Using Pressure Treated Lumber in Raised Garden Beds

April 12th, 2009

Short Answer: Yes, it is safe. Long Answer: Read On…

I am a man of science. I don’t believe in anecdotes, and having an analytical mind and having been exposed to rigorous scientific study in college when I was a research assistant in a lab, as well as of course the academic work in college, I’ve always looked at things scientifically, and today I’m going to look at pressure treated lumber.

Many people and sites and magazines will say you shouldn’t use pressure treated lumber, it is bad and will leach dangerous chemicals like arsenic into the soil and it’ll get in your plants and give you cancer.

Okay, there are a lot of assumptions there, and assumptions are bad.

I’m sure we all know the story of fish and mercury right? Mercury gets in the water and the fish drink the water, and since mercury and other heavy metals do not get metabolized, they can permanently build up in fish flesh (this is like lead poisoning in humans). Then predatory fish eat the little fish and they get even more mercury build up. Then humans eat the predatory fish and we get mercury poisoning.

So why can’t the same thing work with plants and treated lumber? Well you have to assume the lumber leaches dangerous quantities of dangerous compounds into the soil, then you have to assume that the leaching travels adequate distance in the soil, then you have to assume that the plant roots take up the compounds and do not metabolize them (remember, plants metabolize many dangerous compounds, house plants clean our homes of dangerous carcinogens) into some other compound. Then you have to assume that the compound is stored in the part of the plant that we eat and at dangerous levels.

There are a lot of assumptions, and just one break in the chain breaks the risk.

CCA lumber contains chromium, copper, and arsenic. Chromium isn’t that toxic and only if we inhale it. Copper isn’t toxic to mammals, and in fact it is used in some skin creams and whatnot. Arsenic is the bad one, a known carcinogen, something to be avoided. Did you know the Romans used to use it as makeup? But people didn’t live long back then anyways.

The truth is arsenic is everywhere, it naturally occurs in soil and water and we eat small amounts of it everyday. The type in CCA wood (inorganic arsenic) is more toxic than the natural types, but just for reference, it is already in the food you grow.

According to this article, which is an excellent source. Studies have been done showing most leaching only occurs during the first rainy season, and that it doesn’t leach more than a few inches from the wood. Then, most plants do not take it up from the soil, the ones that do in only small amounts, and the arsenic is stored in the parts we do not eat. For instance carrots grown in a control bed had 0.05 parts per million arsenic, those in a bed with CCA lumber had 0.11 parts per million, a doubling, but still a very small amount, and carrots were one of the worst (root vegetables in general were the worst since that is where the plants store arsenic).

So, is CCA lumber safe? Well, you can leave it out for one year letting the initial leaching get over. Then you can build your beds and line it with plastic sheeting or roofing fabric or some other membrane to stop leaching, and you can not plant root vegetables in it or near the sides of it where the leaching take place.

All told, by looking at the science, I do not think anyone needs to worry about growing vegetables in CCA lumber beds. Sure, you could use cedar, and pay 8x the price (if you can even find cedar in a 2×10 or 2×12 which is my preferred size), but CCA would be fine.

Should you go out and buy CCA pressure treated lumber to build your raised beds? Well no, you can’t. You see, despite the tiny safety risk, CCA pressure treated lumber was banned for consumer use by the EPA in 2003. Any pressure treated lumber manufactured for consumer use after that date has no arsenic in it. The ban all told was a better safe than sorry issue┬Ł grown out of kids touching/playing on/eating off of/ CCA playground equipment, not garden contamination, but nevertheless, for the last 5 years pressure treated lumber has not contained arsenic.

So, for those worrying about it, don’t. Save yourself a few hundred dollars and get pressure treated lumber for your raised bed or other garden projects. It is cheaper than cedar, and worry free. Even if it still contained arsenic it’d be pretty safe, but it doesn’t even have that small risk anymore.

