Can I Use Railroad Ties For Raised Garden Beds?

February 2, 2023 0 Comments

can i use railroad ties for raised garden beds
The thick, rugged look of railroad ties conjures up images of freight trains barreling across American landscapes. They make good garden edging and can also be used to build paths, planters, and retaining walls.

However, they should not be used for raised beds. They are generally treated with creosote, a carcinogen that leaches into the soil.


Using old lumber for raised garden beds is one of the most popular DIY projects. However, many people are worried about the dangers associated with using railroad ties for these types of beds.

The wood used in the ties may be treated with creosote, which is a toxic chemical. This can be dangerous for people, pets, and the environment.

Because of the dangers, it’s important to use only untreated ties in vegetable gardens and other areas where people will be working with the soil. Also, never burn creosote-treated wood to clean it up or make it into a decorative planter.

You can also find ties that have been used but are not treated with creosote for sale at salvage yards or online. Home Depot and Menards even sell used railroad ties for landscaping purposes.

Some homeowners prefer to use untreated railroad ties in their raised garden beds. This can reduce the amount of creosote that gets into the groundwater.

Another option is to build walls for your raised beds from natural materials, such as native stone or bricks. This can help to keep the soil in place and also act as a retaining wall for your raised garden beds.

Alternatively, you can use timbers treated with other preservatives, such as polyurethane. These are usually safer and environmentally friendly options.

Other options for building walls in your garden include interlocking stones, naturally rot-resistant wood, or timbers that are treated with other wood preservatives approved by the EPA. You can also use a mixture of stone and timber for a more rustic look.

When you’re preparing the soil for your raised garden beds, you should remove any creosote-treated ties to a depth of several inches. Then, you can re-fill the area with new soil, which will be safe for growing your food.

While creosote-treated railroad ties are not illegal to use, it is best to avoid them as much as possible. The EPA has warned against using them in areas where people will be working with the soil and also near water supplies.

While it is best to use only untreated ties in your raised garden beds, you can also use timbers treated with other preservatives, including polyurethane. These are usually safer than creosote-treated wood and are environmentally friendly.


If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you may have been tempted to build your own raised garden beds from materials like repurposed stock tanks or railroad ties. But before you start, make sure that the material you choose is safe for garden use.

The most common materials for building garden beds are untreated wood and treated heat-treated wood or kiln-dried. Untreated wood deteriorates faster in contact with soil than heat-treated or kiln-dried lumber, which means you’ll need to replace it more often.

Another material that may be safer for garden beds is concrete blocks, which are inexpensive and easy to buy. These blocks are designed to resist rot and decay and are available in several sizes, shapes, and colors. They’re also durable enough to hold a lot of weight and resist moisture intrusion.

You can also build a bed from other materials that are less likely to contain chemicals. For example, you can use repurposed galvanized steel that has been coated or heat-treated.

This type of material is usually cheaper than a raised garden bed made from untreated wood, but it’s important to remember that this material will only last a few years. You may have to replace it every few years if the soil mix you use is highly acidic or contains large amounts of peat moss, which can corrode these beds.

Alternatively, you can use untreated pine or spruce for your raised garden beds. However, you should be aware that pressure-treated wood is not recommended for vegetable gardens because it may contain substances that can leach into the soil of your garden bed.

A few other chemicals that you might want to avoid using in your raised garden bed are arsenic-treated lumber and copper-based wood treatments, both of which have been banned by the EPA. The danger of arsenic-treated lumber is that it can leach into the soil and contaminate your plants and people. This is not a concern if you regularly use compost or fertilizer.

A similar concern has been raised about the newer copper-based wood treatment, copper azole. Research is still underway, but some studies have found that copper can migrate into the soil of beds built from copper azole-treated wood. Copper is not toxic if you consume it, but some plants that take up copper in their root systems will die before they grow tall and mature.


Fire is the process of using heat to break down fuel into oxygen, water, and other chemicals. It’s how humans began cooking food over 400,000 years ago in caves.

There are four main parts needed for fire: fuel, oxygen, combustion, and radiation. These reactions work together to produce light and heat, and they are also self-sustaining because they create more fuel for the next reaction.

If you have an old pile of railroad ties, you can use them for raised garden beds. However, it’s important to know the risks of using them, especially if you plan on growing edible plants in your bed.

The first thing you need to do is remove the railroad ties from your garden. This will help prevent the creosote and other toxic chemicals from contaminating your soil.

In addition, you need to test the soil for toxins before you plant anything. This will ensure that the soil is clean enough to grow your vegetables and fruit trees.

You can use other materials, such as metal, for raised garden beds that will not contaminate the soil. However, metal is more expensive than wood and it may rot quickly. It is also less durable than wood.

Another option is to make a raised bed from reclaimed lumber or other natural materials. This is especially common in rural areas, where many people have old barns or other building structures that can be used for a raised bed.

These materials are often cheap and easily available, but be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications for any reclaimed products you buy. Some lumber, such as redwood, will rot very quickly and may need to be replaced after a few years.

If you want to keep your soil nutrient-rich and healthy, make sure to add plenty of compost or decomposed manure. These materials will help replenish the nutrients that your soil has lost in the last few years.

Planting the bed at least 4 feet wide is also a good idea. This allows for easy access from either side. It also makes it easier to reach the center of the bed, where the best vegetables are located. This width should be chosen based on the needs of the plants you want to grow in the bed.


A raised garden bed is a great way to contain the soil if you want to grow a vegetable or flower garden. Whether you have rocky or sandy soil, the raised garden bed will hold rich, uncontaminated soil in place.

Railroad ties are a popular choice for many landscaping projects. Usually made from softwood or hardwood, they have an appealing worn appearance that helps to give your yard a rustic look. They are also good materials for creating planters, paths, and walls.

If you plan on using railroad ties for your garden beds, be sure to consult with local authorities before you begin. In some states, old ties are illegal to use. In other areas, you may have to get permission from the local authority before you can cut or burn them.

Creosote-treated railroad ties are dangerous to handle because they can release toxic gases that are poisonous in closed spaces like greenhouses. If you do decide to use them, be sure to wear pesticide-resistant gloves and long sleeves and cover your skin with a face mask. If you inhale the fumes, you can develop respiratory problems and even cancer.

You should also be careful to remove any sawdust that might form after cutting the ties. It’s important to dispose of this sawdust because it can be extremely toxic, as well as potentially leaching into the soil.

Lastly, if you use railroad ties for your raised garden beds, be sure to line the soil with plastic. This will prevent any contact between the wood and the soil and will help to keep weeds, pests, and other unwanted organisms from invading your plants.

Some gardeners choose to add a layer of bricks on top of the soil they’ve planted. This is a good way to get a more rustic look while protecting your plants from insects and animals that might nibble on them.

Another common material for raised beds is concrete. These modular masonry systems are available in different sizes, weights, and styles. They make a sturdy and durable raised garden bed that will withstand years of wear and tear.