June 28th, 2012

Toxic Ties

We want to plant some garden plots. Can we use railroad ties as the perimeter sides?

blog-dougRailroad ties have no place in an organic garden—or any garden where kids play and edible crops are harvested. Wooden ties are traditionally treated with coal-tar creosote, a nasty, tarry hydrocarbon brew that acts as a wood preservative and water repellent. Creosote is toxic and is thought to be carcinogenic to humans. Less-hazardous preservatives are sometimes used on railroad ties today, but even so, they leave the ties saturated with chemicals that you don’t want in your garden.

Instead of railroad ties, choose nontoxic materials to construct the sides of your growing beds. Untreated lumber, logs, stones, bricks, sheet metal, and cinder blocks are a few options.  —Doug Hall

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Comments

    I have heard about the chemicals on railroad ties before. I’m curious to see if you know anything about using plastic containers for edibles. I have seen many plastic growing containers – Rubbermaids, plastic bags, plastic hangers, etc. Do these materials leach toxicity into the plants as well?

    In the above blog and in the current OG issue, you suggest cinder blocks for raised beds. Is there any concern that the blocks may leach toxic materials such as heavy metals?

    Are all cinder blocks available here made in the US?

    Bill in Billings

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