74 Responses to “Using Pressure Treated Lumber in Raised Garden Beds”

  1. Don  Says:

    Arsenic is no longer used in pressure treated lumber in the US and was outlawed several years ago. Home Depot no longer carries it.

    They use a new process that is perfectly safe to use in raised gardens. Just make sure you don’t use the older pressure treated wood.

  2. John at JWLW  Says:

    Good Morning:

    Whats the new pressure treated wood contain ?
    Does it have a symbol like the “CCA” ?


  3. Mark  Says:

    The new initials are either ACQ or MCQ.

    ACQ contains no arsenic – only copper and quaternary ammonium compound and has been around now for several years.

    MCQ is a newer treatment that is treated with particles instead of liquid and is supposed to be even more stable than ACQ.

  4. Scotts Soil  Says:

    Pressure treated lumber is a life saver in many situations. I thank god for the scientists that came up with it. Does anyone know how long it lasts? I’m assuming it’s close to a lifetime.. Am I right?

  5. Tiffany  Says:

    You know, there are quite a few companies who offer safe materials, already treated and ready to go:

  6. gary  Says:

    Tiffany, sure these companies charge $200 to $600. for their safe materials, pre-fab raised-gardens. If you want more than one, now you’re talking the big bucks.

  7. Jenn  Says:

    Excellent. This is what I needed to know for my research before I did a raised bed.

    Much thanks.

  8. Annette  Says:

    PVC? Since when was that environmentally friendly?!?!? It may not leach into your vegetables (What are the long-term studies on PVC filled garden beds?) but then, are you really sure? And PVC is around forever… After all those freezings/thawings, it probably will crack and break. Then it heads to the landfill to live for generations to come…..

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  10. Jon  Says:

    I work for a window company…I wont say which one..but I will say this…I work in the repair dept. and all of our windows and doors that were milled from lumber treated with arsenic which is pre 1990ish vintage..hold up a lifetime.. all of the rotting window issues are from windows made of lumber that wasn’t treated with arsenic… I understand enviormental concerns..but do you want a 30 thousand dollar window job you did to your home say 10 years ago rot away?…think about it like a homeowner.. P.S. 10yrs?…. no warranty..

  11. Mike H  Says:

    Has it been proven that resins used in wood-like lumber will not leach into the soil?
    Second, is there some simple, soil testing mechanism to monitor leaching from treated lumber ? Can a typical soil test be used ? Would it help to lay treated lumber used for a raised bed on a footing of sand or gravel that could absorb any toxic run-off and prevent seepage spread ?

  12. Carlous Stockton  Says:

    I Am Building a Raised Bed Garden with 18 old treated lumber from a old deck will it be safe

  13. Joe Patmos  Says:

    So I finished my raised bed, shoveled in 2 cubic yards of good top soil with peat mixed in and then ran across the pressure treated wood question. I am done freaking out and have been researching the issue of leaching chemicals.

    I am starting to think I may leave it as it and not worry.

  14. Paul Charlesworth  Says:

    Safe is a very interesting word. You could argue that nothing is “Safe.” Everything we do has inherent risks, but I would say that 18 year old lumber has gone through all the leaching it will. Take a look at this Fine Gardening article:

    I just built some raised beds with the new micronized lumber from Ever Guard. I lined them with landscaping fabric mainly because I placed them on the fabric and cut through. This ties the beds to the fabric and stops soil coming out the bottom.

    I think that as people get used to the idea that we most places nolonger use CCA, they will stop saying that PTL is bad for raised beds.

  15. Darren (Green Change)  Says:

    Thanks for adding some science into this debate. It can be an emotive issue, and people freak out without any concrete information.

    I’ve got some non-arsenic PTL in my vegie beds and have satisfied myself that it’s as safe as any alternative.

  16. Steve  Says:

    I read this when doing research.

    “Avoid using creosote or pentachlorophenol treated lumber (such as railroad ties) for the frames, to prevent these chemicals from leaching into the soil and injuring your plants.”


