Recommended Materials for Raised Bed Garden #130860 - Ask Extension


Recommended Materials for Raised Bed Garden #130860

Asked May 30, 2013, 1:21 PM EDT

Good morning to you! In view of all the encouragement we get to garden in raised beds these days, I am also hearing concern about the use of treated lumber for these beds. One of my neighbors was telling me that I should not grow vegetables within three feet of treated timber due to the possible leaching of arsenic or copper and other harmful elements into the soil. Other neighbors are going whole hog on building raised beds (with treated landscape timbers) and telling about the great benefits. What are you recommending for gardeners for the treated timber use? If I have a security fence made of treated timber, can I plant a row of vegetables along the length of it without any problems? Okay, this is all that I have for now. Thanks a bunch for advice that you can give. Have a great day! Jeff

Howard County Maryland

Expert Response

Pressure treated lumber of the passed contained arsenic that could leach into edibles without affecting the plants.
The manufacture of treated lumber of today has changed and should not contain arsenic.   Today it may contain copper, but if it were a problem it would show up in the plants first and affect their ability to be healthy and produce fruits. There is little research to state otherwise, and the EPA has not taken a stand.
To be completely 'safe', in a new raised bed, you could use stone, block, or other naturally longer lasting woods.
For your particular case, the age of your security fence would be a factor.  There are specialized labs which can test the soil for arsenic. One is Microbac Labs: 410-633-1800 should you choose to test.
Thanks a bunch for this feedback!  I feel better now having my pumpkins near the new pressure treated wood fence.  Have a great day!  Jeff L.
The Question Asker Replied June 20, 2013, 10:37 PM EDT

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