Cedar Lumber

Affordable Woods for Raised Garden Beds

When diving into the world of gardening, one of the smartest investments you can make is in raised garden beds. These splendid little plots not only save your back from bending over repeatedly but also boost drainage, reduce weed invasions, and extend your growing season.

However, as any green-thumbed enthusiast might tell you, the costs can add up, particularly when it's about choosing the right wood that’s safe for your veggies, fruits, and flowers.

But fear not! Opting for inexpensive, non-toxic wood for your raised garden beds is entirely possible, and I'm here to guide you through the forest of options.

Arsenic in your garden beds?

Let's kick things off with a pro tip: steer clear of pressure-treated lumber from days of yore. In the past, this wood was treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), notorious for leaching arsenic into the soil.

In some places like New Zealand, they still use this treatment! despite Australia, the US, and the EU, having banned or restricted the use of CCA (NZ doesn't even dispose of the wood correctly leaving it as a problem to be sorted out by future generations).

No bueno, if you're aiming to keep your kale and carrots free of toxins!

Cheap Timbers For Raised Garden Beds

Now, onto the good stuff. One of the top contenders for cheap and cheerful gardening is pine. It's widely available, won't cost you an arm and a leg, and if you nab untreated pine, you're in the clear as it's safe for your soil. However, do keep in mind that pine won't be your longest-lasting choice. Over time, Mother Nature's elements will have their way with it, so expect to replace these boards every few years.

FREE WOOD: Old pallets are a great choice and often can be found for free!

Red Western Cedar
Red Western Cedar 

Cedar (Red Western)

Next up is cedar. While cedar can be a tad pricier compared to pine, its natural oils deter bugs and decay, making it an excellent middle-ground option if you're looking to balance cost with longevity. Western red cedar, in particular, is a gardening favorite and widely used for making window sashes in the past.

It's less prone to warping and sports a resistance to rot that can see your garden beds basking in the sun for a decade or more.


Rolling in as another option is juniper. This lesser-known hero is incredibly rot-resistant and can hold its own for 20 years or more in your garden, with the added perk of being non-toxic. What's more, juniper is a sustainable choice since it’s harvested from overpopulated areas where it's considered an invasive species.

Seedlings for Planting

Recycled Wood

For those who are all about recycling and repurposing, consider reclaimed or upcycled wood. Scouring places like Craigslist, local recycling centers, or community boards can uncover treasures like old, untreated barn wood or discarded fence posts just waiting for their second act in your garden. Just be sure to give them a thorough check for signs of untreated, non-toxic origins before laying claim to these eco-friendly finds.

Another clever approach is to use naturally rot-resistant woods like black locust or redwood. Although these can be more expensive, their impressive lifespan might make them worth the initial outlay, especially for those serious about sustainable, long-term gardening ventures.

Now remember, the mighty budget does not end its reign at the type of wood you choose. It also extends into the thickness of the boards, and how snazzy you want your raised beds to look.

Ground-contact-rated wood is thicker and will last longer against the damp soil but will be heftier in price. Meanwhile, opting for thinner boards can cut costs but might mean re-building your beds sooner.

Finally, let's touch base on a couple of pro gardening hacks, so your inexpensive wood choice goes the distance. Consider lining the inside walls of your wood with a thick plastic sheet to stave off moisture and slow down decay,  personally, I'm not the biggest fan of plastic.

Also, keep your beds properly drained and avoid soggy conditions to extend the life of the wood.

In summary, when you’re scouting for the most budget-friendly, non-toxic wood for your raised garden beds, pine is your best bet for short-term savings, cedar and juniper are stellar mid-range choices, and black locust or redwood are unbeatable for durability—if you're okay with a higher upfront cost. With reclaimed wood also in the mix, you've got a whole smorgasbord of options that will keep both your garden and your wallet as green as can be. Happy gardening!