Families across America are reintegrating home gardens into their lives, working to increase the amounts of health-giving homegrown fruits and vegetables in their diets. Because of this, folks frequently ask us about the best type of wood to use for their planter boxes and raised garden beds.
Raised beds are a great idea because they protect growing plants from the scuffs and kicks of passersby while allowing the soil to warm faster in the springtime, generating an earlier crop. They're also quite decorative and can add significant charm to vegetable gardens.
By building the boxes out of a beautiful, durable, and chemical-free material, you'll take an important step toward guaranteeing that your yard bears many decades of abundant and nourishing crops. (Click here for plans for easy-to-build, affordable juniper raised beds, and here for a Pinterest gallery of ideas.)
Here are the types of wood that are commonly used for this purpose, and the pros and cons of each:
The lifespan data above is derived in part from an ongoing study at OSU that tracks the durability of treated and untreated posts in ground-contact applications. Click here for full results.
Juniper raised bed garden kit can be ordered directly from our partners at www.portlandraisedbeds.com.
Photo at top: Juniper 6x6 landscaping timbers used for retaining wall, raised beds, and stairs
People often ask us about the differences between wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and wood certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
The line between the two, for many consumers, is fuzzy, and LEED 2012 appears to be on the verge of accepting SFI wood, whereas in the past only FSC was acceptable.
But there are stark differences, and a side-by-side comparison of the two standards can help us remember why we prefer FSC, and why our ultimate goal is to promote the use of wood that meets or exceeds FSC standards.
Some of the biggest differences:
- FSC prohibits the use of genetically-modified organisms; SFI allows their use
- FSC prohibits the use of persistent and/or bioaccumulative pesticides; SFI recommends "prudent" use of pesticides
- FSC prohibits the conversion of natural forest to plantations; SFI allows that conversion and the certification of wood from those forests
- FSC's standards were developed by a broad range of stakeholders, including environmental and human rights activists and forest products representatives; SFI was developed exclusively by the forest products industries
- FSC's audit results are made public and can be appealed; SFI's audit results are private and cannot be appealed
UPDATE 8/16/2013: This well-researched Portland Tribune article explores the differences in detail. A great read for anyone looking for more information about FSC vs. SFI.
Here are some interesting tidbits to help clarify things:
Seven More Brands Distance Themselves from 'Sustainable Forestry Initiative' (Forestethics.com)
A Picture Is Worth: FSC vs SFI Forests (Treehugger.com)
A Comparison of the American Forest & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council’s Certification System (Yale University; PDF)