    A different slant on the issue. I’m glad I can use PTL. I have enough left over from deck project to do it with out buying anything.

  17. Mean  Says:

    I just finished building three raised beds with cedar. I used 4by4′s and went 4 high plus a 1by6 mitered top. They look great. They are roughly 8by4, 10by4 and 12by4 feet. Total cost was a little over a thousand dollars. Am I crazy? Maybe. Will they last for 30 years and therefor be the last beds I will ever build? I sure hope so!

  18. Administrator  Says:

    Will you ever grow enough food to justify the cost?

    And I think 30 years is probably a long estimate, cedar is rot resistant, but it is in full contact with soil. I would guess 7-10 years.

    But I’m sure they look pretty.

  19. TF  Says:

    I just bought pressure treated lumber for my raised beds. I was worried about using it, but its comparative cost to cedar is why I got it. As a precaution, I decided to line the beds with 4ml visqueen plastic around the lumber so the soil won’t come in contact with the lumber at all.

  20. Juli  Says:

    My husband just built 3 raised beds out of pressure treated lumber purchased from our local Menards. The website we were following said to use cedar and the cost would have been $485. We got all the supplies with the pressure treated for $107. I’m happy with how they turned out and they’ll last a long time.

  21. palexandria  Says:

    Someone asked how long pressure-treated lumber asks. Well, it’s not a lifetime, at least not the stuff in my yard. I just bought this place and there are raised beds in the back yard made with landscaping timbers (round on the sides, flat on top and bottom) that still have their old pressure-treated labels on them. Many of them are rotting. I don’t know how old they are but I’d guess from what I know about the folks who used to live here, they are less than 20 years old. Still, that’s pretty long for something out in weather all the time.

  22. palexandria  Says:

    p.s. Thank you SO much to the person who originally posted this. I was stressing out about all the pressure-treated lumber in my yard, wondering whether I should get my soil tested, thinking I should replace it all and get new dirt, etc… This is great news indeed for me. Especially since I’ve planted all kinds of stuff already including asparagus in these beds. Yippee! I can stop worrying!

  23. Samantha  Says:

    I was worried because I am putting up a fence made from PTL and it is right next to my garden. Thanks to the original poster I don’t think I’ll sweat it. Some people have brought up lining their gardens with plastic to prevent leaching from the PTL. Hmmm, what with all the news about bisphenols in our plastic, one wonders if plastic is safe..

  24. John White  Says:

    Palexandra noted that her “pressure treated” landscape timbers were rotting.

    Most landscape timbers sold at the big box stores, they are typically 4×4 or 5×5, are dip treated not pressure treated, but unless you read the fine print on signs or the labels you would probably presume they were pressure treated because they look identical to pressure treated.

    Dip treated wood has only a thin surface layer of treated wood, the cores and any cut off ends are untreated and will rot like ordinary wood. Of course dip treating is less expensive than pressure treating, and this is a clear case of getting what you pay for.

    John White

  25. Bruce, Austin, TX  Says:

    Is “dip treated” landscape timbers more or less likely to leach arsenic? And for those who would like to be sure, where and how would you get a soil test to check arsenic levels?

  26. Frank  Says:

    I built a raised bed, vegetable garden using the 8′ pressure treat yawn post sold at Lowes. I was concerned about any chemicals going into the soil around the post. I lined it with a heavy plastic. Should this help with preventing chemicals from entering the ground?

  27. Pamela Cohen  Says:

    I think most of us have enough toxins in our ‘body bank’. At Gardenaut I read a response as to what to build raised beds out of, which is regular lumber, because in ten years, you might want to change the design of your yard, anyway. Why worry or rationalize? After using redwood from an old water tower to build two raised beds last year, I used a linseed oil that had carcinogens added to it. Thinking I could keep it from leaching into my soil, I used that black road fabric, and thought about using the black landscape fabric, but then I wasn’t sure about black AZO dyes that also cause cancer, or what leaches out of plastic. Babies today are born with over 200 foreign, toxic chemicals in their bloodstream.
    I would rather use rock, as it holds the heat and extends the growing time of plants. I think dry stacking or single stacking would be best, as I’m not sure I want the lime from cement binding elements in the soil, either.
    Now, if the galvanized mesh at the bottom of the gardens (to keep the moles from destroying my efforts) won’t kill me off sooner, I can stop worrying. What a conundrum of thought.

