This new building at Fremont and N Williams in Portland stands like a sculptural sentinel over the rapidly changing neighborhood. It was designed to be memorable, but also to reflect the strong environmental values of its owners.
Read more about this building's innovative features in this New York Times article.
Karuna building photos by Linda Nagel. Forest photos by SparkTank.
You want to put in long-lasting raised garden beds, but you want to do it without chemicals, and for less money than cedar and redwood costs. How?
We get asked this question all the time. Luckily, we've got a perfect answer for you: Juniper!
Juniper is an ultra-durable softwood that is harvested from grassland restoration projects in central and eastern Oregon. According to studies at Oregon State University, it lasts more than 30 years in outdoor, ground contact settings -- much longer than cedar or redwood. It costs significantly less than cedar or redwood, and it is totally natural, untreated, chemical free wood.
On top of all that, it also happens to be gorgeous.
Juniper is commonly used for raised garden beds, retaining walls, garden stairs, fences, decks, and many other outdoor installations. It is also a popular choice for interior projects, too. Click here to see our full gallery of juniper projects.
Juniper landscaping products are in stock and ready to go in the Portland and Seattle metro areas. If you're in another area, ask your local lumberyard to start carrying it, or contact us for a quote for shipping it to you.
When our customers ask us for a good alternative to pressure treated wood, the answer is simple: Juniper.
Across the river, juniper was used for a Street Seat at PSU. This Street Seat was designed and built by PSU architecture students and uses surfaced juniper for a very modern look.
Many vineyards are discovering juniper posts as an organic, chemical-free, long-lasting solution to support their vines.
A to Z Wineworks, the largest wine producer in Oregon, recently switched out their old trellis posts and replaced them with new juniper posts at their vineyards. Many growers are swapping juniper for pressure-treated wood to reduce the chemical contamination of the soils while ensuring that the posts--and their investment in them--endure for many years.
Check out this fantastic video about the project and the reasons why A to Z is choosing juniper for their vineyards:
Here's a beautiful photo from Aubrey Vineyards in Kansas, which installed juniper posts in 2013:
There are many benefits to constructing your raised bed with juniper lumber. Restoration Juniper is long-lasting, beautiful, and chemical-free lumber that supports family-run mills committed to restoring Northwest ecosystems. Juniper lasts much longer than cedar or redwood, up to 50 years or more in ground contact applications because of its naturally high oil content that is decay and rot resistant.
It is genuinely not a good idea to use pressure treated lumber for raised beds: the chemicals can leach into your soil and ultimately into your vegetables. So juniper is a good alternative for the environment AND your health.
Understanding juniper lumber is key to successfully building a raised bed out of Juniper. Juniper landscape timbers come in a variety of sizes. The most common sizes for raised beds are 2"x6"x8' and 2"x8"x8'. Juniper lumber comes from a small tree that has a great deal of character. Landscape grade lumber will often have some bark, wane, knots and is rough sawn. Understanding Juniper’s unique character before you embark on building your raised bed will provide a much more satisfying experience.
Let’s take a look at what is required to build a 4-foot by 4-foot raised bed out of Juniper boards. I chose this size for our example raised bed because it makes sense from a materials standpoint, as there will be little waste. It’s always a good idea to sketch out your project first to take into account the ideal length of lumber you’ll need, as well as how many pieces you’ll need so you can get everything in one trip.
This project will require one 4x4x8 Restoration Juniper timber, four 2x6x8s or 2x8x8s depending on the height of the bed walls, coated (or stainless) 3/16” or 1/4” (min. 3-1/2” long) flat-head or hex-head timber screws, a saw (circular or hand), measuring tape, a pencil, a carpenter’s square (or “speed” square), power drill, drill bit that matches the diameter of the shank (unthreaded portion) of your screws, a drill bit that MATCHES the diameter of the screw threads, and a driver bit (for the drill) or a socket wrench.
The first thing you need to do is decide on the height of the walls e depth of the beds. Beds that are at least 12” deep can support most vegetables. Deeper beds with higher sides, those that are 16” to 18”, are wonderful for limiting back strain. My own raised beds are 24” tall with a 6” ledge running around the top for sitting and for placing garden tools (and the taller beds are the perfect height for very young gardeners).
