Best Wood for Raised Beds

Best Wood for Raised Beds

Apart from being more economical in tight spaces, raised garden beds have a host of other benefits. They offer better protection from weeds and pests and allow for optimal root growth in non-conventional spaces, the likes of balconies and rooftops.

Most raised beds are built from wood, which is the best organic material for such a project. However, not all wood is ideal for building raised garden beds. The attributes you’re looking for here include:

  • Termite and rot-resistance

  • Water-resistance

  • Cost

  • Availability

Termite and rot-resistance

Wood that’s in contact with organic matter is more likely to succumb to decay. That’s why the best wood for raised beds has excellent rot resistance, which you can tell by the amount of natural oil it produces.

Water-resistance

Some types of wood fair better in humid conditions than others. Ideally, you want to select wood that resists moisture penetration, which can delay the onset of decay.

Cost

Wood can be very expensive; it’s a good idea to learn what to expect in terms of cost.  Hardwoods are expensive, so even though they offer better durability, they’re typically too expensive for large outdoor projects.

The trick is to find a durable softwood that’s cheap but resilient against pests, moisture, and the elements. 

Availability

Some types of wood will be more expensive if they’re not locally available. The cost of shipping wood can drive up its initial cost significantly. That’s why you should always seek the most available options first.

The Best Wood for Raised Beds

Western Red Cedar

Cedar is the gold standard when it comes to wood for raised garden beds. It is the most popular untreated wood for building raised beds because it has a very long lifespan. Most people don’t even need to treat it first.

Western red cedar, scientifically known as Thuja plicata, is the most common variety and thus the cheapest option at your disposal. Even though eastern cedar, which goes by the scientific name Juniperus virginiana, is significantly more impervious to rot, it is much harder to find and therefore costs more.

Cedar is relatively affordable, but you should still expect high initial costs if you’re building a large raised garden.

Redwood

Redwood is a very durable wood that is also quite attractive aesthetically speaking. The problem is that it is not widely available and thus might be too expensive to start a raised garden with. 

If you can source it cheaply, redwood is a great option, one that offers more rot resistance than options like pine. The problem is that it can be quite hard to find, even when it’s expensive.

Cypress

Cypress, or Taxodium distichum, is considered the next best alternative to cedar in terms of availability. It does not possess the same rot resistance as cedar, but it is more durable than cheaper woods such as pine. Cypress is a naturally sturdy wood with an attractive look, which makes it a great option for raised beds.

Unfortunately, cypress wood can be hard to find, despite being frequently recommended for raised beds. If you live near a cypress mill, perhaps in the southeastern parts of the United States, then you’re in luck because you’ll be able to get it more cheaply than average. Ordering through local retailers tends to be expensive.

Black Locust

This type of wood offers excellent resistance to decay. Black locust is most commonly used for outdoor projects such as building decks and fences. It’s suitable for such projects because it holds up well in all types of weather.

The problem with black locust wood is that it can be hard to find. In some states, it is considered an invasive species, so its propagation and sale is highly restricted. You might be able to get access to black locust if you live near a plantation, but if it’s harder to find, then it could be drastically more expensive.

Nevertheless, its hardiness, good color, and general durability makes it an excellent choice for raised beds.

Pine

The main advantage of pine is that it is much easier to find. It is one of the least expensive woods for building raised gardens. It is strong, easy to work with, and a popular choice for several building projects, largely due to its availability and cost-effectiveness.

The main issue with pine is that it barely survives without adequate protection. It’s not very good at resisting decay and insects. If you choose to go with pine, expect to replace your raised beds every five or six years. 

Its lack of durability notwithstanding, pine is an excellent choice for woodworkers with tight budgets. If you don’t mind having a temporary raised bed, it’s a more than decent choice since it costs only a fraction of what you’d need to pay for quality wood.

Taking Care of Raised Garden Beds

Regardless of the wood they’re built from, all raised beds need care to last. Caring for a raised bed requires that you pay attention to the health of the wood. You do this by giving them an occasional mineral oil treatment using organic products like the following.

Raw Linseed Oil

This pure linseed oil from the Sunnyside Corporation offers deep penetration in wood for a quality finish. This specific oil is best used on raw wood, in other words, unfinished woods. That makes it ideal for freshly constructed raised garden beds.

It improves water resistance and makes the wood more impervious to the elements. You can choose to apply it directly or mix it with oil-based paint if you wish to decorate your raised beds. This slow-drying coat takes about four days to dry completely, which gives it plenty of time to penetrate deep into the wood for maximum protection.

Tung Oil

Pure Tung oil is one of the best wood finishers you can buy. It is commonly used for cutting boards and outdoor furniture, and that should tell you how well it protects wood from moisture, rot, and the elements. 

This bottle of pure tung oil is food-grade and can be used to add water resistance to wood. It provides an all-natural matte finish that protects exposed wood from even the harshest of conditions. 

It is also planet-friendly as it doesn’t contain any heavy metals, additives, and VOCs.

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