Using Cedar for Raised Garden Beds

Credit: iStock / cinoby

Q: My husband and I are in the process of establishing some new raised vegetable garden beds. We downloaded information from a gardening site on the Internet that suggested different materials for building raised beds, one was cedar wood.

Well, we chose to go with the cedar, as it said it would have a longer lifespan than other types of wood. I was then talking to someone, who has some experience with vegetable gardening, and she told me that cedar was probably not the best choice, as it will leach the cedar oils into the soil and that will deplete the available nitrogen for the plants.

We have already purchased and built the frames and they are just waiting to be filled with soil, etc. What is your opinion and suggestions? –Cynthia

Go ahead and plant your beds with confidence. Cedar is frequently used for raised beds, and you’re right that it is a natural choice for a rot-resistant but natural material. In fact, I used cedar in my own raised beds and have had great results with my vegetables this first year. Have a look at my blog for more on this.

And you don’t just have to take my word on it. Ward Teulon, an agricultural scientist, founder of CityFarmBoy and one of B.C.’s top experts on growing vegetables in raised beds, uses solid red cedar in his raised beds.

I also checked with Dr. Alan Reid, GardenWorks horticulturist, who confirmed there is “no reason why cedar should not be used.” He suggests that drainage and air flow should be optimized, though, by “using a professional-quality landscape cloth that has a rating of at least a 15-year lifespan. This will allow drainage and air movement, and as long as excess water drains out of the raised bed, there is nothing to worry about.”

Lastly, Alan reminds us “to keep the soil alive like a yoghurt culture and feed it so that it will release nitrogen and other nutrients at a rate the plants can use them.”

Enjoy your new vegetable garden!