is an excellent feature for green gardeners. However, it can still be a concern with some treated wood, so be mindful when purchasing if this is a concern for you.


  • Rot and insect susceptible woods: The woods we’ve mentioned here are resistant to insects and rot concerns. However, more than these few types are sold as landscape timbers. It’s important to know before purchasing if the wood you’ve chosen is able to resist either or both of these issues.
  • Expensive: Depending on your location, it can become quite expensive to use woods in your landscaping. Consider when purchasing if there may be a wood native to your area that would work rather than a wood that would have to be shipped in from a good distance.

How Much Does Timber Edging Cost?

There are a lot of factors that influence the final cost of your landscape timbers. However, we’ve found a few general numbers:

  • Treated wood typically runs around $400/50 feet
  • Untreated wood typically runs around $300/50 feet

However, depending on the type of wood and the design for your edging, costs can rise dramatically. Delivery fees, especially for woods that aren’t locally grown, can be substantial. If you choose to hire a landscaping crew to build your edging it will add to the final cost. If the landscaping crew has to manipulate your yard to address drainage issues or level the ground, costs will rise according to the amount of work they need to do.

How Do You Install Timber Edging?

Installing landscape timbers can be tricky, but once you learn it you can construct a simple edging yourself without having to resort to hiring professionals.

1. Mark Your Edging Design: The very first thing you need to do is mark out where your edging needs to go. Use a rubber mallet to drive a stake into the ground where you want your edging to start. Tie a rope to the stake and stretch it along the path you want your timber. When you get to a turn in your edging, drive another stake into the ground. Do this until the entire area has been marked by the rope.

To find this rubber mallet on Amazon, click here.

To find these ground stakes on Amazon, click here.

To find this rope on Amazon, click here.

2. Dig up the Grass: Use a flat spade to cut the grass or other plants in the edging path away from the ground. After you cut all the plants, come back with a shovel to remove them from the path you’ve marked.

To find this flat spade on Amazon, click here.

To find this shovel on Amazon, click here.

3. Level the Ground: Your timbers need a flat place to rest or they’re likely to roll away from your intended edge. To prevent this, you need to get the ground level. Start by using a pick or shovel to dig out rocks and roots that are in your planned path. After you’ve removed these, fill dirt into the holes they left with your shovel.

Once the holes have been filled in you need to walk over the exposed dirt for your edging to pack it down. You may need to add more dirt to the areas you removed rocks or roots from once you’ve done this step. If so, walk the path again to pack in the new dirt.

After you’ve walked it a few times, check to see if the ground is level. Use a carpenter’s level or a straight board for this step. Your ground doesn’t have to be perfectly level, but it must be mostly flat.

To find this pick on Amazon, click here.

To find this carpenter’s level on Amazon, click here.

4. Lay Out the Timbers: Lay the timbers along the path you’ve made. Make sure your timbers are the correct length and that each piece is flush against the next.

5. Connect the Timbers: Once the timbers are correctly laid out, it’s time to connect them. This, like leveling, helps ensure that the logs won’t roll. Use a metal plate and deck screws to connect each timber to its neighbors. If you have exact 90-degree angles, you can connect at turns using corner braces and deck screws.

If you have more complex turns, however, you will have to cut the timbers in the correct angle to ensure a good fit. Once you have the corners lined up right, you simply use the corner brackets to connect them.

Wondering where to put these tools? These outdoor storage solutions might help you!

Installation Video

If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this video walking you through the steps of installing timber garden edging!

Photo Examples of Timber Edging

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As you can see from this photo, laying timbers flat and end-to-end is not the only way to install this type of edging. Shorter pieces of timber can be installed in a vertical fashion to create this type of fenced edging.

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A post shared by Luke McConnon (@raven_wood_hobart) on Jul 17, 2019 at 2:03am PDT

This timber edging doubles as a retaining wall, allowing for a raised garden. You’ll notice the wide top plank of wood also makes a sort of bench, a nice idea for encouraging you and visitors to rest and enjoy the garden.

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A post shared by KR Architecture & Interiors (@krarchint) on Jul 8, 2019 at 12:54pm PDT

This garden edging is simple in design, showing that you don’t need a complex look for a great garden. You’ll notice, too, that there are added supports in the form of short, sturdy pieces as well as a trench to help keep the planks in place.

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A post shared by Keith Critcher (@keith_the_handyman) on Jul 2, 2019 at 4:11pm PDT

This edging uses logs stacked on top of each other to create a retainer for the bed. Rebar is likely used to help keep the logs in place as well as metal brackets.

