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Adding raised beds into the mix of your garden landscaping is a brilliant way to enhance the things you grow and elevate your garden’s look. For those considering building a raised garden bed or those who simply want to find the ideal variety, you may be wondering: what is the best type of wood for raised beds?

The benefits of using wood for raised beds

Raised bed gardening otherwise known as container gardening is an easy solution to enjoy nature when you don’t have very much space to work with and they look stunning too! Traditionally, landscapers have used wood for raised beds and its popularity has stood the test of time.

Space savers

If you’re limited to urban gardening, a tiny patio or even simply a balcony, a raised bed can come in handy – allowing you to introduce plants, flowers and wildlife into cramped spaces. Simple to set up and readily customisable, you can cut lumber down to size if your needs change and evolve.

Eco friendly

Using wood for raised garden beds is far more eco-friendly than their plastic or concrete counterparts. Easily sourced, you can find reclaimed railway sleepers for the job or even upcycled wood

Boosting root health

A healthy raised bed makes for healthy seedlings. This is because you have great control over the root zone conditions as you enhance soil quality with fertiliser and organic matter. Using wood, a non-toxic, natural material means that there are no unhealthy chemicals or minerals to interfere with this process as you add new soils to your garden.

Insulation

Compared to galvanised steel or brick beds, wooden raised beds boast better insulation. For this reason, using wood for raised garden beds with cold frames are a popular choice.

Easy to manage

Wooden raised beds are easy to look after on the whole and even easier to get your hands on. What’s more their ergonomic design will ease back strain, reducing the amount you need to hunch over.

Long lasting

With a little maintenance, raised beds made from wood will have a lifespan of 7-10 years on average.

Garden in style

Your choice of wood for raised beds can drastically alter the aesthetic appeal of your garden. There are so many combinations when it comes to colour scheme and looks, from something more rustic like naturally aged wood to beds painted in contemporary colours.

cedar as a type of wood for raised beds

The best types of wood for raised beds

Now we know the benefits of using wood for a raised garden bed, which type is the best of the best? There are many varieties from treated timber, nontreated wood, decking boards and railway sleepers, which all vary in cost, durability and availability. Let’s explore the options.

Decking or wooden boards

Raised beds made of decking or wooden boards can look attractive enough, but they are one of the least durable choices as they can’t handle the weight of large amounts of soil. That being said, they are one of the cheapest options and can be used for low-level planting and small projects. Gravel board is a similar material

Railway sleeper raised beds

Another method for adding character to your garden could involve using railway sleepers in place of wood for raised garden beds. These sleepers come in multiple varieties, including new softwood, reclaimed oak and charred softwood. Coated in environmentally friendly preservatives and heavy-duty, they are suited to all sorts of landscaping projects, and make charming raised beds.

Natural rot-resistant woods

There are numerous woods that are rot resistant even when left untreated, including cedar and redwood – and both are very popular. Of the pair, cedar wood is far more widely available, although more expensive.

deck as a type of wood for raised beds

Pressure-treated wood

Pressure-treated wood is a type of wood that has been treated with chemicals designed to protect the material from insects and rot. This exponentially improves the lifespan of the wood and shields it against the elements.

Treated hardwood and softwood are pricier than their untreated counterparts, but in the long run, they are very cost-effective, lasting up to decades. For the most durable raised bed, this wood is ideal.

Is treated wood safe for raised beds?

Although pressure-treated lumber is one of the most durable woods, you should be mindful of where you source it from. Some types of pressure-treated wood are treated with chemicals (usually CCA) that aren’t suitable or safe for ground contact – you don’t want these in your veggies!

Fortunately, the use of lumber treated with CCA has been heavily restricted due to its toxicity to humans and the environment, but we recommend you should always look out for labels specifying the wood is “suitable for ground use.” With this in mind, you should also be wary of recycled or reclaimed wood that has been treated as it may be unsafe.

a painted type of wood for raised beds

What about painting raised beds?

Wood is a brilliant surface to paint on, so it’s only natural to wonder whether painting raised beds is safe. Much like using treated wood, you should make sure to check the contents of the material so it’s nontoxic. If you’ve got the all-clear and your chosen paint is a nontoxic exterior paint you can paint the exterior, making sure you don’t contaminate the soil.

To sum up

Raised beds are extremely versatile and so are the materials you can make them from. Out of these materials, wood is certainly a winner with many types all varying in price, their looks and how they perform when left to the elements. While pressure-treated lumber is the most durable type of wood for raised beds, the best type of wood comes down to personal preference.

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