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.
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
From fences to planter boxes, juniper is a versatile species that can be used in many applications. We enjoy using this sustainable wood in new ways and helping promote its harvest in Central and Eastern Oregon.
With this in mind, let us introduce our new Juniper Butcher Block! We're stocking these pre-made butcher block panels in a variety of lengths and can customize them to suit your unique projects.
Plus, this butcher block option is quite affordable!
Here are the specifications:
Kiln-dried juniper from restoration projects in Central Oregon
Stocked sizes 1 1/2" x 26 1/2" x lengths up to 8'
Custom sizes up to 48" x 16'
Unfinished, with square edges
Sanded to 120-grit finish
Last month, Governor Kitzhaber officially designated the Western Juniper Utilization Group as an Oregon Solutions project.
This means that state funding will be designated to help "unlock the potential of rangeland restoration and juniper harvested from public and private lands," according to Oregon Solutions.
The goal is to spur landscape restoration and economic development in rural communities.
Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to participate with this group, which will be active in 13 juniper-afflicted Oregon counties.
Members of the group will work with a variety of private businesses, environmental groups, and government agencies to seek solutions to the problem of juniper's spread. They will also develop a statewide marketing plan to help support landscape restoration efforts and make this beautiful, durable wood more widely available.
Click here to read media coverage about the group and its plan of action, and visit Oregon Solution's Western Juniper Utilization Group webpage here.
Cellar Ridge Construction, the McMinnville-based custom home builder, is a big fan of juniper. They've used it for a number of unique applications, giving their finished projects a distinctive look and the decades of durability that this rot-resistant wood promises.
Earlier this year, a homeowner transforming her patio wanted something distinctive and slightly rustic that would help her property visually tie into the wooded parkland behind her home. Naturally, Cellar Ridge chose juniper for the decking, siding, structural timbers, and raised beds.
For a LEED Platinum remodel completed last year in Dundee, Cellar Ridge used massive juniper beams to add authenticity and attitute to the Mediterranean-style home. The juniper lends an incomparable look to the home, especially with its dramatic dark stain.
Photo at Top: Juniper is used for the decking, raised beds, siding, hand rails, and structural supports of this welcoming patio in McMinnville.
Photo at Bottom: Juniper beams frame the entrance and enhance the eaves on this charming Mediterranean casa in Dundee.
When you're visiting this year's Street of Dreams, be sure to look up! Our Campground Blue Pine adds a fresh layer of texture and color to the ceilings in the "Oregon Dream" home on this year's tour. The paneling was used in the home's study and master bedroom, where it was paired with sophisticated tones of blue and gray for an elegant, polished aesthetic.
The home also features Restoration Juniper fireplace mantles. The home's builders, Stone Bridge Homes, opted to leave the slabs in their natural state with the bark still attached for an authentic, untouched look. Again, the effect is elegance, especially when paired with the home's carefully curated art and furniture.
The home was designed by Skyline Homes and the interiors were composed by Lisa Shipley at Imagine Home Staging.
Last Friday, Sustainable Northwest Wood hosted a tour of an area that has been affected by juniper's slow but steady encroachment on Oregon's native grasslands and several projects that have used juniper for a variety of interior and exterior applications.
After meeting at Disjecta Arts Center in Portland's Kenton neighborhood to view their recent installation of outdoor juniper benches, the tour group travelled to the town of Fossil, in Wheeler County, which sits at the northernmost reach of juniper's current range. At the first stop, juniper sawyer Kendall Derby demonstrated how a juniper mill works, slicing open a log for guests to see, and then showing the group his warehouse and a variety of products made with juniper lumber.
Guests then dined at the Timber Wolf Cafe in Fossil, which was recently redesigned to feature juniper interior finishes, including flooring, wall cladding, and a distinctive live-edge bar (photo at left).
After lunch, guests arrived at a viewpoint of the Cottonwood Creek watershed and the hills surrounding Fossil, where the encroaching juniper woodland can be seen spreading across thousands of acres of former grassland (photo below).
The last stop on the tour was the OSU Extension office that is nearing completion in Moro, OR, which among a number of notable sustainable finishes includes juniper siding across its entire exterior.
Among the highligts of the tour were a series of before-and-after photos of the Fossil area, which showed Fossil being surrounded by bare hills covered in native grasses when settlers first arrived to homestead in the area.
Today, of course, those once-grassy slopes are well-populated with juniper trees, which are coming to dominate the other plants, commandeering precious groundwater, loosening the soil for erosion, and making foraging harder for the many native animals who have evolved to depend on a robust grassland ecosystem.