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This garden is still under construction, but they started with the edging and made a raised bed. This thick, wide edging will hold the garden bed in place so it doesn’t shift and damage the plants.

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A post shared by Mark W. Lefavour (@markle_favour) on Jun 9, 2019 at 3:13pm PDT

This is another simple look, but simple is sometimes better! This timber edging adds to the rustic look of this garden that’s already present in the plants and the stones in the bed.

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A post shared by SIMONDS PALISADE (@oursimondspalisade) on Mar 11, 2019 at 6:08pm PDT

This image shows a beautifully stained timber edging that has multiple uses. The edging holds back the garden but has a double layer with rocks sandwiched in that, in turn, contains sprinklers to water the plants with. Style and functionality at its finest!

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This timber edging is used a bit differently as it marks out a walkway through the garden rather than marking the garden itself. This is a creative way to use timber edging in a garden without actually marking the outline of a bed.

This use of timber edging is perfect for not only edging a garden but creating one where there wasn’t ground for one before. This is a great way to use timber edging on a small patio or balcony for an apartment.

The owner of this yard used timber edging in another unique way. Not only does the timber outline garden beds, but it also pulls double duty to outline walkways between beds and separates the entire garden from the yard.

The edging used here is similar to the first example we showed you. Instead of using rounded logs, however, the owner used squared logs to create a unique look.

The two layers of edging used in this image create a double edging. Not only was timber used to outline the garden, but the owner added mulch to create both design and an added layer of protection for the plants.

A double layer of rounded logs makes for a simple yet beautiful edging. The wood in this picture has been stained and sealed to ensure a gorgeous color in the edging.

Triple stacked wood makes this edging double as a retainer for this raised garden. The section on the grass showcases the added support given to the walls of this edging.

Timber Edging

As you can see, the simplicity of timber edging makes for a beautiful and versatile garden edging option. Use any of the examples above as the inspiration for your own garden and you’re sure to have a showstopping yard in no time!

Know more about garden edging! Here’s a post about Types of Edging for gardens.

How to Keep Landscape Timbers from Rotting

With all these information on how to keep landscape timber from rotting in your fingertips, it is time to ascertain more on building retaining walls with railway sleepers. Railway sleepers have been in use for many decades in the construction sector. These timber railways sleepers are versatile products with a lot of uses.

Many people have been using railway sleepers in the garden as an alternative for stone or bricks. Railway sleepers look amazing, and will give your garden a rustic finish and increase the value of your home or property. If you know how to lay garden sleepers, you should not have any problems using railway sleepers for building furniture projects or fireplaces.

If you are looking for earthy beauty and increase the aesthetic value of your property, you can opt for a pine sleeper retaining wall. Oak and hardwood railway sleepers can also play great roles in your projects. But you have to make sure you treat your project with the right rot treatment options and keep your mini ties lumber in top-notch condition. If you have used railway sleepers before, you should not have any problems instructing a person in need of help in learning how to build a retaining wall with railway sleepers. There are different types of railway sleepers, and you should always opt for the best. You can opt for wooden, concrete, cast iron and steel railway sleepers.

Here is a simple guide on how to build a garden wall with railway sleepers;

1. Marking out

You cannot master how to build a garden wall with sleepers, if you don’t start by measuring and marking out the size of your planned garden bed. Pick an area that will not require a lot of sleepers as they are not that easy to cut into correct sizes. Clear any vegetation that might hinder the success of your project in the marked area.

2. Lay the first sleepers row

Go on and make the how to install garden sleepers procedure easy by laying out the first layer of sleepers on the garden bed. Leave gaps to allow easy flow of excess water.

3. Lay the second sleepers row

While laying the second row of sleepers, ensure they properly overlap the joints in the bottom row of railway sleepers. Ensure they don’t create a weak point in the retaining wall.

4. Finishing the wall

Continue laying out the sleepers until you reach the desired wall height. Drain nails through the sleepers to ensure the wall is firm enough. You will not have issues figuring out how long do railway sleepers last. Go on and fill the spaces inside the retaining wall with compost or soil.

The Bottom Line

Are you still having problems comprehend how to build a sleeper retaining wall on a slope? Worry no more. At Anglian Blasting, we understand how demanding the procedure can be if you are doing it for the first time. We have been in the construction sector for a number of years, and we have a team of experts who will guide you on how to build a sleeper retaining wall hassle free. We also offer budget-friendly rotten timber replacement services. Our team of experts will also help you undertake your landscape timber projects successfully.

