Feb 28, 2013

What is the best wood to use for raised garden beds?

By KC

What is the best wood to use for raised garden beds?

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. (Here are step-by-step instructions for building juniper raised beds, but you can use them for other species too!)

Here are the types of wood that are commonly used for this purpose, and the pros and cons of each:

Species Pros Cons How to source sustainably
Cedar
  • Beautiful, smooth, elegant appearance
  • Easily takes stains or paint
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years for Western Red Cedar
  • Chemical-free
  • Possible to buy sustainably-grown
  • Often untraceable sourcing
  • Much cedar is imported


 

  • Buy FSC Certified only
  • Try to source products that are harvested and milled in America
  • Choose Select Tight Knot instead of Clear grade to minimize waste and reduce demand for Old Growth
Juniper
  • Very long lifespan - 50+ years
  • Great for gardens where a wabi sabi look is preferred
  • Chemical-free
  • Inexpensive
  • Rustic look doesn't appeal to everyone
  • Juniper is more prone to movement than other species, which can be a challenge for vertical installations
Pressure-treated wood
  • Easy to find
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years
  • Inexpensive
  • Buy FSC Certified wood
  • Buy wood that is treated with an alternative to CCA (chromated copper arsenate, which contains arsenic), such as borate, ACQ, or CA (copper azole)
  • Choose an alternative that uses no chemicals
Recycled or reclaimed wood
  • Keeps material out of the waste stream
  • Can be rustic and charming
  • Usually inexpensive
  • May be challenging to find the right sizes
  • Wood may contain unknown chemical additives
  • Surface paint may chip off into soil
  • Unknown species may not offer much durability
  • Try to find cedar, redwood, or another naturally durable species
  • Try to find wood that is untreated and unpainted

Redwood
  • Beautiful color
  • Elegant
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years
  • Chemical-free
  • Can be expensive
     

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.

 
Oct 5, 2011

FSC vs. SFI - What's the difference?

By KC

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)

 
Mar 10, 2014

Juniper: A True Oregon product

By KC

Juniper: A True Oregon product

The fabulous deck pictured at right is built out of our Restoration Juniper Decking. The homeowner chose juniper because of its beauty and durability, but also because it's a "true Oregon product," as he put it.

And it is. Juniper is grown in Oregon, and it is "made" in Oregon (harvested and milled), but as this savvy client understands, its value to our state reaches much deeper than that.

Juniper supports Oregon's economy
The communities of central and eastern Oregon have been hit hard by economic recession over the past several years.  Lumber mills that operated for decades have closed up shop, and families have had to make do with far less.

Juniper provides a solid solution to this chronic problem.  As the popularity of this wood grows, the number of individuals employed by its harvest and milling also grows; we estimate that as many as 60 people are now employed by juniper-related businesses east of the Cascades. This is approximately equivalent to 4,200 jobs in the more populous communities west of the Cascades.

Juniper supports Oregon's environment
The scrubby, fragrant juniper is native to Oregon, but in the past 150 years the environmental pressures that used to keep its population in check (specifically, rangeland wildfires) have been virtually eliminated by humans intent on preserving property and grazing livestock.

As a result, juniper's population has boomed from about 1 million acres of coverage at the turn of the 20th century to between 6 and 9 million acres today. This means millions of acres of prime sagebrush habitat are being rapidly transformed into dense woodlands, as shown above, endangering valuable species (PDF) and drying up entire streams and water holes.

The respectful harvest of juniper helps to restore historic flows of groundwater and resurrect the important sage steppe habitat. Many groups are intent on accomplishing this restoration work; Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to offer the juniper lumber products that are the fruit of this restoration work -- and that provide the economic incentives to keep the restoration projects going.

How to use juniper
Juniper is an ideal wood for many outdoor applications due to its remarkable durability: It lasts 30+ years in ground-contact installations.

  • Garden beds and retaining walls
  • Decks and outdoor living spaces
  • Fences, arbors, and decorative barriers
  • Outdoor benches, tables, and other furniture


Check out our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers and decking pages and other blog posts for more project ideas.


 

Blog

Blog Categories

Contact Us

Portland Warehouse
225A SE Division Place
Portland, Oregon 97202
driving directions

For pricing call 503.239.9663
or contact us online