The Best Wood for Raised Garden Beds – A Guide to Choosing the Right Material

For gardeners wanting to build their own raised beds, wood is often the first material considered. Compared to stone, concrete, or metal, wood tends to be more affordable and easier for the home DIY builder to work with using basic tools

But not all kinds of wood are the same when it comes to how long they last in the garden. For how long your raised beds last before they need to be rebuilt, the type of wood you choose is very important.

In this guide, we’ll cover the key factors to consider when choosing the best wood for raised garden beds

Why Use Wood for Raised Beds?

There are several advantages that make wood a popular choice:

  • Relatively low cost
  • Wide availability
  • Easy to construct with basic tools
  • Customizable sizing and shapes
  • Natural appearance fits with gardens

Wood does have some potential drawbacks to weigh as well:

  • Less durable than concrete, metal, etc.
  • Can warp, rot, or degrade over time
  • May leach chemicals if treated

Overall though, using properly prepared wood matched to your climate is a smart option for most raised bed gardening needs.

Key Factors When Selecting Wood

To choose the best wood type and boards for your raised beds, keep these key factors in mind:


Seeking out wood known for its natural rot resistance and waterproofing properties ensures the longest structural life. Some woods have natural compounds like tannins that protect them.


While budget is a consideration, it’s best to avoid the cheapest boards which are often too thin or made from wood that decays quickly.


Opt for abundant local species as they’re most affordable and sustainable. Exotic imported woods are pricier and not eco-friendly.


Choose responsibly harvested lumber, if possible from suppliers who replant trees. Reclaimed wood works too.


Don’t use pressure treated lumber which can leach chemicals into garden beds. Untreated is safest.

Best Wood Types for Raised Beds

Here are some top picks for long-lasting, rot-resistant woods:


Cedar is a favorite choice due to its natural weatherproofing oils. Red cedar is more durable than white. It resists rot, decay, and insects. A cedar raised bed can last over a decade.


Redwood is equally decay resistant and sturdy. Its tannins make it resistant to bugs and moisture. Redwood is common in western North America.


Cypress is naturally resistant to pests and moisture. This versatile wood works for all outdoor projects, not just raised beds. It’s popular in southern areas.


Hemlock’s coarse grain pattern gives it excellent weather resistance. It holds up well over years of exposure to rain, snow, and soil.


Teak has a high oil content that makes it incredibly durable outdoors. This tropical hardwood is excellent for raised beds but is an expensive import.


Pressure treated pine is common but avoid it. Untreated pine is more affordable than cedar but less decay resistant without tannins. It requires replacing more frequently.

No matter which wood you select, always check for quality. Avoid boards with large knots, cracks, or other defects. Opt for the highest grade boards within your budget.

Key Considerations for Wood Raised Beds

Follow these tips for best results when building and using your wooden raised beds:

  • Use thick boards, at least 2 inches if possible. Thinner wood warps and fails faster.

  • Elevate beds off the ground using bricks, blocks, or gravel for airflow and drainage.

  • Line inside of bed with landscape fabric to prevent grass and weeds from below.

  • Seal outdoor wood with eco-friendly treatments to repel moisture. Re-coat annually.

  • Monitor beds for sagging corners, rot, and wood degradation over time.

  • Pre-drill holes for screws to prevent splitting old or brittle woods.

  • Expect to rebuild or replace wood beds every 5-15 years depending on wood quality.

With proper selection, construction, and maintenance, a wood raised bed can provide many seasons of productive gardening before needing to be rebuilt. Pairing naturally decay resistant woods with smart building practices will extend the longevity substantially.

Alternatives to Wood for Raised Beds

While wood is a popular raised bed building material, it’s not the only option. Here are some other possibilities if wood doesn’t work for you:

  • Recycled plastic lumber
  • Concrete blocks
  • Poured concrete
  • Stone, brick, or block
  • Metal framing (steel, aluminum, galvanized)
  • Bags or containers

Each material has pros and cons in terms of durability, cost, appearance, and weight. Shop around to find one that best fits your climate, skills, budget and garden style.

With this guidance, you can select the ideal wood or material to create durable, safe raised beds tailored exactly to your gardening needs and space. Happy building and growing!

Wooden Garden Boxes: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Wood Species for Raised Bed Planters


What kind of wood should you use for raised beds?

So to put it all together, the best type of wood for raised beds is untreated, FSC-certified pine. Or untreated, FSC-certified cedar or redwood if you want something a bit longer-lasting. You do, however, have other options for your raised beds.

What wood should not be used in a raised garden bed?

An older type of wood preservative called Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) contained arsenic, copper, and chromium. CCA-treated wood is no longer available for residential use as of 2004. Avoid using older types of wood treatments such as CCA, creosote, and Penta-treated lumber.

What is the best material to use for a raised garden bed?

Wood is the least expensive and most popular option for constructing your raised garden bed. As you can see in the chart above, wood ticks all the boxes. Use untreated wood to ensure that chemicals aren’t leaching into your soil (and therefore into the food you’re going to eat).

Should you use treated or untreated wood for raised garden beds?

Safe practices for working with treated wood recommend treated wood not be used where it may come into direct or indirect contact with drinking water or a component of food, animal feed or beehives. The USDA prohibits treated lumber for soil contact use in their certified National Organic Program published in 2011.

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