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Raised bed gardening is a very convenient gardening technique that allows you to make better use of your outdoor space. Raised garden beds come in different shapes and forms, but more often than not, they consist of a wooden frame filled with soil. So how thick should wood for raised garden beds be?
Ideally, use wood boards that are at least 1.5 or 2 inches (3.80 or 5 cm) thick for raised garden beds. Anything thinner would result in a less durability. A thicker frame will also prove more resistant to wear and tear. The thicker your wood boards, the longer your raised garden bed will last.
The type of wood you will use, and the thickness of your wood boards will mostly depend on your budget and what is available to you. In this article, I will tell you more about the pros and cons of using thicker wood boards, hoping to help you construct the best possible raised garden bed.
The Importance of Durability
There are many advantages to growing plants in raised garden beds as opposed to traditional gardens. Among other things, raised garden beds prevent soil compaction and allow you to use different types of soil and fertilizers for different types of plants.
When constructing a raised garden bed, ensure that your frame is as sturdy and durable as possible so that it will last you at least a few years. After all, who would want to go through the trouble of constructing a raised garden bed that will only last a few seasons?
Because durability and sturdiness are such important factors, many gardeners opt for highly resistant materials such as bricks and concrete. However, wood is a much more practical, convenient, and versatile material – not to mention that, in most cases, it is more readily available than any other material.
Technically speaking, you could use any material to build a raised garden bed – even plastic! The problem with synthetic materials is that they often release toxins into the soil, which is something that you may want to avoid if you are planning on growing fruit and vegetables.
Even if you have no previous experience with raised bed gardening, building a wood frame does not require any particular skills and will not cost you a fortune.
Two key elements are going to determine how sturdy and durable your raised garden bed will be:
- The type of lumber you choose, and
- The thickness of your lumber
Types of Wood/Lumber to Use
Before we discuss the pros and cons of using thicker wood boards, let us quickly review the main features of the four types of lumber that are commonly used to construct raised garden beds:
- Cedar (best value): Cedar is thick, durable, and rot-resistant. It is more expensive than pine and composite wood but will last you several years, especially if you use thicker boards. One thing is for sure: with cedar, you will get the most value for your money.
- Redwood: Redwood is thick, durable, and rot-resistant. It is more expensive than the other types of lumber on this list and is usually thinner. Redwood boards are usually 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
- Pine: pine is relatively inexpensive and quite durable, although not as durable as cedar and redwood.
- Composite wood: composite wood is the most affordable option on this list. It is quite durable but does not boast the same properties as cedar and redwood.
See our guide to the 7 Best Wood Options For Raised Gardens (And 3 To Avoid).
Before making your decision, you may want to do the following:
- Set a budget.
- See what types of lumber are available in your area.
- Inquire about prices.
If you are on a tight budget and have access to free lumber, just use whatever you have. The lessons you will learn during the construction process will certainly come in handy next time you build a raised garden bed, making you a better gardener. See Are Raised Garden Beds Worth It? What You Need To Know.
How Thick Should Your Wood Be?
As a rule of thumb, the thicker the lumber you use, the more durable and resistant your frame will be. Ideally, you should strive to buy the thickest and most durable lumber that your money can buy.
There is a reason why many people use cedar not only for raised garden bed frames but also for other types of external structures, such as decks and saunas:
- Cedar is relatively easy to procure, and it is not overly expensive.
- It is highly unlikely to rot (especially if treated with a UV-resistant varnish every year or so).
- It is naturally immune to pests and fungi. However, Cedar Apple Rust is a common problem in many rural areas.
- Cedar boards are usually quite thick.
If you have 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick cedar boards lying around in your backyard, there is really no need to purchase new ones unless durability is a key priority to you.
If so, you may head over to your nearest lumber yard, where you will most probably find thicker cedar boards. For maximum resistance, select boards that are 2-inches (5 cm) thick, as this way, your frame may very easily last you a couple of decades.
The important thing is that you do not get anything thinner than 1.5 inches (3.80 cm), especially if your frame is going to be exposed to frequent and heavy precipitation.
Two factors are going to determine the durability and sturdiness of your raised garden bed:
- The type of lumber you use,
- The thickness of your boards.
If you want your raised garden bed to last you more than a couple of years, make sure that you select a wood that is naturally rot-resistant.
As far as thickness goes, you will want your wood boards to be at least 1.5 inches (3.80 cm) thick, especially if you live in a particularly rainy climate. If possible, use 2 inches (5 cm), thick cedar boards, as this way, your frame is likely to last you at least 15 years.