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Old 03-28-2013, 11:55 AM   #1
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Raised Beds-Materials?


I've done raised vegetable beds before using treated lumber. Now, we've moved and have a larger space for a garden. (roughly 6-10 4x8' beds) I'd like to do raised beds again, but have a few questions I thought I'd get some opinions about.

1. Does anyone use untreated lumber? If so, how has it held up?
2. What about treated lumber?

I realize untreated might not last quite as long, but didn't know if the price break would be worth the longevity. Cedar is out of the question because of the cost.

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Old 03-28-2013, 12:07 PM   #2
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Raised Beds-Materials?


By treated you mean pressure treated? It's a really bad idea for vegetable gardens due to the chemicals in pressure treated wood....

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Old 03-28-2013, 01:26 PM   #3
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By treated you mean pressure treated? It's a really bad idea for vegetable gardens due to the chemicals in pressure treated wood....
yeah I meant pressure treated. I know the newer stuff that's out is not suppose to be near as bad as the arsenic stuff used prior to 2004, but was just curious if untreated wood would be worth using since it won't last nearly as long (I think).
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Old 03-29-2013, 10:24 AM   #4
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yeah I meant pressure treated. I know the newer stuff that's out is not suppose to be near as bad as the arsenic stuff used prior to 2004, but was just curious if untreated wood would be worth using since it won't last nearly as long (I think).
I used untreated and got myself a sheet of 3 mil plastic and stapled it the the inside face where the dirt would touch the wood. Its only been a year but its held up very well so far.

I used Douglass Fir 2x10's
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Old 03-29-2013, 10:30 AM   #5
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The EPA said the old treatment, CCA, might be dangerous to eat so they took it off the market and replaced it with treatment that, presumably, is okay to eat.

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Old 03-29-2013, 11:21 AM   #6
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I have used raised beds a lot. One problem with any wood is the corners do not hold up. A long wood screw or carriage bolt is not enough to make the box not fall apart at the corners. Mother nature will degrade the point of contact between the bolt and the wood in about 5-10 years. Another factor is the pressure from damp soil will make the beds bow out in the middle.

My solution to the corner weakness, after several tries, was to use a metal "L" bracket and bolt it to holes drilled in the ends of the wooden box members. Those boxes lasted 30 years until I sold the home and the boxes are still OK.

I also layered crawlspace plastic between the boxes and the box soil. Before I filled the box with soil, I attached the plastic by using plastic grass edging and screwing it to the sides of the boxes with the plastic in between the edging and wood. This was like an upside down hem, The plastic was sticking up above the box. I folded it down over the grass edging to slightly below the bottom edge of wood.

I suggest testing the area in the box for drainage before adding the dirt. It took me a couple years to realize I needed better drainage (the plants showed symptoms of overwatering), then the work was a lot more than if I had done it prior to filling with dirt.

For the bowing sides I pounded a 4' piece of rebar down into the ground in the middle of the outside of the box. I also used a u-bolt to fasten the rebar to the sides of the box.

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Old 03-29-2013, 11:22 AM   #7
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I used untreated and got myself a sheet of 3 mil plastic and stapled it the the inside face where the dirt would touch the wood. Its only been a year but its held up very well so far.

I used Douglass Fir 2x10's
I too have used plastic to line the inside of the boxes. In fact, that's what I did when I used treated wood.

The biggest concern I have with using untreated lumber is that it will look awful in the next year or two. These beds will be in a place that you see it right when you drive up to our house and if it looks bad, I won't be able to stand it.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:34 AM   #8
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how about using retaining bricks. I think that would make for a nice raised bed. Spendy but nice.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:38 AM   #9
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how about using retaining bricks. I think that would make for a nice raised bed. Spendy but nice.
I agree it would look the best, but we're talking about 6-8 beds total. That could quickly turn into several hundred dollars.

I don't mind the look of wood, just want it to last for more than 3 years.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:44 AM   #10
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I agree it would look the best, but we're talking about 6-8 beds total. That could quickly turn into several hundred dollars.