Everything a Homeowner Ought to Know About Landscaping Timbers

Image courtesy of Ahigo Home Inspiration

One of the greatest things about landscaping timbers, is that when used properly, they can turn even the ugliest of yards into a work of art. Working with landscape timbers can prove to be more than a little challenging for the average Do-It-Yourselfer. But, not to worry as long as you take your time, have the right information and tools, you will soon find yourself the king of landscaping.

How to Choose the Right Landscaping Timber

There is only one thing that will affect your choice of landscaping timber more than anything else. This is how you plan to use it. For example, lumber that is going underground is typically pressure treated. Others, such as redwood, cedar, and cypress are used for their beauty. Let’s look at each of the most common types of landscape timber.


Image courtesy of Redwood Outlet

Many people choose redwood timbers for their natural rustic good looks. This wood is great for framing gardens, making outdoor furniture, decking rails, and many other projects.

Over the course of time redwood fades to welcoming brown/gray color. If you prefer the red color, there are sealants that can help.


Image courtesy of Caribbean Teak

One of the best things about cypress, is that this wood is naturally resistant to rot. Those who live in the Southeast choose it over redwood due to availability and price. But this changes the further west you go and cypress


Image courtesy of Carribean Teak

Like cypress, cedar is naturally rot-resistant and loved for being light in weight yet exceptional durability. Experts say you should only use common grade cedar for above ground purposes.

However, you can use heartwood cedar for posts and many near ground applications. It will fade to colors ranging from tan to light gray. If you apply sealant, it will turn dark gray. It can also be stained to any color you want.

Pressure Treated Lumber

Image courtesy of Southside Lumber

Pressure treated landscaping timbers can be used both above and in the ground. The wood is soaked in a chemical preservative under pressure. The pressure is used to drive the preservative deeper into the center of the wood.

In most cases, the lumber is easy to spot as it has a greenish color to it and may feel damp to the touch. Never use pressure treated lumber or old railroad ties around your food gardens as they can leach toxic chemicals into the ground. Learn more about pressure treated lumber here

Composite Landscaping Timbers

Image courtesy of Avimarksuccess.Com

There is a wide variety of composite landscaping timber products on the market. Most look like wood, can be cut like wood, even act like wood, with one big difference, they last longer.

Some are made from wood fibers mixed with resins or plastics and then formed to shape. They come in a variety of colors, can be painted, and are very resistant to rot, decay, insects, and require no sealants.

These timbers are virtually maintenance free. The only thing you should ever need to do is wash it off with the hose from time to time.

How is Pressure Treated Lumber Created?

You can’t miss new pressure treated lumber, it tends to have a strange smell, is green in color, and more often than not is still wet on the inside. Everyone tells you not to use pressure treated lumber by your fruit or vegetable gardens. But, do you know why? Is this still true? Let’s take a look.

In the early days the chemicals used to pressure treat lumber contained chromated copper arsenate or CCA. CCA is a mixture of copper, chromium, and arsenic, and is known to be toxic if ingested. Over the course of time, CCA was found to be leaching out of the timbers and into the ground where it found its way into the fruits and vegetable growing there.

Under new rules from the EPA, the amount of CCA and uses for lumber that has been preserved by it have been restricted. However, the chemical bath and pressurization methods have not changed in decades. The lumber is placed in a tank and a vacuum is applied to the tank. As the chemical is introduced into the tank, the negative pressure sucks it into the wood.

Once the cycle is complete, the lumber is removed to be air or kiln dried and the remaining solution recycled for the next tankful. If you plan to work with pressure treated lumber you should wear leather work gloves and use saw blades that are designed to be used in this type of lumber. Using the wrong kind of blade, can overload your electric saw motor causing it to burn out.

What Should You Be Looking for in Landscaping Timbers?

Image courtesy of RemoveandReplace.Com

So now that you have a little bit of an idea what each type of landscaping timber has to offer, let’s take a look at what you should be looking for when you go shopping.

Keep in mind that the you need to match beauty with function, form, and durability. No one landscapes their yard with the idea that they are going to be replacing their hard work every couple of years.

Face it, the last thing you want to do, is to have no choice but to rip out your hard work just because the materials you chose did not stand up to the conditions they were exposed to.

