Used HD landscaping timbers for raised beds. Did we screw up?

hopefulnoviceApril 8, 2008


I wish I'd thought to ask this earlier. My husband built me two 3.5 x 7.5 raised beds out of some "landscaping timber" we found in the HD garden section. It was about $2 per 8 foot piece. We are planning on planting lots of vegetables in these beds.

Am I going to poison my family? What kind of chemicals are in that wood, and will it leach into the soil? Do I need to rip them out and start again?

Thanks, feeling very stupid.

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I am also very interested in this. I built beds last year using landscape timbers from lowes.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 3:49PM
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There is some controversy about the use of treated landscape timbers, but studies have shown that any compounds that leach out are well within safe levels established by the EPA, both in growing media and in harvested produce. If you are concerned about using treated timbers, line the inside of the bed walls with polyethylene, roofing felt or similar materials to form a protective barrier.

I did find this about the subject

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 3:54PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

I doubt that you obtained treated timbers at that price. Perhapas they're just stained?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:01PM
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Here is a link that might be useful: Product I used for my beds

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:07PM
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RuthieG__TX(z8 TX)

I used the treated timbers for all my beds...I had a choice of gardening only if I had raised beds and I had to find something that was affordable. I read everything I could find regarding the chemicals in those timbers and decided for me it wasn't an issue...If you do an internet search you will find a ga-zillion pages of information...

Mine are made of the same kind of timber.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:18PM
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Landscape timbers are only coat treated. They are not pressure treated. Meaning they spray the chemicals on the timber for looks only meant to last until you get them home. Where pressure treated lumber is soaked and pressurized to force the chem into the wood for lasting effects. I used timbers to frame an extra parking spot for my boat. That nice look lasted half a summer. Now they just look like reg wood.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:34PM
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I would not use them where I grow food of any kind.

Arsenic and other nasty chemicals WILL leach out into your soil and be absorbed into the plants. Those chemicals do not break down and go away with time.

As for the EPA and FDA, their standards have been purposefully relaxed and redefined to allow corrupt farming practices for the big farming industry in America. Terms like "organic" or "All Natural" labeling on products and by-products (i.e. pet food, livestock food) is no longer dependable for the same reason.

I would rather you start over than risk poisoning your family or your neighbors! Use cedar or redwood lumber. It is well worth the initial cost. It will last you for many years and is not treated.

Another alternative is to use rocks, bricks, cinder blocks, logs or cut wood.

~ sweetannie4u

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:36PM
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If still concerned, you should be able to find out from the supplier what was used for "treating" that particular lumber. If the local store can't help you, then go to the top for information.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 7:37PM
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I think you are fine as long as you don't plant food crops right up against the wood. Everything I have seen says that while chemicals are leached they don't travel far from the wood. Also while many chemicals are used to treat wood the biggest concern was CCA (which is where the arsenic comes from), but since 2003 this has mostly been replaced by ACQ. I looked on the Georgia-Pacific website and they use ACQ (an arsenic free alternative) to pressure treat their wood. Here are two links from the EPA on CCA and ACQ. I also have a raised bed made from pressure treated lumber. While I doubt there is any real concern I still avoid planting anything closer than a foot to the wood (that I would eat, flowers are fine). Also I avoid mixing the soil from the perimeter into the middle in case it is contaminated with chemicals.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 8:30PM
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granite(z6 NC)

Railroad ties are dangerous for planting foods.
As weirdtrev noted, the process used to treat lumber was changed in 2003, the arsenic process wood is no longer available.

You're fine. So people will jump up and down if there is ANY negative substance in a product. Lets face it...even our water has antibiotics in it now (in tiny traces, but its now there!) If you want to "detox" the area near the wood, plant sunflowers there this year and food next year. But, I would plant there...hey wait a minute I did just that very same thing two years ago after edging my garden with the new treatment timbers. My only concession was to plant marigolds or California poppies in the corners for beauty.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 8:48PM
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I've been using RR ties for years and no one in my family or friends have ever gotten sick. All of the studies that I have read pretty much say the same things about minimal leaching, etc. Of course, use some common sense.....I never get the ties that have leaking or dried creosote on them or smell. Mine are very well aged and have been no problem. Our rainwater has more harmful chemicals in it than I want, but can't change that. I don't use fertilizers unless organic and I don't use pesticides, so I figure I'm ahead of the game.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:19PM
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Even if you're growing in arsenic wood or in poluted soils of various types...the leaves/fruits will take up very little of it in the tissue. They will certainly take up far less in fruits (peppers, tomatoes, etc). Numerous studies have shown uptake, but we're talking about very small amounts.