To create a 12” deep bed you will need 2x6x8 Restoration Juniper, which can be found at Sustainable NW Wood. Our staff can help you select the Juniper that will work for your project. We’re using 8-foot long pieces because the raised bed will be 4’ long and 4’ wide. Two rows of 2x6 per side will get the 12” depth for your bed. If you would like the walls to be taller, two rows of 2x8s will give you a 16” depth, which is close to standard chair height (for comfort). Using 8’ lengths helps to eliminate too much waste.
Start by cutting the 4x4x8 into the correct length using a circular saw, four pieces at 12” long for the 12” walls or four pieces at 16” long for the 16” length. Many circular saws won’t cut all the way through a 4x4 post, so you will have to mark around to the opposite side to make your cuts on the opposite side line up properly. If you don’t have a circular saw, you can also use a handsaw, it will just take some muscle.
Now measure your boards to make sure each cut will give you a 4’ section. Make all your cuts at once so that everything will be ready to assemble. You will need to cut two pieces of 4’ for each side. You now have everything cut to the right lengths to get started on building your raised beds.
Fasten the 2x6 Juniper boards to the posts using the timber screws (which are very rust-resistant). You will need to be careful to position the screw holes so they won’t hit each other coming in from a right angle. To do this, you will alternate our holes at high and low points on the post at each corner for each 2x6.
Since our screws are at least 3-1/2” long, we will take our drill bit that is the diameter of the SHANK of the screw and drill the FULL depth of the length of the screw. This is the PILOT hole; this is the hole that the screw threads bite into. Then follow this with the larger drill bit (sized to the diameter of the screw threads) JUST to the thickness of our outside board. This is the CLEARANCE hole; this allows you to easily pass the screw through the first board and allows ALL of the attaching power of the threads to be applied to the second board (your upright post).
Screw the first board to a 4x4 post making sure it is flush with the bottom. Repeat this at the opposite end of the board with a second post. Secure the second row in the same manner. Now you are ready for the next side. As explained earlier, stagger the attachment holes on the right angle of the post and screw the bottom tier to the post and repeat with the second tier.
Now you are ready to set the 90 degree angles of the two sides. This can be done using a carpenter’s square, or, if you only have a measuring tape, the 3-4-5 method (SEE ILLUSTRATION). It is important to make sure each corner makes a 90 degree angle or your raised bed will not be square. You just have to repeat these steps for the two remaining sides, making sure each board is secured to the post with two timber screws.
When you’re finished, get someone to help you position it where you want the bed, making sure it gets plenty of sun. I recommend laying steel mesh (also called ”hardware cloth”) followed by landscaping cloth on top before you add the soil. This allows for good drainage while keeping gophers and other unwanted critters out. Pick a screen size that is less than 1” squares; DO NOT use window screen. If you want to put a layer of gravel before the soil goes in, this will further aid drainage, also. I recommend 3/4–minus gravel (can be purchased in bags) about 2” deep.
Basically, you’re done. But if you want to add a sitting/tool ledge around the top, remember to figure in extra 2x6s for that; these can also be added later if you decide.
There you have it! Now it’s time to fill it up with your favorite mix of garden soil and other soil amendments and you’ll be ready to plant your healthy garden. Your new Restoration Juniper raised bed will give you many years of gardening enjoyment and without the introduction of any harsh chemicals from the lumber.
Sustainable Northwest Wood is focused on transforming the wood products industry to improve natural landscapes while providing our customers with amazing products. On a daily basis we do this by using business and economic tools, sometimes we need to request help from state and local governments to nurture a concept. Oregon’s 78th legislative assembly began on Monday February 2, 2015 and there are two causes that are directly related to how we do business and why.
Two House bills (HB 2997 and HB 2998) are focused on improving the supply chain for juniper. Through loans and grants the state of Oregon will strengthen the juniper sawmilling business and allow those mills to potentially hire more rural Oregonians. A favorite statistic that is used when demonstrating the importance of rural employment in Oregon goes like this: 1 job in Harney County is economically equivalent to 208 jobs in Multnomah County. The take away here is that rural employment is very important and industries that provide rural Oregonians with an opportunity should be a priority.
