Nowadays, a raised garden bed has been a convenient option for gardeners because of its manageability and space-saving ability. If you are wondering what the best wood for raised garden beds is, our woodworkers and gardening experts prepared 15 wood choices for you to pick from.
We will also discuss the things to consider when picking a wood type perfect for your raised garden bed.
15 Best Wood Options for Building Raised Garden Beds
1. Black Locust
Black locust is a dense kind of wood that is highly durable. It is a medium-sized hardwood that is strong enough to be used for garden beds.
Black locust is resistant to humidity, insect attacks, and moisture. Garden beds with this wood will last more than two to three decades.
Cedar wood is one of the best woods for making raised garden beds. Some famous types are the Alaskan Yellow Cedar, West Coast Cedar, Eastern Red Cedar, and Western Red Cedar.
Like Black Locust, Cedar wood is also rot-resistant with its natural tannins and does not need any wood chemical treatments.
Cedar wood can last more than 30 years, depending on the climate. It is also water-resistant, making it great for outdoor woodworking projects.
Another elegant wood to use to make a raised garden bed is Cypress wood. Besides Redwood and Cedar, it is also considered a top-tier type of wood for garden beds. Cypress wood is also naturally rot-resistant.
Moreover, it contains natural oil, which can help save the wood from environmental elements. Cypress wood is also long-lasting. It can make raised beds last for more than a decade.
Pine is an ideal wood to use for raised garden boxes. It is softwood with beautiful wood grain and other extraordinary features crucial for making raised beds. Nevertheless, it is still inexpensive and great for outdoor projects.
Even though it is considered softwood, it is still durable and stable for raised beds. It will steady the garden bed frames for sanding, screwing, and drilling. It is easy to use for beginner woodworkers.
Redwood is one of the most commonly used for raised gardens. Vegetable garden boxes made from redwood are lightweight. It also has a natural resistance to decay and can withstand elements and insect attacks.
Moreover, this type of wood is rot-resistant and durable. Even though it is considered softwood, it can still repel termites and rot. Redwood garden beds can last for 10-20 years.
6. Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir is another ideal softwood material to use for a raised bed. It is an environmentally-friendly option for raised bed gardens. Moreover, it is an affordable type of wood with great quality.
If you build a raised garden using Douglas fir, it can last up to 10 years or more, depending on how you take care of it. This type of wood is also better than other softwoods.
With its rustic look, Juniper is an ideal wood for a garden bed. It is durable and rot-resistant so that you can use it outdoors. Moreover, this wood has the same qualities as Redwood and Cedar but at a lesser price.
Juniper wood does not need any chemical treatment to protect it from rotting because it can protect itself for a long time. Additionally, the oils from the wood also act as a fertilizer for the soil.
8. Pressure-treated wood
You can use pressure-treated wood to make garden beds. Depending on your budget, growing zone, and needs, it can be a good option. This process can make the lumber last longer.
It makes it resistant to decay and rot. These chemical treatments help repel insects, bacteria, fungi, and other environmental elements. Depending on wood quality and type, untreated wood can show signs of decay after a year.
You just have to be careful with recycled or reclaimed wood. Recycled woods can harm the soil and plants in the long run. Do not use chromated copper arsenate (CCA)  pressure-treated wood or railroad ties.
9. White Oak
White Oak is a nice wood to use for building raised beds. It is 50 to 100 percent stronger than Pinewood and other softwoods. Additionally, it also has a natural rot resistance. This type of wood is heavy but with lots of great features.
White Oak wood has an aesthetic grain that can make your vegetable gardens more attractive. It is also resistant to scratches and dents.
Spruce is one of the great wood for raised beds in terms of price, mobility, and workability. Additionally, it can last for more or less ten years. It has a very attractive color that changes to amber as it ages with a structural striped grain. A pressure-treated wood, like spruce, can resist insects and other elements.
Another long-lasting wood that you can use to make a garden bed is Chestnut wood. It has an attractive straight grain texture that you can use for any outdoor woodworking project. It is resistant to rotting insects, and weather can cause that.
12. Black Walnut
Black Walnut is another dense wood that you can use for garden beds. It’s also regarded as one of the best woods for making desks since this wood is easy to carve, sand, and finish. With its beautiful texture, your garden beds will look amazing as well.
Although it has amazing hardwood qualities, Catalpa is often set aside. Our woodworkers find it ideal to use for making wooden raised garden beds since it’s suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
Moreover, it has a stable dimension that helps you easily make the shape you want.
Another perfect and long-lasting wood to use for garden beds is Yew. This durable and sturdy wood is usually used for commercial and industrial purposes. It has a straight grain with a brownish color that will make your vegetable gardens look more wonderful.
Finally, we have the Hemlock hardwood lumber that is also durable and sturdy. You can make great garden beds using this high-strength wood. However, since this is a tough wood, it can be hard to work with.