Pressure Treated Lumber Issues

Image courtesy of Gardening Know How

But at the same time, if you are planning a vegetable garden ora fruit plant bedd, the last thing you want to do is introduce the chemicals found in CCA (Chromium, copper, arsenic) into the ground around your gardens.

The pressure treated lumber being sold today has a significantly lower level of CCA in it, but there is still the risk of it leaching into the ground in your gardens still exists. Keep the use of pressure treated lumber restricted to other areas of your yard such as lining driveways or building raised flower beds.

Worth noting, is that even pressure treated lumber will rot over the course of time, yet it will outlast most other forms of landscaping timbers.

Shape Plays a Part

Image courtesy of Picturesmo.Com

While you might not realize it, the shape of the timbers plays a role in how successful your project is. While those perfectly round timbers might be appealing, they can be very hard to work with if you are building any type of wall.

A much better choice is to choose timbers that have two flat sides and two rounded sides. These are much easier to stack when crating walls, surrounds, flower garden surrounds, and anywhere you plan to install a landscaping timber wall.

Railroad Ties

Image courtesy pf Pacific Western Lumber

Landscapers and homeowners alike have been using railroad ties for more decades than most can remember. These timbers seem to last practically forever, but then they were soaked in creosote before they were used or sold.

Creosote is a preservative that has been used in railroad ties and phone poles to help preserve them for years. But, like the CCA used in pressure treating, creosote can leach out into the soil and into anything you plant there.

They are great to use for building retaining walls, walkways, foundations, and more, but never use them around your vegetable garden.

What About Plastic Landscaping Timbers

Image courtesy of Christopher Sherwin.Com

In recent years, we have seen the rise of reliable plastic landscaping timbers. They come in an incredibly diverse range of shapes, sizes, and colors. They do not leach toxins into the ground, do not rot, and will last for many years.

They are easy to work with, and are perfect for use around vegetable gardens, sandboxes, and anywhere your kids are likely to play. However, they are not as strong as natural wood timbers and are prone to swelling in size and warping in the sun.

Alternatives Using Landscape Timbers

Image courtesy of Lowes

If you prefer not to use landscaping timbers, there are other alternatives for you to consider. Both bricks and pavers are fairly inexpensive and unlike wood are not subject to the effects of time. They will not rot or become infested with damaging insects.

Some professionals have gone to using metal borders around ground level gardens as it is reasonably durable and can be painted.

Concrete Pavers

Image courtesy of Pic2Viral.Com

One of the greatest things about today’s concrete pavers, is that they come in an incredibly diverse range of sizes, shapes, and colors. Assembly is easy as you simply stack them to match the shape of the area you wish to enclose or the path you want to build.

They require virtually no maintenance unless you want to rinse them off from time to time. Depending on the style you choose, concrete pavers can be a relatively inexpensive option.


Image courtesy of RogerGladwell.Co.Uk

Bricks make another good alternative to landscaping timbers. They can be a little more expensive that cement pavers. But, like pavers, they last forever and come in a range of styles, shapes, and colors. This makes them perfect for use in a number of applications.

You can simply stack them to create the walls or if you are sure you aren’t going to move them, cemented together to form a stronger structure. If you are building a long wall, be prepared as this is going to take a while and be sure you have a good pair of heavy duty leather gloves to protect your hands.

The only real problem you are likely to have with concrete pavers and bricks, is that weeds and grasses tend to grow in the cracks, giving you yet another cleanup chore to add to your list. However, they are among the easiest types of border, edging, and walls to build.

The Last Word

Image courtesy of Landscape Timbers

Long before you spend the first dime on landscaping timbers, you need to take a good look at your property and what areas you plan to landscape. This will make a big difference in the materials you choose.

One of the best things about doing your own landscaping, is that you can use a range of the different types of landscaping timbers and materials to create the yard of your dreams.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you have enjoyed learning about landscaping timber, please let me know. If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact me here

Thank you for reading this guide to landscaping timbers, I hope you found it useful.

Landscape Timbers: What You Need To Know

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Landscape timbers give every homeowner the ability to turn their eyesore exterior into a landscaping masterpiece. Landscape timbers present a challenging DIY project, but one any determined landscaper can handle.

To simplify, landscape timbers are used to build planter boxes and raised beds for gardening. They are also used to separate plants from other common areas of the yard, to build a retaining wall, reinforce a slope, make garden steps or build a picnic table and landscape paths. The possibilities are endless, but before you go and purchase landscape timbers, make sure you read all there is to know about this highly attractive landscaping feature.