This cause along with many other positive environmental factors was reason enough for our President, Ryan Temple, to head to Salem, OR to testify on behalf of these House Bills. He shared part of his testimony. “Juniper utilization presents a unique opportunity to merge economic, ecological and community interests. While the potential is tremendous there are still significant obstacles that must be overcome. Juniper entrepreneurs tend to be geographically isolated, under-capitalized and daunted by the challenges of a fledgling industry. However, with strategic support from NGO’s and public agencies a juniper industry can be established that creates jobs through the restoration of ecosystems. It is encouraging to see stakeholders across political and ideological divides working together to take this movement forward.”
The second sustainable wood products related issue that is running through the legislature is centered on the concept of ‘urban lumber.’ Urban lumber as conceived in these bills is not just what we know as urban salvage (trees that die or are the result of windfall) but it also puts an emphasis on planting trees in an urban setting for future use as lumber. House Bill 2985 creates policies to give urban lumber a legal framework and House Bill 2984 asks for funding to create an urban lumber pilot co-op model in Clackamas County. The co-op will make it possible for landowners in the county at all scales to plant trees, track them with GPS, and utilize the wood in the future. This program will not only stop the rampant waste of valuable natural resources but also reforest land and create hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for generations to come.
Dave Barmon of Fiddlehead Landscaping is the champion of the urban lumber bills and his vision can be summed-up as, “I firmly believe that this program can revolutionize forestry not only in Clackamas County and Oregon but across the US and eventually the globe.” A meeting to discuss the urban lumber bills has been scheduled for March, 2015.
We will continue to track the progress of these efforts and keep you informed.
Living in the Pacific Northwest instills a bioregional pride. We have the best forests, most beautiful coastline, rich river ecosystems and great homegrown beer, wine and food. It’s no secret that Native Americans sustained for millennia from the bounty that is provided by the forests of the Northwest. What is a secret is the abundance of hardwood species that are naturally growing in these forests.
With forests that are filled with Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Red Alder (Alnus rubra), Myrtlewood (Umbellularia californica), Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana), and Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum), it’s a wonder anyone would specify or build with a hardwood that was grown elsewhere.
However, hunting for hardwoods in the Pacific Northwest, which is dominated by conifers, is a challenge. Hardwood trees in our forests are unfortunately cut and left to rot, burned in a slash pile, or chipped for paper mills. Very few ever get to display their beautiful grain pattern and natural wood tone.
With this in mind I drove to Oakland, in southern Oregon's Umpqua Valley, to get a first-hand look at one of our sources of these great wood products, Oregon Hardwood Company. John Rideout of Oregon Hardwood Company was kind enough to take me for a tour of their facility.
We met in the sorting facility and perused some beautiful Walnut lumber that had been salvaged from an agricultural use. Early settlers brought Walnut to Oregon, so it’s not a native species, but the milk chocolate swirling grain pattern stands out amongst other native species.
John walked me from building to building explaining the complexities of milling and drying Pacific Madrone, Oregon White and Big Leaf Maple. Much of the lumber units we inspected were destined for our warehouse in SE Portland.
John filled my head with so much knowledge that the next day I had lots of questions for Rod Jacobs of Unique Woods in Elmira, near Eugene. Unique Woods provides us with FSC Big Leaf Maple slabs from an FSC forestland near Rainier, Oregon, and other hardwoods that have been rescued from a chip facility.
Rod explains the dilemma for most loggers in western Oregon well. He told me that none of the larger mills that do the majority of purchasing will buy native hardwood logs, so those logs usually end up in the massive log decks of a chip facility near his house, where they are destined to become paper.
After touring Rod’s kiln drying operation we drove to the chip facility to scrounge for some choice Madrone, Oregon White Oak and Big Leaf Maple logs. On a cold winter morning we made our way through the log decks spray painting those logs that met his specification. He showed us how to tell if there was going to be spalting and burling in the log. We were basically dumpster diving for logs that would make a beautiful desk or dining room table, saving the most incredible hardwood logs from becoming paper.
Once Rod was satisfied that our hunt was successful I thanked him for the species and product knowledge that he provided me. The next customer that asks me where our hardwoods come from I will be able to share that knowledge and connect them to a place in our region where the wood originates. You can’t say the same for other surface materials like stone or hardwoods from another region.
So you want to work with juniper? Good idea. This remarkable wood promises incredible durability in outdoor settings, as well as an organic, natural, and rich wabi-sabi aesthetic for pieces both indoors and out.
We recommend learning about, and then working with, juniper's unique properties. This wood has very different characteristics than other common species, so adjust your plans and technique to accommodate, and then enjoy the results!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Elasticity: One of juniper's unique attributes is the elasticity of the wood. There is a great deal more tension present in the cut lumber than in other common softwoods. It is not uncommon for juniper, especially smaller or thinner dimensions, to bend or warp slightly, even after careful kiln-drying.
But unlike fir, cedar, or hardwoods, juniper can be flexed back into a straight line. For glue-up installations such as tables, be sure to plan for this movement (i.e., use biscuit joints in addition to glue, or keep the pieces clamped until fully dry).
Kiln-drying: All of our 1x6 and live-edge slabs of juniper are kiln-dried. This aids with stability and with pest control. Kiln-drying is the only way to ensure that juniper beetles, which live harmlessly in all juniper trees and pose no threat to other species of tree, are eliminated from the finished piece.
Larger dimensions of juniper are not kiln-dried, unless kiln-drying is specified at the time of order and the dimensions of the lumber are small enough to yield good results in the kiln. Anything thicker than 3" generally is not kiln-dried due to the amount of time required in the kiln to get the wood dry (many months, depending on the size of the beam). This means that for these larger pieces of juniper, it is possible, although unlikely, for live insects to be present in the wood.
Dimensions: We stock 1x6, 2x6, and 4x4 rough juniper lumber, as well as live-edge slabs of a variety of widths and lengths. We can custom-order larger sizes for special projects. However, be sure to plan for juniper's inherent size limitations.
Unlike fir trees, which can grow to 300' or higher and yield lumber lengths of 20' and more, juniper lumber's maximum length is much shorter as the trees generally only get to 20' or 30'. We have successfully provided large beams measuring 12" wide by 15' long, but the supply of such large logs is very limited. Please contact us for current availability.
Photo below: This juniper slat wall, built by Green Furniture Solutions, was built on plywood first so the juniper lumber could be manually straightened and then screwed down, ensuring a
finished piece with perfectly straight lines. Photo by James Lohman.
So you've chosen a new countertop or work surface. It's beautiful, all natural, and adds warmth and color to your space. But now what? What can you do to keep it looking fresh and clean?
Here are a few tips to help:
PRIOR TO INSTALLATION:
Your butcher block countertop will arrive unfinished with square edges and corners and needs a week to acclimatize to its new surroundings. Do not
put finish or oil on your countertop or cut it until it has had time to adjust to the humidity in your home. Your new countertop needs to rest flat/horizontally with air flow around all sides for at least one week to adjust fully and evenly.
Once installed, wash your block by hand using dish soap and warm water. Allow the butcher block to dry completely after washing. Always wash your butcher block completely before finishing or reapplying finish.
Be sure to properly dispose of all oiled rags to prevent household fires.
Always follow the finish manufacturer’s instructions for specific finishes.
There are a number of food safe oils that are approved for use on wood that comes into contact with food. Always read the labels. Any oil that comes in contact with food should be labeled “Food Safe.”
A butcher block countertop with oil finish will require ongoing oiling to protect the piece and will develop a deep rich patina over time. For natural plant oils or mineral oil, spread an even coating of oil over every part of the butcher block. Let the oil soak in for as long as possible, an hour or more, and then wipe off the excess. Allow the butcher block to continue absorbing the oil overnight, then apply a second coat. The number of coats the wood needs depends upon the species of wood and how dry the butcher block is upon installation. As many as three to five coats of oil may be necessary to seal the wood properly.
Periodically oil the butcher block with your choice of food-grade plant or mineral oil. Letting the butcher block dry out because of a lack of oil is the top cause of problems with butcher block. A good rule of thumb is once a week for the first month and then a minimum of monthly thereafter.
The frequency of oiling will vary by the species, the amount of use, and the harshness of detergents used to clean the butcher block. If the wood appears dry, it is time to oil.
Keep your wood countertop dry and away from direct heat. Do not allow liquid to stand on the block for a long period of time; it can stain the butcher block and cause the wood to expand, which may result in damage to your butcher block.
If light scratches occur, sand the surface gently with 220-grit sandpaper and reapply your food-safe oil.