Things to Consider When Picking Wood for a Raised Garden Bed
To get the best wood for a raised garden bed, there are some things that you should consider. Some of the factors you should consider are the wood’s durability, safety, cost, certification, and sustainability. Let’s discuss them further below.
Durability and Resistance to Rot
If you want your garden beds to last for ten years or so, you must consider the durability of the wood. Any local lumber yard will deteriorate for about 3 to 4 years. So choose wood with natural pest- and rot- resistance.
Certified by the FSC
The Forest Stewardship Council or FSC is a worldwide organization focusing on forest conservation through inspection and certification procedures. A certified forest should follow strict international environmental and socio-economic standards and practices.
Sustainability has been the norm for most parts of the world because of environmental awareness. Aside from that, sustainable woods are most likely cheaper than imported woods.
Locally-sourced wood from sustainable tree farms is safer to use for garden beds.
Another factor to consider is the safety of the wood to humans, plants, soil, and animals. Some woods can contaminate food crops and can also be toxic to humans. Avoid treated lumber or reclaimed wood, particularly pressure-treated wood and old railroad ties.
You should also consider your budget when choosing a type of wood for raised gardens. Spend on long-term building materials rather than on the cheapest but short-term ones to save you money in the long run.
However, if you are not planning to have the garden beds for very long, short-term wood would be fine.
Using Natural Wood Preservatives
There are natural preservatives that you can use to help your wooden garden beds to last longer.
It is a moisture-repellant natural preservative from tung tree seeds. Tung oil is pricier than raw linseed oil but is often combined with chemicals unsuitable for food crops.
Raw Linseed Oil
Another natural preservative is the raw linseed oil from flaxseed. It is cheaper if you want to protect the wood from moisture, decay, and other microorganisms.
Wood and Other Materials to Avoid
There are woods and other building materials that you should avoid when building raised beds. Look at the following materials that you should not use for garden beds.
Using recycled timber may seem eco-friendly and economical. However, if you do not know the origin of the wood, it is not safe to use it for your crops.
It may have some chemical finish, treatment, or stains leach into the soil. The poor soil will also affect the growth of your plants.
Old Pressure Treated Recycled Wood
In the 1970s, chromated copper arsenate (CCA) was the most used treatment for home projects such as raised gardens, play areas, and decks.
However, CCA can leach into the soil and affect the plants. Therefore, EPA stopped the availability of CCA-treated woods on December 31, 2003.
Reclaimed or Old Wood
Reclaimed or old wood is somehow similar to recycled wood. If you do not know the origin of the wood, then it is best not to use it for your garden beds project.
Some old woods are painted or stained with toxic chemicals. These older paints and chemicals can hurt the soil and plants.
Utility Poles and Railroad Ties
Similar to reclaimed, old, and recycled woods, utility poles and railroad ties may contain chemicals that can leach into the soil. These types of wood are also treated with creosote which is not supposed to be used in gardens.
Creosote-treated wood can be refinished or stripped. It can also lead to cancer.
Concrete + Cinder Blocks
Concrete blocks and cinder blocks should not be used for garden beds because these blocks contain galvanized metal which is not safe for plants. Concrete blocks are fine, but you should know how it is made.
Alternative Materials for a Raised Garden Bed
Aside from the best types of wood above, there are also some good alternatives where you can choose from. These alternatives include metal, plastic, and masonry, among others. These are also durable and long-lasting options worth considering:
Metal containers are great alternatives to wood. You can use aluminum and steel planters, cattle troughs, barrels, and sheet metal.
However, galvanized metal or galvanized steel may leach into the soil. So, it is important to know the components of the metal before using it for plants.
Plastics can be a sturdy and cheap choice when making garden beds. Plastic boards, barrels, and planters can last for a long time. You just have to add some drainage holes since plastics are not porous.
Cement blocks, bricks, and native stones are the most durable but expensive materials for garden beds.
If you want garden beds to last longer than any kind of wood and you have the budget for it, then you can go for masonry materials. Just be sure always to check the cement’s pH level.
Other Materials Worth Considering
Aside from the materials above, you can also use recycled composite plastic lumber, concrete bricks or blocks, composite lumber from wood shavings, metal stock tanks, felled logs, straw bales, and shutters.
However, each has disadvantages, so you should be careful when using them.
Should raised garden beds be water-tight?
Raised beds generally need a consistent water supply. The width and height of the garden beds will determine how water will be retained in the soil.
Therefore, installing a constant water supply for your plants can be a good idea. Remember that too much-retained water can cause the wood to rot easily.
Choosing the best wood for raised garden beds is not difficult as long as you know the factors to consider and the types of wood to choose from. We listed the best choices above and the woods to avoid. Now, it’s your turn to decide.