If you're going to get the "bad effects" it's going to come from direct contact contamination or long storage root crops eatten in large amounts.

If you wash your fruits/veggies you've eliminated almost all the risk. If you grow root veggies then peel them. Personally, I wouldn't even bother with root veggies in semi-toxic soil and/or small beds with arsenic lumber around it.

Wash your produce if you're near any environmental toxin...that should apply to too many of us, unfortunately.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:35PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There are many types of pressure treated, preserved wood. While concerns about the use of CCA USED to be valid, CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) has not been used for several years now in products sold to the public - it's only available to lisensed contractors for highway or industrial construction.

Most currently manufactured treated wood products are treated with one of several formulas composed of copper, borates, sodium, and zinc - none of which pose a risk to the home gardener unless you plant to eat the wood itself. ;) There is a great deal of current info available on both the former hazards and the safety revisions of pressure treated wood but the bottom line is that you do not need to worry about your garden beds.

As others have already said, the supplier can tell you which specific form of preservative was used on the wood you purchased and if you are then still worried, simply line the insides of the wood (not the bottom of the bed) with plastic or something similar.

Enjoy your garden.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 10:17PM
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barngod(Z7/ VA)

Umm yeah no nead to really repeat whats already been said, the landscape timbers aren't going to kill you or your family, or cause any other side effects like growing a second head...although a third arm might come in handy while weeding hmmm....Arsenic is no longer used as an agent in treating wood that the average consumer can for asking the folks at home depot hopefully it's different elsewhere but around here their employees are completely clueless and an average of 19 years old. Which while having more eye appeal doesn't get you much help or any answers! Your beds will be fine!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 9:27AM
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At the local home depot here in Canada, there are information pamphlets from the manufacturing company, right beside the product.

On the pamphlet it states "the product should not be used in a scenario where it could potentially become part of food or consumed by humans"

A second note says, the product must not be used where it could potentially come into contact with drinking water.

Now.. that tells me, it can't be good for your edible vegetables. That said, *everyone* uses them for their vegetable garden.. *shrug*

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 1:44PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

If, as Dave says, the new PT lumber is only treated with some combination of "copper, borates, sodium, and zinc" (and nothing more harmful), they might even be good for your garden.

Many soils are lacking in copper, boron and zinc (sodium can go either way).

The way you can usually tell whether your lumber is pressure-treated or just stained: the PT lumber is usually perforated with rows of offset half-inch cuts, at least on two sides. If you aren't sure, you could buy one piece and cut it across, and look at the cut side: the half-inch perforations should show quite clearly. These cuts are there to help the wood absorb the treatment.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 2:53PM
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** "Landscape timbers are only coat treated." **

** "I doubt that you obtained treated timbers at that price." **

No, you can't always tell. They are very inconsistent. I got some last year that had been dipped only but right now my local HD has some on hand with a tag that says "Treated to refusal".
Also, watch out for sizes and prices. Last year they were mostly $3.98, which is criminal but this year they are mostly $1.97 which is still exorbitant for what they really are. Besides, last year and this year many of them are a lot smaller so that I would call them "lanscape sticks" rather than timbers.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 3:04PM
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I can only guess but I would say the reason for the price drop would be that lumber price has hit a 20 years low. With the housing crunch and lack of new home construction. A lot of the lumber companies are hurting. There is no demand for lumber.

BTW in case you didnt know landscape timbers are a by-product of plywood manufacturing.

1.97 for pressure treated???? No way. They have to be coated only. I cant believe they can sell those for 1.97 and an 8ft 2x4 is about $10. Possible I guess but I doubt it.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 10:17AM
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RuthieG__TX(z8 TX)

landscape timbers routinely sell for #1.97 here in my area of TX. They are not that much more when full price but many stores use them as loss leaders to get people into the stores for other things....and you can't touch an 8ft 2 X 4 in this area for that price either...but landscape timber is something different...they usually have a tag nailed on the end that tells what is used to treat them...

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 10:34AM
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Looking for cheap landscape timbers. When doe lowes landscape timber go on sale for $1.97

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 7:47AM
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I have used landscaping timbers in my garden for the pass 3
years. The only issues I am having is the nails are comming out and they are rotting out. I found a web sight that might eliminate this problem for me. The web sight is They have a product that ties the landscaping timbers together and you do not need to nail them together.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 9:01PM
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