The Best Raised Garden Bed Liner Materials for a Toxin-Free & Durable Garden

It’s very satisfying to grow your own food, and raised garden beds make it easy to care for plants without having to bend down. But it can be hard to find materials for raised beds that are safe, long-lasting, and affordable. The material you use to line your raised beds is very important because it keeps your plants and soil safe from the wood.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the pros and cons of various raised bed liner options to help you make the best choice for your garden

Why Use a Raised Bed Liner?

Adding a liner inside your raised garden beds offers many benefits

  • Creates a protective barrier between pressure-treated lumber and soil. This prevents chemicals from leaching into the dirt and food.

  • Keeps soil in place and stops it from washing away or eroding, which saves you time and money on replacing soil that you lose.

  • Provides stability to the bed walls, increasing durability. This is especially helpful for thinner, flexible materials.

  • Moderates temperature fluctuations in the bed for more consistent soil temperature.

  • Acts as a weed barrier to keep invasive plants out when using materials like bricks or logs that have gaps.

  • Looks tidy and finished.

Common Liner Materials: Pros vs Cons

Let’s dive into the most popular lining options for raised beds and the main pros and cons of each

Plastic Sheeting

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to find.

Cons: Doesn’t breathe well which causes wood to rot faster. Hard to work with and make look neat. Breaks down quickly (1-2 years). Plastic shards end up in soil. Not environmentally friendly.

Landscaping Fabric

Pros: Designed as a weed barrier. Easy to find. Can buy in bulk rolls.

Cons: Too thin to provide structure or insulate. Manufactured product often contains chemicals. Permeable – chemicals could still leach through.


Pros: Very inexpensive. Provides stability and insulates. Substantial enough to block chemicals. Easy to work with.

Cons: Decomposes quickly, needing replacement every 1-2 years. Time consuming to replace. Can harbor slugs.

Wood Planks

Pros: Natural material. Provides excellent stability, insulation, and weed barrier. Long lasting 5-10 years.

Cons: Must use rot-resistant wood like cedar that can be costly. Proper installation takes time.

Out of these common options, wood planks seem to provide the best benefits with only the higher upfront cost as a downside. However, there are a couple more creative solutions we’ll cover next that give you the best of both worlds!

Economical Raised Bed Liner Solutions

When looking for an affordable liner option that still offers durability and toxin protection, here are two great options to consider:

Cedar Deck Boards

Cedar deck boards provide an economical alternative to full-size cedar planks for raised bed liners. Though thin, using two stacked horizontally provides ample coverage at a fraction of the cost.

Pros: rot-resistant, naturally deters insects/rodents, attractive appearance.

Cons: Must be installed properly to avoid gaps. May need replacement every 5 years.

Hardware Cloth

Hardware cloth is a galvanized wire mesh that can line the bottom and sides of a raised bed. Opt for stainless steel over galvanized for very acidic soils.

Pros: Extremely durable for 10+ years. Allows for drainage. Can customize size with wire cutters.

Cons: Can be difficult to work with and cut precisely. More industrial look.

Both of these options offer excellent durability and protection at a reasonable price when compared to traditional liner materials.

Making Your Own Non-Toxic Raised Bed with a Cedar Liner

If you want to build your own raised garden bed using cedar deck boards as an affordable liner solution, follow these simple steps:

Supplies Needed:

  • 3 – 2″ x 10″ x 8′ CedarTone Pressure Treated Lumber boards
  • 6 – 5/4″ x 5″ x 8′ Red Cedar Deck boards
  • 3 – 2″ x 2″ x 4′ Red Cedar boards for corner stakes
  • 1 Box – 3′′ Deck Screws
  • 1 Box – 2′′ Galvanized Nails
  • 26 cubic ft of compost and topsoil

Tools Needed:

  • Tape measure
  • Saw – miter saw or hand saw
  • Power drill
  • Hammer
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Rubber mallet (optional)

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Cut pressure treated boards to size. Cut one board in half for four 4′ lengths.

  2. Build the frame by screwing the boards together at corners, using 5 screws per joint.

  3. Cut 2″ x 2″ corner stake boards in half at 45 degree angles. Pound stakes into each corner until tops are flush with frame.

  4. Screw stakes in place by drilling screws from outside of frame into stakes.

  5. Measure between stakes and cut cedar deck boards to fit inside. Use 2 boards stacked per side.

  6. Nail cedar boards to interior frame using galvanized nails.

  7. Return sod upside down to bottom of frame. Add compost layer, then fill with topsoil 1-2″ from top.

And that’s it – you now have an affordable raised garden bed lined with cedar deck boards to provide a protective barrier for years to come!

Alternative Liner Materials

While plastic, landscaping fabric, cardboard, and wood are the most common choices, there are a few other options you could consider for lining raised garden beds:

  • Burlap – Similar to landscape fabric but more breathable. Often treated with chemicals so source untreated fabric.

  • Coconut coir – Made from coconut husks so will decompose but lasts 1-2 years. Provides temperature insulation.

  • Newspaper – Cheap and effective single-use liner. Use 5-10 overlapping sheets. Replace annually.

  • Aluminum flashing – Extremely durable for 10+ years. Allows drainage and is mold/mildew resistant. Costly.

  • Mesh wire – Stainless steel or galvanized wire mesh lasts a long time. Must install carefully to avoid punctures.

  • Mineral paper – Made using cellulose and minerals. Biodegradable and insulates well but costly.

Ultimately cedar deck boards or hardware cloth provide the best blend of affordability, durability, and practicality for most raised garden bed liners. But if you’re looking for alternative solutions, there are definitely options out there!