After, be sure to connect with local landscapers who can handle your next landscape timber project.

Landscape Timber Basics

There are certain landscape timber basics all must know before embarking on such a landscaping project. Like many other home materials, landscape timbers come in a variety of colors and materials. They are similar to wood planks in that many of them come in 4-foot or 8-foot lengths. However, the primary difference is that landscape timbers are flat on the bottom and top. As you can imagine, this makes landscape timbers ideal for building or stacking.

There are two main types of landscape timbers; natural and synthetic. For natural, the timber can be treated or untreated. Treated, while more expensive, can last up to seven years before being replaced. Synthetic, the most popular of which is recycled plastic, will last much longer and is cheaper.

Landscape Timber Prices

According to our landscape timbers cost estimator, all types of landscape timbers vary in price.

  • Natural Treated: Most pay $400 on average for 50 linear feet of treated landscape timbers.
  • Natural Untreated: Most pay $300 for untreated landscape timbers that covers 50 linear feet.
  • Synthetic: The cost for 50 linear feet of synthetic landscape timbers is $150 on average.

Just like a home’s flooring, the natural wood always costs more. Most agree that natural wood looks better as well.

Besides the timber costs, there are there are other factors one must consider:

  • Some companies may charge a delivery fee.
  • Having a landscaping crew build your structure will increase costs.
  • If your yard is not level or has drainage issues, the timbers may deteriorate, rot or shift out of place. Landscape pros will have to address and thus, increase your overall project cost.

Natural Timbers

Natural timbers are made of wood, the most common of which are redwood and cedar. Treated wood is the most common type of landscape timber in the U.S. The logs are treated with oil-based preservatives that help stave off mold, fungi and damage from exposure to moisture, sun and air.

Untreated timbers have some natural resistance to fungal growth, moisture and temperature extremes. These woods have a pleasing color, but they can also be painted to match other landscaping features.

When a natural landscaping timber begins to deteriorate, one must replace the decaying log right away. If not, carpenter ants and termites will be headed your way.

Synthetic Timbers

Recycled plastic timbers are the most common type of synthetic log. They are much easier to lift and install if you plan on completing this project yourself. Finally, synthetics do not include any chemicals, providing a safer environment for your plants and family.

Which Landscape Timber to Choose

As I said above, there are numerous applications for landscape timbers such as landscape curbing, building a garden bed or separating a walkway. Your specific project should always affect the type of landscape timber chosen.

For garden timbers, most homeowners go with synthetic or untreated natural timbers. Wood treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol results in oils that coat the roots, stems and leaves of nearby plants. Creosote and pentachlorophenol may also release an odor that is offensive to sensitive individuals. Landscaping timbers that were treated with copper, chromium and arsenic mixtures should not be used around plants for human consumption.

On the other hand, as you read above, treated wood still tends to be the timber of choice. That’s because most homeowners use treated timbers to build benches, retaining walls or tables. Treated wood is easy to cut and looks great for paths or edging closer to the home.

If you are looking to quickly improve your curb appeal, treated wood is the way to go. Just remember, that updated look does not come without a price.

Landscape Timber Benefits

Besides a huge bump in curb appeal, there are various benefits to installing landscape timbers. Those benefits include:

  • Durability: Treated timbers can last up to seven years and plastic can last several decades.
  • Accessibility: Raised beds made of landscape timbers reduce the amount of weeding that needs to be done while allowing for an extended growing season and easier access to the plants.
  • Green: Landscape timbers are an economical choice.
  • Inexpensive: Compared to brick or concrete, landscape timbers cost less.

How to Install Landscape Timbers

As indicated with our landscaping cost estimators, it’s almost always cheaper to handle your own landscaping project as opposed to hiring a pro. Fortunately, installing landscape timbers is no different.

To start off, one should always wear gloves when it comes to landscaping projects, especially those involved with treated landscape timbers. If you plan on working in the yard, do yourself a favor and invest in a good pair of gardening gloves.

The first step to installing landscape timbers it to measure. Before you head to your nearest Home Depot, you have to know how much timber to buy. Using edging stakes and yarn, measure out your flower bed, gardening path, etc. Make sure you hammer the stakes in the ground and tie the yard as tight as possible. Once all set up, measure the length (and width if you want to go wider than one timber).

Next, we have to dig the soil out of the ground. Since it’s such a small space, most homeowners use a hand edger versus a shovel. Try to keep the yard in tact to make sure you stick to the line.