  28. Administrator  Says:

    I’d rather use stone too.

    But it is exponentially more expensive than wood, and if I’m growing my own food to save money, where is the savings then?

  29. mike  Says:

    can I use pine 2×10 and stain it?

  30. Administrator  Says:

    You can, but you shouldn’t.

    1. Stains are probably not healthy for the soil.

    2. Stains, sealers, etc, meant for decking, is meant to protect the wood from water than falls and runs off. They will not stand up to being in constant contact with soil. They will rot quickly.

    You either need to use pressure treated wood, or a rot resistant (and expensive) species like teak, cedar, cypress, or redwood.

  31. Theresa Gallo  Says:

    Also a person of science–well, a reasonable math PhD, I certainly wouldn’t risk it. I’m planning on using untreated wood only. If I have to replace it in a year or two so be it. I might just spend the extra money for naturally rot resistant sustainably harvested wood too. My toddler will be with me playing in the dirt, planting and watering. She’ll eat the food we grow. She certainly doesn’t need arsenic exposure. I know we’re all exposed to toxins daily, but I won’t knowingly subject myself and my family to toxins. The Environmental Working Group was key in getting the arsenic outlawed in treated wood.
    Here’s the EWG info page…check out their risk assessment.
    Enjoy your (hopefully non toxic) gardens!

  32. Administrator  Says:

    I’m not sure which part of your scientific mind fears something that hasn’t existed in 7 years. It sounds more like superstition than science to me.

    Any pressure treated wood you buy today has no arsenic.

  33. John Saltenberger  Says:

    Here’s a quote from the Environmental Working Group article cited by Theresa Gallo above:

    On February 12, 2002, under pressure by consumers, members of congress and the EPA, the wood industry agreed to stop using arsenic-based wood preservatives as of December 2003. By 2006, US consumption of arsenic had dropped more than 300 percent.

    So, that article echos the original author’s claim: Pressure treated lumber sold in the US after 2003 contains no arsenic. It would seem that risk of arsenic exposure from using pressure treated lumber is no greater than background.

  34. Bobbie  Says:

    I thank everyone for all the information, my husband insisted on treated wood for our raised beds, I do plan on lining them, but I no longer fear we made the wrong choice! Thank you for the scientific approach.

  35. mel  Says:

    I would bet that the plastic timbers are far worse for their leaching potential. plastics emit toxins that mimic hormones, even “BPA free,” which I doubt the plastic timbers are. and constant heating and cooling in the sun speed the process. i was nervous about my pressure treated raised bed initially, but then i saw my fence right next to it.. and thought pressure treated wood is everywhere!

    what scares me even more is the thought of hydroponic systems using styrofoam. ugh.

  36. Keith in Albany, NY  Says:

    This is a great point/counterpoint discussion. I will be going with new PTL. Now, is the compost that I am getting from the Town an issue of concern?

  37. kat  Says:

    What about the composite wood leaching formaldehyde. Is it safe?

  38. Reid Vegetable Grower in SF  Says:

    This has been a very helpful discussion. I just had some planters made, and found out they were built with new pressure treated wood. I was very concerned about the chemicals leaching into the soil, and into the vegetables I’m hoping to grow.

    After confirming what type of current PTL was used, I was able to search for the chemicals used: copper and tebuconazole. Copper is used in many common uses, water lines in your home etc. As long as you don’t get too high a dose it’s not going to hurt you, like most minerals. Tebuconazole, I learned is a common fungicide used on food crops.

