[permaculture] Railroad ties and gardens

Marimike6 at cs.com Marimike6 at cs.com
Mon Apr 23 09:26:06 EDT 2007

Is it safe to build raised-bed gardens from creosoted railroad ties?

Creosote is the kind of thing that sounds scary in principle-- it leaches 
into the soil, it's contains carcinogens, etc. But as a practical matter, it does 
not appear to me to pose grave problems for either gardener or plants... if 
you are to believe the very reasonable sounding explanation found here:


Are treated railroad ties guaranteed 100% innocuous? I don't think anyone 
would say that. So it's a matter for each individual to decide. When building 
such a bed, maybe you could minimize skin contact by wearing gloves. And be tidy 
when loading and unloading your truck. Maybe you could wear a face mask, it 
can be stinky work.

The alternative would be to use more easily rotted landscaping timbers that 
needed replacing every several years. Maybe you could make one bed from each 
material, and compare them under actual conditions to see which you found 

Check your untreated landscaping timbers for wood boring insects. They hasten 
the conversion of your raised bed into a mound of garden soil.

Don't like either approach? Here's a good third opinion-- cinder blocks. They 
don't mention that inches from the blocks your soil pH will be elevated. So I 
wouldn't use them near your rhododendrons or forest cultivars.



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