The tour group consisted of architecture and design professionals from Portland, as well as members of Oregon BEST, landscape architects, students, contractors, county officials, and other interested parties. The tour was sponsored by Neil Kelly, Cascadia Green Building Council, and Sustainable Northwest.
The Oregonian, Saturday, March 10, 2012
By Vern Nelson
Here's the link to the original article.
The best kitchen gardens employ structures -- trellises, espaliers and many other types -- to make the most of available space and to help the garden be as beautiful as it is productive. Posts for garden structures are available in many sizes and materials. Each wood used has advantages and disadvantages.
My favorite posts are made of juniper, which contains aromatic oils that make the wood resist rot. Juniper is beautiful, sustainably grown in eastern Oregon and locally available.
Juniper posts are available as 8-foot-long 4-by-4s and 8-foot-long 6-by-6s and are similar in price to cedar. Planks of various sizes are also available. Lengths of 10 feet or greater require a couple of weeks to get, and 2-by-6 planks are available if you want to put an overhead cap across your espalier or use them for trellises.
Because of juniper's density, you'll need to pre-drill holes for screws. Driving screws directly into juniper could overheat your drill motor.
ALTERNATIVES TO JUNIPER
* Cedar is rot-resistant but expensive. I prefer tight knot when using cedar, as it is less expensive than clear grain cedar and more stable than standard grade cedar. Sustainability is also an issue; be sure you're using Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood. Cedar is easy to drill for dowels, screws and wire.
* Redwood is similar to cedar, but it's difficult to find sustainably harvested redwood.
* Fir and pine are cheaper but rot.
* Steel pipe is durable but looks awful and is difficult to use.
* Plastic/wood fiber posts come in several colors. They are OK for edging raised beds but may bend if required to carry a load.
* Posts treated with copper naphthenate or other materials resist rot, but I prefer not to use them in my organic kitchen garden.
Posts such as 4-by-4s and 6-by-6s are less likely to twist, cup or bend than 2-by-4 lumber.
Posts of many types of wood can be found used at recycled building supply stores or at garage sales.
Use stainless steel screws to fasten juniper together. If you hide the screws with wood screw caps or mahogany dowels, use Gorilla glue to attach them. It is waterproof. If gluing juniper or another oily wood like cedar or redwood, wipe areas to be glued with acetone to dry out the oils.
Seal juniper and other oily woods with Penofin for Hardwood, Exterior Formula, which was formulated for harder, denser, oily wood. An alternative for those concerned about volatile organic compounds is Timber Pro's low-VOC Deck & Fence Formula, available in clear or 25 transparent colors. Use two coats.
Each species of wood is different and requires a sensitive and thoughtful woodworker to learn how to master its unique personality. Juniper is no exception. Its properties are different from fir, cedar, oak, etc., and if one approaches it like one would approach those species, and expects the same results, disappointment will follow.
Instead, it pays to learn the subtle differences and how to work with them to achieve perfect results. Our friends at Neil Kelly Cabinets have worked with juniper for many years and have learned how to master it and take full advantage of its unique traits. They work with it, not against it, and the success of their efforts is clear, as shown by this exceptionally beautiful dining table.
This table for twelve is made from solid juniper and shows how beautiful this species is when expressed as fine furniture. This heirloom-quality piece was built with formaldehyde-free adhesives and was finished with Neil Kelly's Nutmeg stain to accentuate the color and grain pattern. The true proof of the craftsman's love for juniper: Some of the knots on the top of the table were added and enhanced.
Live edge slabs showcase wood's organic, unpredictable beauty by leaving one side of the piece in its natural state.
This style is perfect for incorporating an element of surprise to an otherwise predictable surface, adding specialness or a touch of whimsy to benches, countertops, bars, and tables.
Live edge applications can be achieved using numerous species of trees. The bark can be left on or sanded off, depending on the degree of authenticity desired.
Sustainable Northwest Wood stocks live edge slabs including:
- Big Leaf Maple, sourced from the Willamette Valley
- Walnut, urban and backyard salvage from the Willamette Valley
- Juniper, sourced from grassland restoration projects in Eastern Oregon
- Campground Blue Pine, beetle-kill trees salvaged from public parks and campgrounds
- Zena Doug Fir, harvested from an oak grove restoration project in Rickreall
Give us a call or stop by to see current inventory!
Looking for inspiration? This blog post offers great ideas for incorporating live edge wood into kitchen countertops ranging from super-sleek to very rustic. This post on Apartment Therapy shares beautiful photos of live edge slabs used for dining tables.
Here are a few photos of our live edge slabs used in recent projects. From top left :
Live Edge Big Leaf Maple by Windfall Lumber
Live Edge Big Leaf Maple by Hammer & Hand
Live Edge Juniper bench with bark
Live Edge Campground Blue Pine by FP Design