    I called the National Pesticide Information Center, 800-858-7378 to get more information on using this type of PTL in growing vegetables. They were very helpful! They said the copper is about 96% of the solution, and the tebuconazole makes up (approximately) the remaining 4%, and is in the lower third for water solubility.

    Overall, they said there was no concern in growing vegetables with this type of PTL. However, they said if I was still concerned I could simply line the planters with plastic to prevent the chemicals from leaching into the soil. I am concerned, of course about the chemicals in the plastic…

    So using planters made out of new PTL (Copper azole-treated wood, also known as CA-B) is not a concern. I certainly would not use older (or recycled) PTL (CCA) that could contain Arsenic.

  39. Kenneth Schweitzer  Says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t see this posting and discussion sooner. It certainly is a breath of fresh air and makes perfect sense. I’m in the midst of trying to put to good use dismantled 25 year old PTL deck wood that still is in excellent condition. Contemplating raised vegetable beds and compost bins, and some folk have been squawking about the toxins in the wood. I’m a DDS and have dealt with the amalgam toxicity issues for three decades. There is a pretty good parallel here. Thanks for your research.

  40. Stephanie  Says:

    I would like to thank everyone contributing above. In the process of reading questions and comments from everyone posting here, I am far more comfortable building raised beds with PTL and have decided against using plastic to line them given the risks associated with plastic! Happy Gardening all!
    I don’t intend to live very long just very well while I live and please remember… stress too can kill! ha ha

  41. Jim Turner  Says:

    Thanks all. I run an activity centre for young people . Part of our programme involves growing vegetables potentially in raised beds . this information has been really helpful. Taking all into account [ including cost ] I intend to construct the beds using new PTL .

    Jim [ UK ]

    PS Does anybody know how the AC2 effects insects ?

  42. Craig Hansen  Says:

    I have been working with a scientist to develop new liquid fertilizers for both soil and hydroponic gardening. He asked me today to check on ptl problems since the planters I made are from ptl. Thank you very much for all the info. I will print this and present it to him tomorrow.

  43. Mark Lavin  Says:

    Hello, glad to have found this article. I’m doing some research for various projects I’m launching. I work with a lot of reclaimed wood, and so I’m often encountering various species and processes. I’m now going to feel a lot more confident in offering designs built with pressure treated lumber. Do you have any info regarding the safety of plywood? Thanks!

  44. barry steadman  Says:

    We have found the best product to use on a raised garden beds,is called Eco Wood has preservered my raised beds for some time now, we are very happy with the results.its all non toxic,its sold at the sherwin williams store close to us,thanks

  45. miek  Says:

    I too am concerned about environmental issues with CCA and even the new stuff. Could it even be worse since it is so new and less tested? I am building a green house with landscape timbers (Which contains less treatment as post)as the uprights, sunk in little concrete with 12 ” high brick and mortar to hold the old windows I have been storing. Which leads me to concern of lead. What do widow designs look like after 1978 and how old are sealed windows and is there simple free test to determine lead? Then there is DDT scare since I live on old tobacco farm land. I also have about a half acre of land surrounded with a picket fence and a deck. Both built around 1997. both are rotted. Plastic sticker on end of lumber is not. Says “50 warranty”. I would assume that would mean that the company should honor this? I emailed company months ago with out reply. Anybody have any thoughts?

  46. barry cantor  Says:

    The Best product We have found For raised beds,To Preserve The Wood In a Non Toxic Way is a Product we Bought From HOME DEPOT Called ECO WOOD TREATMENT, We Use It All The Time.It Also Turns The Wood a nice colour

  47. Michael  Says:

    Toxic means poisonous.

    Definition: acting as or having the effect of a poison; poisonous: a toxic drug.

    Get it yet? No toxin is safe. It’s people like the poster who are smart enough to understand toxins but then still will use them in their environment.

