Best Wood For Raised Bed Gardening

Learn which variety of wood is the best for building raised beds in the garden based on longevity.

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How do you choose the best wood for raised bed gardening?

I’m here to help because if you’re shopping at most local home improvement stores there’s really only two choices, these include pine and cedar.

Types of wood like oak, cypress, and redwood can also be great options because they’re dense and long lasting.

However, most retailers would need to special order these materials.

Which means a minimum order would probably be required and it could be pricey.

Sometimes it’s difficult to justify an expensive wood purchase for gardening when you know it will end up living in your backyard where it will eventually rot…

For most gardeners, they choose between pine and cedar.  I like both, what about you?

 

Let’s begin with pine.  It’s always my first go to because it’s affordable and when cared for properly it can last up 5 and 6 years.

If the exterior is left untreated you can bet those boards will be toast around 3 or 4 years depending on your climate.

Let me go into further detail…

The 2 x 6 Pine Board for Raised Beds

The 2 x 6 pine boards have been my favorite for a long time.  I used them at our farm and added them to my garden at Quail Grove.

Untreated 8 ft. boards will run between six and seven dollars each; prices will vary based on where you shop.

 

Treated pine will be more expensive and using this material to grow is a personal choice, so select what works best for you.

With that being said, you’ll notice on my blog I’m a fan of stain and painted raised beds.

 

To Learn More, Get Those Details Here:

To build one 2 ft. x 4 ft. or one 2 ft. x 6 ft. frame using pine and 8 screws, you’re looking at spending under $15.00.

The 2 x 4 Pine Board for Raised Beds

I borrowed Robert’s hand to point out wood size so you can see, there’s a significant difference between the 2 x 6 and 2 x 4 boards.

Guess what?

I also really like the 2 x 4 boards because they look awesome in the garden.

I’ve used them stacked and intermixed with the 2 x 6 pine as this adds a little interest to any growing space.

I’m all about a pretty garden display…

 

Longevity is the same and the only real difference is price per board. Keep in mind they may be less expensive but you’re not getting the same jump in height.

These boards normally run anywhere between $2.50 and $4.00 each depending on the quality.

Someday I’m going to have a pallet delivered because every time I go to purchase the price goes up…

 

 

To build one 2 ft. wide x 4 ft. long frame or one 2 ft. x 6 ft. using pine and 8 screws you’re looking at spending under $10.00.

 

Now, I have a post on the blog where you can build two 2 x 4 raised bed frames for under $10. 

When I wrote that, about three years ago that was completely true and can still be true today if you purchase lower quality 2 x 4’s or get your wood on sale.

Keep in mind the lower quality isn’t horrible you just have to choose carefully and make sure it’s not warped.

 

Little Tip: Wood normally goes on sale during a three-day weekend like Memorial Day and Labor Day.

 

Pine Landscaping Timbers for Raised Beds

Landscaping timbers are almost like a 4 x 4 and I love these.

You can use them in a variety of ways and connect best by drilling holes and securing corners with screw bolts.

Or you can do something fun like this tall raised bed here.

 

The thing with landscaping timbers is they warp fast so use them right away.  They’ll last about 6 – 7 years in the form of a raised bed if treated on the exterior.

Untreated your looking at about 4 – 5 years.  Again, this will be based on your climate, for me that’s wet and hot with humidity with strange winters.

These 8/10 ft. timbers will cost around $3.50 – $4 each.

 

 

Wood Width is Overlooked

Before we move onto cedar, I want to chat about wood width for all varieties.

When making your purchase it can get expensive no matter what you decide, especially if you’re installing a lot of beds.

 

Don’t skimp on width regardless of the price difference.

 

I’ve seen new and established gardeners choose 1-inch boards for raised beds, or worse they use recycled pallet wood.

These beds won’t last long, one or two years if you’re lucky and after one season they begin to warp because they’re not strong enough to hold large amounts of soil.

That’s why these boards work best for small planter boxes.

 

What happens, is the soil is dry then moist and repeats this cycle from one month to the next and the wood begins to expand and contract.

It’s not pretty and you’ll end up starting over or giving up on raised beds or gardening all together.

This can leave a negative experience because things didn’t turn out how you envisioned.

 

My advice, don’t cut corners to save a buck because it will cost you more in the long run…

Instead, start small with quality wood.

This means add one or two raised beds as tall or short as you want and then explore gardening before taking the plunge on a larger growing space.

 

Raised beds can be incorporated any time of year, which means you don’t need to do all the work at once.

I promise, the garden police won’t come and get you if you only begin with one or two raised beds.

So, slow down, don’t skimp, learn as you grow and enjoy the process…

 

The 4 x 4 Cedar Board for Raised Beds

Cedar is amazing but holy cow is it ever pricey, to give you an idea these 4 x 4 10 ft. cedar boards begin at $32.00 each.

If you don’t plan on moving from your present location and have the money to invest then I highly recommend cedar.

Cedar will last between 10 and 15 years, pretty awesome right?

 

Cedar is what I plan using in my next garden because I’m praying that will be our last move.

