What is the best wood to use in building a raised garden bed?
It is a question that should have an obvious answer, and because it doesn't have one, Portland Raised Beds was founded to introduce American gardeners, landscape designers, and raised bed enthusiasts to the beautiful and long-lasting wood of the Juniper.
Portland Raised Beds founder, Seth Pauley, has been involved in urban gardens and community gardening for several years in many cities throughout the US. In most cases, using salvaged wood, he has built raised bed gardens and used square foot gardening ideas to create thriving garden plots from as small as a 2 ft X 3 ft to as large as 20 ft x 4 ft. Seth, his wife, and two young daughters began planning a new family garden in the yard of the house they moved into in the fall of 2015.
After planning the garden, Seth headed off to the local home center to buy lumber for the project. It didn't go well. In fact, he left without buying anything, because the lumber options were pressure and chemically treated wood - risks he didn't want anywhere near the food the family wanted to grow - some cedar that was quite expensive, and various quality of boards of pine and fir mainly for interior or covered use. There were a few options for buying raised bed garden kits online, typically using thin planks of cedar, which seemed unlikely to be durable enough to survive in a working garden. The decorative, quaint design limitations of most of the kits were not what Seth's family was looking for.
Beautiful Wood. Exceptional Durability. And a Great Story...
In the weeks that followed, Seth learned about a public-private initiative to harvest Juniper from the high desert of Eastern Oregon - a tree whose wood had shown amazing properties and durability in countless studies, as well as being longer lasting in outdoor applications than second growth western red cedar and redwood. Juniper has been used widely for fence posts, with some posts lasting more than 50 years even in harsh, unprotected and natural environments. An added bonus is that organizations running the Juniper restoration project are helping create (and protect) jobs in rural counties and stimulate local economic activity. The initiative has the added benefit of supporting the restoration of potentially thousands of acres of native biodiversity and conserving water (Junipers will suck up immense quantities of water from the ground) in a part of the state where water resources are limited.
In following his curiosity to learn more about Juniper and the various programs at work, Seth realized that Juniper for use to build raised garden beds was available mainly to those living in close proximity to one of four cities in Oregon, Washington, and California, having access to one of a handful of rural lumber yards, and who were comfortable buying, transporting, and processing 8 foot long boards into useable lumber. Seth saw the limited availability, difficulty in shipping, and skills and tools needed to create raised garden beds from Juniper and the high potential for national interest in using Juniper in the garden as an opportunity to solve a problem of access to this wonderful material.
Portland Raised Beds is the first to design and build Juniper raised garden bed kits that are easy to assemble and easy to ship, making this incredible wood widely available for the first time outside the Northwest. Our three standard raised bed styles maximize use of materials starting from 6 inch (h) X 8 foot (l) boards. Depending on style, we use boards with an actual thickness of 1 inch or 2 inches (as opposed to the dimensional lumber available at most hardware superstores and home centers). The lumber we use is generally kiln-dried and has not been treated by chemicals ensuring our beds are safe for growing edible crops. The dimensions of our kits are optimized to help us ship them at a reasonable cost via standard carriers as well as freight for large orders. And, we use word of mouth and our website to run our business, from taking orders and communicating with customers to helping us introduce Juniper to the nation.
With our blog, we intend to share more about what we have learned about Juniper, the organizations, such as Sustainable Northwest Wood, helping to make this wonderful wood available, and raised bed gardening. To learn more about Juniper, three great resources are: