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Garden Timbers

Years ago, gardeners discovered that old railroad ties could be used to create terraced lawn spaces, raised garden beds and garden steps. These ties were soaked in creosote, which made them far more rot resistant than untreated wood. Railroad ties were eventually replaced with ties made from pressure treated wood. Now both of these are recognized as hazardous materials that should never be used in the home landscape. They have been replaced with garden timbers that are much safer to use.

If you are thinking of installing garden timbers on your property, consider the following:

  • New pressure treated “green” wood timbers use copper to make them more moisture proof. These have replaced the timbers that were soaked with arsenic, but many people don’t like to use pressure treated wood of any kind in a vegetable garden because of the danger that as the timbers deteriorate, they will contaminate the soil with unwanted chemicals.
  • Solid plastic timbers are available, and they will last almost forever. They come in a variety of earth tones, so they will blend into the landscape. Solid plastic timbers are expensive. Less costly plastic timbers with hollow interiors are also manufactured, but they may bend out of shape if they are required to hold too much weight, so they are not suitable for all projects.
  • Garden timbers made from composite materials are becoming more popular. One type combines ground up sawdust with plastic. Timbers made from recycled ground up automobile parts are also available. Both of these are very durable, so they will last many years.
  • If you like the rustic look of real wood, consider using pine timbers that have been coated with sodium silica. These timbers are extremely rot resistant, and they will look more natural than timbers made from plastic or composites.

Any garden timbers that are stacked to form a wall need to be safely installed. Fasteners

made especially for the timbers should be used, the timbers should be reinforced with steel rebar, and the timbers should be staggered so that they have overlapping seams. Be sure to allow for possible expansion and contraction due to changing weather conditions

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