    There are those of us who want no toxins, get it? So if you like to poison yourself little by little then go ahead but don’t lie to people and say this wood is safe.

    Treated wood is toxic.

    Non treated wood is not.

    So Mr. scientist use the other half of your brain to access that common sense and put the whole picture together. Apply your knowledge or keep using toxins cause hey they don’t hurt right?

    If it kills any living creature it will harm you.

  48. Administrator  Says:

    I don’t think you read my post Michael, and I think you’re confusing irrational fear with science.

    Dihydrogen Monoxide kills thousands of people each year. People can and do overdose on it, if you ingest too much of it you will die.

    It is also necessary for life, you might know it as water, or H2O.

    Oxygen is also a toxic substance necessary for life.

    Your logic is a big bucket of fail I’m afraid.

  49. Rod Groff  Says:

    Pressure treated lumber is not recommended for use “. . . in circumstances where the preservative may become a component of food, animal feed, or beehives,” according to the 2012 product information brochure from Weathershield, the major pressure treated lumber brand supplied at Home Depot. Pressure treated wood leaches preservatives into soil and plants and can not be used within 25 feet of plants according to current organic standards.

  50. Richard  Says:

    Any chance of chemicals leaching to a depth of 25 feet? I have driven a shallow well in garden with older treated lumber nearby, a fence and retaining wall. Thanks.

  51. susan  Says:

    This is information on an actual study done at Ohio state university on using pressure treated wood with raised garden beds.

  52. Chris  Says:

    Contrary to your statement in the second paragraph, the little fish do not “drink” the water and intake the Mercury in that manner. The dominant route for Mercury into the food supply is through bioaccumulation. Small amounts of mercury are taken up by plants, those plants are eaten by small herbivores which are in turn eaten in greater quantities by others up the food chain. The farther up the food chain, the more Mercury “accumulates”. Raised beds cannot be compared to fish and Mercury, because bioaccumulation is not an issue in raised beds.

  53. Karen  Says:

    Thanks to this forum I now don’t feel compelled to replace the soil in my new SFG. I followed the directions in Mel’s book and went to several Home Depot stores asking for wood lath for the grid. I was adamant the it not be treated since I was using organic soil components and plants. Only one store said they had some, which I had cut and placed in my garden. Over a week later, I read on the tag on the wood “PROSEAL LATTICE TRIM”. So, nobody had untreated wood, but one store sold me stuff that they said was untreated. I wonder where Mel Bartholomew gets his supplies.

    Regarding the cost for raised beds, mine were $40 each from Wegman’s for a kit of cedar pieces that are supposed to slide together and make a 4′ x 4′ x 6″ bed. They all required some pounding together or sanding, and some of the corners split, but I’m happy with the price. They can also be stacked for growing deep-rooted crops.

    Regarding the Eco wood treatment, beware that it immediately turns your nice new looking wood into an aged-looking greenish gray color. Some folks seem to like that. I hate it. I only used it on my first bed and stopped as soon as I saw what it did to my beautiful new planks.

  54. JoeBob  Says:

    Thanks for the informative article. There are enough chemicals in processed foods to be concerned about without stressing over homegrown veggies-it’s nice to be able to put this issue to “bed”. Plus, Stephanie nailed it–stress kills. Chill out, enjoy the fresh fruits of your labor and take in a little vitamin D the way nature intended-get some sun.

  55. David  Says:

    ACQ and MCQ contain large amounts of copper. Copper has a very low oxidation rate which will cause fasteners to rust much faster than they would if nailed or screwed into plain lumber. Becasue you’re going to water the garden a large amount of free oxigen will be available and fasteners will rust very fast. To avoid this you can use Stainless, Hot Dipped galvanized or larger (1/2 inch diameter) fasteners. Enjoy you gardening.

  56. Mike  Says:

    I get about 7 years out of 2×10 plain spruce. I just put in some more beds and brushed linseed oil on them.

  57. Michelle  Says:

    Thank you for the info. I have some wood left over from the deck we just built. I thought it would be a good size for planters, but someone told me they didn’t think I should use it. Glad I can reuse it and save a fortune!

  58. Matt  Says:

    Susan- thanks for that link, that’s great info. I would choose against using CCA wood (any more than I already have) in a garden based on that info. CCA is no longer widely used in the USA and Europe but still seems to be the dominant form here in NZ. As much as we like to market ourselves as “clean and green” we’re a bit behind the curve on some things! We have a powerful timber industry here – read into that what you may.

    Re-using old deck wood would probably be OK as much of the leaching may have already occurred. Do try to catch as much of the sawdust as possible – cut over a tarp on a non-windy day and bag and dispose of waste. Carpenters working on our house cut a bunch over the lawn and we couldn’t get grass to grow there for two years. That should tell you something about how “benign” it is. I think anyone lining PT gardens with plastic is probably just making things worse as we are starting to learn about how harmful plastic leaching is.

  59. Rick  Says:

    I’m thinking that some people are just afraid of everything. I appreciate the original poster’s efforts to educate us on this issue – and the science behind it. I do not live in a bubble. In a gardening class I took, a woman going over 300 lbs was going on and on over the health risks of inorganic vegetables. Really??? I am supposed to take m health advice from you? My great grampa lived to 91 as a farmer…and used methods that would make you pucker. Make your own choices. Thank you OP!

  60. Hank  Says:

    WOW…! I am so glad I found this discussion concerning PTL … 99% of the comments were quite helpful. I am residing in Galveston, Texas and was wondering about the toxicities of PTL, and whether they were safe to use or not. I’m planning on building two or three raised-beds using 2×12′s PTL. I’ll probably make my beds 8ft. x 3ft. Thanks for all the comments. I am not afraid of using the newer PTL’s since it has been ten years since the aresenic ban began in 2003…and it is now 2013. Thanks All!

  61. Mark  Says:

    It’s outright irresponsible to write a blog stating pressure treated wood is perfectly safe, when you don’t even know what the contents of it are (and more over, make obvious errors).

    To use this in your garden, where you grow food, is just one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of in my life. Spend the extra $2 on Cedar; BTW, here it’s actually nearly the same price.

  62. Doldrums  Says:

    This article is disappointing. The writer claims to be a person of science who worked in a lab. Wy then not conduct your own experiments regarding leaching instead of relying ona literature review that at best rely on received wisdom which are inaccurate to begin with. Why would you risk leaching in the first place. The whole point of home gardening is to take back your own control of your food supply and to try and minimize as much your foods exposure to industrial processes and chemicals. PTL is just that. Untreated Pine works great. It may rot in 5-6 years but by then the boards are easy to replace.

  63. Administrator  Says:

    Uhh why not do my own study? Because I don’t own the necessary lab equipment, or have the time. I’ll have to take the word of people who did do the studies, because I believe them, not some vague industrial luddite boogeyman. You might as well ask why I don’t do my own crash tests prior to buying a new automobile. It isn’t really practical, you know?

  64. Administrator  Says:

    Oh Mark, yes, it is safe.

    Some people get a little too overzealous on environmental issues. Not everything man made is bad, not everything natural is good. If you ever take a chemistry class you’ll learn everything is a chemical, and just because something is sythentic vs natural doesn’t make it any less or more a chemical or less or more dangerous (nevermind that the ingredients in pressure treated lumber are all naturally occuring). Plus, as I explained above, you make a ton of assumptions assuming that something nearby the soil in which you grow food crops is going to end up on your plate.

  65. PinkinTN  Says:

    Individual choice, but why even risk it? I just made 3 beds from cedar fencing bought from Lowes for less than $2 ea. Each bed measures 3′x 6′x 12″ = $12 ea. Will I have to replace these beds every 2,3,4 years? yes, I will but with peace of mind that my family is not “ingesting or not” wood treatment leaching into the soil. To me that peace of mind for $36 is cheaper than that chance of future medical bills and meds because treated lumber lasts longer. Agree or not, your choice and my opinion.

