Raised beds are an excellent way to manage your vegetable garden, especially if your home is on a hilly lot. Here are a few tips if you’re considering building a raised bed garden.

  • If you use wood timbers to construct a raised bed, interlock them at the corners by overlapping the timbers (log cabin style). This creates a sturdy structure to contain your soil. For a vegetable garden, don’t use timbers treated with creosote or penta.
  • Build the bed long and narrow so that the middle can easily be reached from either side. This way you don’t have to actually climb into the bed for weeding or harvesting.
  • If animals are a concern in your area, surround the bed with a wire or fabric fence to keep the critters from feasting on your produce. To stop burrowing animals lay chicken wire in the bottom of the box before adding soil and amendments.
  • Be sure to use rich soil that includes plenty of organic matter.

Further Information

5 COMMENTS

  1. What concerns are there about the chemicals in treated lumber leaching into the soil and being picked up by the plants? It appears that the beds you’re showing use pressure treated lumber.

  2. I do not find an answer to the question about pressure treated wood for vegetable gardens. I bought landscape timbers that are pressure treated does this mean they are treated with creasote? Please advise. Thank You

  3. Mary Ann,
    Creosote treated wood is black or dark brown in color while wood that is treated with copper based preservatives has a greenish tint. Wood treated with creosote and chromated copper arsenate (CCA) are no longer readily available and should not be used with vegetable gardens. The newer preservatives ACQ (alkaline copper quat) and CA-B (copper azole) have lower toxicity levels, but can still be a questionable choice for vegetable gardens. When used to construct raised beds, an impermeable membrane (like heavy plastic sheeting) should be used between the wood and soil. Other options for use with vegetable beds include rot resistant woods such as cedar and redwood, and masonry construction. You can find more detailed information in the Fine Gardening magazine article Are Pressure Treated Woods Safe in Garden Beds?.

  4. Speaking of chemicals leaching into the soil…is there a topsoil or soilless mix out there that has been tested to be free of heavy metals? I built a raised bed (because we have high levels of lead in our soil) to grow vegetables and now I don’t know what to fill it with! Any info. will be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Laura

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