I don't mind the look of wood, just want it to last for more than 3 years.
Well I put a 4x4 post in the corner of each of my beds and then used outdoor (deck I think, the gray coated ones from HD) screws to connect the 2x10
s to the 4x4 in the corner. I think these ones will hold up well.

I am going to put a cross brace midspan across the width of the box 4' to keep the walls from bowing out. That will have to be replaced every few years since it will degrade very quickly. No worries there thou.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:54 AM   #11
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I thought about stacking pressure treated 2x4s (2 high). I'd like to till the earth beneath the raised beds so roots have access there too. I've done taller beds in the past, but it gets spendy adding soil to all of them. The soil I have is really nice, so I'd like to use as much of the ground as I can. I'd just be creating a bed that contains 6" of soil and keeps the garden looking neat and tidy.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:11 PM   #12
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Unless you use at least 4 X 4's in pressure treated there not below grade rated and will rot.
All 4 X 4's 4 X 6's and 6 X 6's are below ground rated and should last about 20years.
I notch the outside corners so they over lap, drill a 1/2 hole and drive in a piece of 24" long rebar to lock it all together.
I filled it with composte and till in leaves and all our veg scraps over the winter.
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:07 PM   #13
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When I used raised beds, I used redwood simply because it was free and used, from a deck I removed. Redwood does hold up very well and readily available, you can rub on some oil to the sides exposed to the weather and keep then looking nice.

I used firewood for the legs. Basically I had some rounds that were to big and knotty to split with an Axe. I put some 1 1/2" cement pads on the ground and the logs on them.
Again you can contact someone that sells firewood, get the rounds cut at a predetermined hight. And would be cheap.
Mine was hillbilly and free, but looked good and all natural to me. I would purchase new to do it again.
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Old 04-10-2013, 11:15 PM   #14
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I built 5 beds last year... 3 which are 4x8, and 2 which are 3x18. I just used ACQ pressure treated. I did some research and everything I read indicated they're not going to leach into the soil and even if they do the plants won't pick it up. Granted it's not "organic", but then cedar lumber would have cost a small fortune.

Screws, nails, whatever do not hold in end grain. It's all about the fibers, and put it in perpendicular to the fibers causes tension and holds the fastener. So you need to add a block in the corners so that your fasteners are going cross grain to cross grain. I used 4x4 posts in the corners and 2x8 lumber for the sides. A 2x4 would have been an adequate block. Fasteners for pressure treated lumber need to be coated or hot-dipped galvanized. Check the package and make sure it says it's acceptable for ACQ lumber. On the inexpensive side a 8d or 10d nail is likely more than adequate. I did a bit of overkill and used Spax powerlag bolts with washer heads. Overkill, but they were easy to work with.

I built mine taller, three 2x8's tall. My wife liked it that way. I then filled in between the boxes with gravel so I didn't have to try to mow. I was able to get a good soil/compost mix from a local supplier for about $20/yard, and it took about 12 yards to fill them. We're going to add compost this year to fluff them back up.

Now I didn't take my time building these, as my wife wanted them in RIGHT NOW and the thing I learned.... An 8' board isn't always 8' long. Sometimes they're an inch or two longer. So I've got some gaps and pieces sticking out in the corners I wish I didn't have. If I were doing it again, I'd double check board lengths and make sure they were all the same size before assembling. Also I didn't do a very good job at leveling from one box to another. The ground sloped and it was hard to dig and I got lazy. Hard to fix now.

On the 18' long boxes I braced them at 6' intervals with a 4x6 post and then a 2x4 across the top. That worked well. The boxes with 8' lengths started to bow out a bit and I'm adding a cross brace this year.

This year I'm trying to work out a solution for trellises. I thought about building up taller polls and an elaborate solution but instead I think we're just going to use stakes, the big thick tomato stakes. I'll probably some galvanized pipe straps in the sides to hold them up and then we can tie string between them to hold up the vines. This seems more flexible as I can move stakes around, rearrange things from one year to the next... and above all I can pull them out in winter and they store easily.
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Old 04-11-2013, 09:28 PM   #15
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To prevent bowing, drill holes in opposite sides and use a length of tubing, like black PVC or conduit to tie them together.

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