At this point, if you are building a garden bed, most install the plants. Others keep going with the edging. According to David Beaulieu, landscaping expert, installing the edging first will make your life much easier. After removing some sod, level the ground using a steel rake or garden rope.

With the correct landscape timbers (based on your measurements above), you are ready to install.

First, lay out all pieces of your landscape timbers. It’s always nice to see the project before it’s fully connected. Then, take your corners and connect them using corner braces. A drill will greatly come in handy at this point. Make sure the corner pieces line up with the remaining timbers. Then, connect the length pieces using mending plates. Put in place and voila!

For a more detailed description, please see David’s 10 easy tips to timber installation.


It’s the details that count and when it comes to upgrading your curb appeal, few projects do it better than landscape timbers.

If you are interested in installing your own landscape timbers, but want an expert eye on the project, to connect with up to four landscaping pros near you!

Many people wonder if it is safe to use pressure treated lumber in the garden.

They fear the chemicals used in the treated wood will leach into the soil and the plants.

Many years ago, gardeners embraced the introduction of pressure-treated lumber impregnated with CCA (chromated copper arsenate) as a dream come true. It boasted longer life and longevity than the rot resistant species such as redwood.

This pressure treat wood was so popular you could buy them almost anywhere. Manufacturers claimed the chemicals used to treat the lumber, though toxic, couldn’t find their way to the soil.

The main advantage for the gardeners was that the chemicals were “harmless” to plants, unlike the previous popular wood preservatives – pentachlorophenol and creosote.

Word started leaking out that the CCA-treated wood was not so safe after all. Reports circulated that the chemicals fund their way into the soil, which set off a debate on the use of pressure treated lumber for the garden.

What Compounds Are Used For Treating Pressure Treated Lumber?

Arsenic Compounds

The pressure-treated lumber can be non-toxic or toxic. It depends on the preservatives used to treat the wood. Wood treated with CCA or chromated copper arsenate can leach arsenic, a very toxic compound.

Plants growing in the garden bed may take up the chemicals. CCA-treated lumber shouldn’t be used for garden beds and restricted to construction work only. Avoid wood treated with black creosote, a smelly coal tar derivative as well.

Copper-Based Preservative

Copper based wood preservatives began more widespread use in 2013 with compounds such as:

  • Copper azole (CA)
  • Micronized copper quaternary (MCQ)
  • Alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ)

Copper is considered less toxic compared to arsenic.

Manufacturers of pressure-treated wood with micronized copper quaternary claim that their lumber won’t leach any copper into the soil and therefore, it’s safe for all uses, including making garden beds.

Copper Azole and Alkaline copper quaternary contain fungicide and copper but not arsenic. The copper works to deter insects while the fungicide prevents soil fungus from attacking the lumber. Copper It is also used as a fungicide on food crops.

The copper-based preservatives are considered safer as virtually all the preservatives used are also used in other home uses such as growing food crops and in swimming pools.

For those who still don’t feel safe using these treated woods can use decay-resistant lumber or line the interior walls of the raised garden with a heavy plastic sheeting.

However, for those who want to grow organic foods, do not use pressure-treated lumber. If you want to grow pure organic foods that meet high standards and purity, choose a different material.

How Safe Is Pressure Treated Lumber?

Claims have been raised. Some claims backed by scientific facts while some not yet proven. If your raised garden bed uses arsenic-treated wood, don’t panic. Plants will not take up the arsenic leached into the soil unless they are deficient in phosphorous. This is not a problem for those who use compost frequently and generously.

The risk is minimal with the new copper-based wood treatments. Plants which take up too much copper will die before they mature. Plus, these homegrown vegetables make up a minuscule percentage of the daily diet, making exposure to copper intake insignificant. However, researches are ongoing to determine the extent of the copper leaching into the soil.

“Though actual cases of poisoning via pressure treated wood use by the public were hard to find, there was enough circumstantial evidence of soil contamination to warrant a change.” via

To be on the safer side, line inside the pressure-treated wood with heavy plastics. This helps prevent the leaching of chemicals from the wood into the garden soil. You can also do away with the treated wood and use alternatives, such as concrete blocks or decay-resistant wood like western red cedar and redwood.

The decision is up to you; since all these claims are not yet justified. You can decide whether to use the pressure-treated lumber or not. We’ve given you the facts.

NOTE: We used truckloads of pressure treated lumber in the nursery of my 4 decades of growing plants and never experienced any problems. However, you be your own judge. For more details and answers on the topic via PennLive

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