Juniper lumber is an ideal wood for building raised garden beds. It is long-lasting, chemical-free, eco-friendly, and naturally beautiful. Here are our Top 2 ways to build fast and easy raised beds using this wood.
1. The Economy Box: This simple design for a 4' x 2' raised bed uses 4 pieces of 2"x6"x8' juniper lumber, screwed together at the corners with exterior-grade screws. This box can be built with our surfaced juniper lumber for a more polished look (see photo at left) or with our rough landscaping lumber for a more rustic look (photo in middle). This design is lightweight and easy to handle. It is also well-suited for small garden spaces. The design can be adjusted to make different dimensions of beds or can be built with 4"x4" posts at the corners instead of the 2"x6" dimension (see photo at right).
2. The Hardware-Free Box: Our hefty 5x5 and 6x6 juniper landscaping timbers can be stacked in an overlapping pattern at the corners and filled with dirt for raised beds. The large timbers generally provide enough weight that screws or additional hardware are not necessary (see photos below). This design is best for low-impact areas where children or pets will not be climbing on them. (For additional support, holes can be drilled vertically into the corners of the posts so metal rods can be inserted to prevent movement).
This spring we're rolling out a new product for landscaping and garden projects: Kiln-dried surfaced juniper lumber. These boards are surfaced on all four sides with eased edges for a cleaner, more refined look than our rough-sawn landscape timbers typically offer.
The surfacing also brings out the beautiful figure and interesting character that is typical for juniper. These are #2 Grade juniper so they will have more character than our #1 juniper decking.
These boards are a nominal 2"x6" dimension and available in 8' lengths, with an 1/8" radius eased edge.
When most folks think of juniper wood, a very rustic, mountain-lodge look comes to mind. But when Portland's creative minds decide to apply their design sensibilities to juniper, the possibilities emerge.
We are seeing bold new expressions of juniper's unique character in design projects around town, with beautiful results.
The new headquarters for Swift Agency in NW Portland use 5,000 square feet of juniper flooring with a whitewash finish and clear sealer. This flooring flows from an outdoor courtyard through a glass wall into the interior office space, then throughout the multi-level offices. It is paired with steel planter boxes, exposed concrete, and black and white walls for a minimal aesthetic.
The figure and character in the juniper add significant interest to an otherwise spare design, as well as warmth and texture. Juniper was an excellent choice for this space because of its durability in the outdoor courtyard. Its remarkable density will also help it wear well in this high-impact space for many years to come.
Another Portland space that uses juniper for a minimalist, modern look is the WM Goods shop on SW Alder. This downtown boutique used our pre-made juniper butcher block for its retail displays, where it makes an organic-looking, wabi sabi background for the design-centric wares placed on top. We especially love the wall of floating shelves and the hanging displays.
It is exciting to see how Portland's design community is embracing this local, abundant wood. We can't wait to see what other gorgeous projects emerge that use juniper in new ways.
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.
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.
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