  66. Jon  Says:

    Great article. I just left Home Depot where I was comparing prices to build raised beds. I decided to do a little reading before purchasing because I had heard the stuff about pressure treated lumber. I now plan on going with PTL, as it is the cheapest and longest lasting. To all those who say, “why even take the chance?”, I say how do you even live your life? How do you cross a street, drive a car, fly in a plane? Why even take the chance? Take this philosophy to it’s logical conclusion and you end up living in a bunker eating organic granola and water.

  67. Chris Welzel  Says:

    I am doing more research on the Australian methods of treating wood but I noticed all the holier than thou comments on using cedar. A quick search shows that cedar has the following traits. “It is common for the dust to cause dermatitis, asthma, nasal cancer, nose bleeds, giddiness, rhinitis and stomach pains.” I guess all the know it all experts didn’t research the ‘safe’timber.

  68. Dave from MA  Says:

    To PT or not to PT, that is the question. The studies on old Arsenic treated indicate very very low concentrations at even optimal leaching conditions; ie the wood was powdered. Copper Azole (CA-B) retains even better. Melted food grade canning wax and brushed the inside of the box with a nice fat waxy coat mostly for water resistance and durability, but works better than plastic if that’s what it takes to dispel the alarmism……

  69. Don L  Says:

    I came to this site because I found out that a local composting facility is grinding up PT wood along with everything else and then marketing the finished compost to gardeners. I’m glad that I go through the process of making my own compost and not buy commercial compost.

  70. Shannon  Says:

    I have a question. What about using 20 year old pressure treated wood in a garden bed? Would it be safe to use for a long period of time? I can only assume that nearly all the chemical it was used to be treated with would have leeched out by now. However since I want to make this bed part of the garden and possible grow herbs, I want to make certain it is safe. Would it be? Or would it be better off as a one time use?

  71. Administrator  Says:

    @Shannon – should be okay. If you like you could avoid planting root veggies in that specific bed, but as you say, most of it should be leached out, and even if it wasn’t, there possibility of transmission is so ultra low.

  72. Lindsay  Says:

    One thing I found is 5 year old pressure treated fence posts totally rotted due to water rot. The type of wood used in this PT process seem to be quite soft. Therefore other treatment to prevent water adsorption may be a good idea for subterranean use.

  73. Brittney  Says:

    I have been doing so much research and when I found this article I was excited that I didn’t have to take apart the huge box garden I made but reading the comments made me worry again…

    I researched my local store I buy my treated wood from and found the company who makes the treated wood((it will say on the tag at the ends of your wood or online))…

    **Ecolife** is the company that treated my wood, infact they treat almost all wood st Lowes… which says they follow the AWAS standards but I decided to read their “safety” list AND THIS IS WHAT I FOUND AMONG MANY OTHER CRAZY WARNINGS….

    **** “Do not use pressure-treated wood in circumstances where the preservative may become a component of food, animal feed or beehives.”**** so even though they follow the standards given that says it’s safe, their own website says DO NOT USE AROUND FOOD, ANIMALS, BEEHIVES….

    Just wanted to post this here for others who were looking just like I was. If you want to see this information for yourself, go to GOOGLE and type in ECOLIFE TRESTED WOOD ((the website http: looks like or such)) and then click on “safety” towards the bottom

  74. Administrator  Says:

    In our litigious society warnings often go above and beyond, but on the plain words of it they are saying “Don’t eat our wood.” Which is probably good advice. They’re not saying it is going to get into your food if grown in proximity, they’re saying, don’t eat the actual wood. You should also not breath the dust in when sawing it, as all carpenters know, and never burn pressure treated wood either. It is however safe to use to hold up dirt in a raised bed, just keep your feasting to the vegetables inside, and don’t eat the raised bed itself ;)

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