Key Tips for Installing Raised Bed Liners

Whichever material you choose, follow these tips to properly install your raised bed liner:

  • Line both the bottom and sides for maximum coverage and protection.

  • Overlap seams by at least 2 inches and secure with additional nails or screws.

  • Use galvanized or stainless steel nails and screws that won’t corrode or leach chemicals.

  • Tuck liner edges under wood frame or secure tightly against inner walls. Eliminate gaps.

  • Make sure liner fits snugly at corners and along edges. Crease and mold liner to fit into shape.

  • Cover liner edges with trim pieces for a polished look and to prevent liner being pulled up.

Taking the time to properly install your liner will maximize its durability and performance. And be sure to use untreated, non-toxic wood for your raised bed structure when possible.

Designing a Stylish & Functional Garden Bed

With the protective liner installed, it’s time to focus on creating a beautiful and practical garden bed design:

  • Size – Standard widths are 3-4 feet for accessibility. Length can vary. Be sure to leave aisle space between beds.

  • Shape – Square and rectangular beds maximize planting space. You can also do circles, corners, edges, Kidney shapes, or freeform.

  • Height – For easiest access, have beds raised 12-18 inches above ground. At least 6 inches deep.

  • Layout – Arrange shorter plants in front graduating to taller ones in back for depth. Group plants with similar needs.

  • Features – Incorporate trellises, arches, benches, stepping stones, or obelisks to enhance functionality and visual appeal.

  • Material – Use naturally rot-resistant untreated woods like cedar, redwood, cypress, or pine. Avoid treated lumber touching soil.

  • Style – Keep your raised beds looking great by coordinating colors and materials with your home. Add paint or decorative wood accents.

Take time to design a raised bed tailored to your space, gardening needs, and personal style for optimal functionality and beauty.

Cost Comparison of Raised Bed Liner Materials

Here is a cost comparison of common liner materials based on a 4′ x 8′ raised bed:

  • Cedar Deck Boards – $50
  • Landscape Fabric – $25
  • Cardboard – $0
  • Plastic Sheeting – $15
  • Burlap – $20
  • Aluminum Flashing – $60
  • Coconut Coir Liner – $40
  • Hardware Cloth – $30

Cedar deck boards are very affordable considering their durability and performance. Cardboard is the cheapest but doesn’t last. Plastic sheeting and landscape fabric are also low cost but have significant drawbacks that make them less ideal for raised garden beds.

Investing a few extra dollars upfront in a quality liner that will last 5+ years is well worth it. It will save you time and money in the long run while protecting your garden soil and plants.

Give Your Garden the Best Start

Installing a protective liner in your raised garden bed might seem like an unnecessary extra step but it makes a big impact. Taking the time to properly line your raised beds prevents toxic chemicals from leaching into your organic garden soil, saves you from constantly replacing wasted soil, and enhances the structural stability and visual appeal of your garden beds.

While plastic, landscape fabric, and cardboard are affordable options, they fall short in providing long-lasting weed prevention, breathability, and toxin protection. Ultimately, wood planks or boards made from rot-resistant species like cedar provide the ideal blend of durability, safety, and visual appeal. Or for the budget-conscious, using an easy-to-install cedar deck board liner is a great solution.

No matter what material you choose, be sure to properly install liner panels secured tightly together and weighed down around the edges to get the most out of your liner. Keep these key considerations in mind, do your research, and you’ll have healthy, thriving plants growing in beautiful raised beds for years to come. Happy gardening!

Harrod Horticultural Wooden Raised Beds & Liners


What is the best lining for raised garden beds?

You can line your raised bed to make it more durable and to prevent toxics from leaching into the soil. For lining, use landscape fabric found at garden supply stores or cloth fabric from clothing. Avoid non-porous plastic, as it can retain too much water and discourage beneficial insects and worms.

Should you put a liner in a raised bed?

Having a liner in your raised garden bed can prevent these irritating invaders from growing and choking out your plants by acting as a physical barrier. Putting in the initial work of installing a liner is certainly worth it by reducing constant weeding of your raised garden bed throughout the spring and summer months.

What is the best material to line a planter box with?

Pond liner or geotextile fabric provides excellent durability and helps prevent wood rot.

What should I put at the bottom of my raised garden bed?

Cardboard and Wood Chips: Layering cardboard at the bottom of your raised bed is an effective, cost-efficient way to suppress weeds. It eventually breaks down, enriching the soil with carbon. Wood chips can be added on top of the cardboard as an additional layer for weed control and moisture retention.

What are raised bed liners?

Raised bed liners keep soil contained so you can install the beds on a patio, paved area or concrete slab — any hard surface — without soil washing out and making a mess. They help prevent weeds from infiltrating beds set in the lawn, too. Polypropylene fabric allows water to drain. Four sizes: 3′ x 3′, 3′ x 6′, 4′ x 4′ and 4′ x 8′.

Are plastic garden liners good for raised beds?

Plastic liners are a great choice for those who want waterproof garden liners for raised beds. They are also a good option if you have very dry soil and need to retain moisture by preventing ‘normal drainage. You may even be resourceful and use old pool covers or plastic tarps as raised bed liners!

Do you need a garden bed liner?

If you don’t feel like your garden bed needs a liner, you don’t have to use one. You can simply make a raised bed of untreated wood (or some other natural material) and remove the weeds from time to time. This article brought you ten non-toxic garden bed liner options you can use to improve your raised beds.

Can you put two liners on a raised bed?

Doing two liners will allow water to drain out from the bottom of the raised bed while preventing chemicals from getting to your soil from the pressure-treated wood. Another thing you can do is to invest in plastic garden liners made out of polypropylene fabric, which permits better drainage.

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