The 2 x 6 Cedar Board for Raised Beds

The 2 x 6 cedar board is on my radar for my next garden.  That plan calls for several raised beds established with two or three frames each.

Here’s My Plan:

  • For growing vegetables and herbs use 2 x 6 cedar built into 2 x 4 frames stacked 3 high.
  • For growing cut flowers and berries use 2 x 6 cedar built into 2 x 6 frames stacked 2 high.

This is probably a couple years off but friends, I can hardly wait…  I’m already planning that garden where I will also raise more quail…

 

So, let’s break down cedar to price per 8 ft board, well get this they vary between $16 – $25 each.

At $16 building one 2 ft. x 4 ft. frame or one 2 ft. x 6 ft. using cedar and 8 screws you’re looking at spending around $38.

Ouch, pricey, absolutely!

Is it worth it? This will depend on your goals…

When we finally settle, I have specific goals waiting on me so using cedar wood will be the best choice for my next garden.

When choosing the best wood for your raised bed project be realistic but most of all don’t settle on flimsy wood.

 

Have a great day and leave me a comment for additional questions or thoughts.

Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West

 

 

 

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14 comments

  1. Adriene says:

    Thank you for sharing this information, Hi my name is Adriene. We relocated last year from South Florida. I could not wait to start my raised beds, I used leaf mulch and compost before planting my veggies and was soo proud with all of my accomplishments, until I read that you are not suppose to use pressure treated wood, I was devastated. Soo I did my research and it is confusing some say not to use pressure treated wood. Others says that the new pressure treated wood after 2018 are safe and dosen’t have harmful ingredients then follow that up with it is recommended to use heavy plastic sheeting. Should I break everything down and start all over and place the plastic sheeting with leaf mulch and compost? What would you suggest? Thank you.

    1. Carole West says:

      Hello Adriene,
      People get an idea and it sticks. The fact is they stopped using chromated copper arsenate in 2003.

      Plastic sheeting doesn’t allow for worm activity to enter the soil and how would water drain properly?

      You’ve already built and planted, pat yourself on the back and be proud of your accomplishment.
      Next growing season you may want to change things and use those beds for flowers. This would allow you to bring in new beds with untreated wood for growing vegetables.

      I don’t use treated wood in my garden – it’s a personal choice not based on fear…
      You’ll also notice in my garden that I’m known to stain or paint the exterior only of my beds…

      Click around my garden category a little more…
      The goal here is to not tell you what to do but give you the information so that you can move forward with ease.

      Blessings,
      Carole

      1. Adriene Russell says:

        Thanks Carol.

  2. Jemma says:

    Carole,
    Such a timely post and so very informative. It is you that got me hooked on raised beds.
    Mine need to be way taller, but these were our first round of learning and growing in raised beds.

    I am pinning this one.
    Thanks,
    Jemma

    1. Carole West says:

      My first round of raised beds at our farm was short too; that’s how we learn. I actually had a neighbor then who was confined to a wheel chair that made me think going taller would open the door to more folks gardening. Little did I know then, many benefits would follow…

      Hope you have a great week,
      Carole

  3. Joe Adams says:

    This was great. I was wondering about using cedar and you answered all the questions. Can’t wait to make my more permanent raised beds.

    1. Carole West says:

      So glad I could help. You’ll have share photos when you get your raised beds finished. Have a great weekend Joe and hope all is well in Cooper.

  4. Patti says:

    These are great tips and I especially love the tip about wood going on sale during Memorial and Labor Day. I would not have thought about wood width. Another good tip to know when shopping. Thanks!

    1. Carole West says:

      You are so welcome friend. Sometimes July 4th week can offer good deals on wood too.

  5. Nicole says:

    How do you get rid of fire ants in your garden beds? I just built some beautiful cedar beds and planted a few seeds only to find one with a huge colony the next day! Thanks for your expertise!

    1. Carole West says:

      Fire ants are the worst and if you can believe it I pour boiling water over the mound, which is said to not be effective. I agree with part of that statement because when I’ve done this I actually did see it kill ants… However doesn’t kill the nest where the queen resides. To get rid of the bed, fire ants need to feed off something. Using borax ( not straight borax) in the evening is a natural way to kill the nest.
      Here’s a recipe I found on you-tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoCtrhK7WlE

      Great Question – Carole

      1. Nicole says:

        Fantastic! Thank you so much. I’m gonna mix up a batch right now!

  6. HI Carole, I just received a 2×8′ “raised” bed. It came with no bottom. I have a narrow, west side sunny space for this. 2×4 are on my list to add a “bottom” and because walk slopes down I need to prop up one end. You know I am terrified of snakes so my thought was the higher the raise (rise)… stay tuned. I may just start texting you my plant photos via Instagram. I really want to grow pumpkins! The only year we got pumpkins is after our Australian shepherd tackled the fall pumpkins like a rugby player and ta-da we had pumpkins in our front yard the following august! Got to love an Aussie! laura

    1. Carole West says:

      Yes, would love to see photos via Instagram. Pumpkins in raised beds is fun! You made me laugh can only imagine what that was like.
      Good to hear from you and will be on the look out.

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