Cedar vs. Pine: Which wood makes the best raised bed?

beans in a raised bed

When researching which wood makes the best-raised bed, I found that many factors need to be considered. To simplify the answer, I decided to write an article comparing Cedar vs. Pine to determine which wood makes the best-raised bed.

Using wood to make a raised bed is a cost-effective solution. Cedar and Pine are two popular kinds of wood used for garden construction. When it comes to which of these woods makes the best-raised bed, Cedar is the clear winner. The oils in cedar make it naturally more robust and resistant to rot.

In the next few sections, we will be making side-by-side comparisons of these wood materials for garden beds, their considerations, and benefits, as well as other raised garden bed considerations that you should know as a gardener, so please do read on!

Considerations when comparing Cedar vs Pine for making raised beds

One of the main things to consider is the durability of Cedar and Pine and what happens to these woods as time passes.

Cedar gradually fades to gray in terms of appearance, while Pine begins to develop checks that look like splits or cracks as it dries out.

Appearance is subjective, so it is up to your personal preference.

Longevity considerations when using pine or cedar for raised bed gardening

wooden raised beds being constructed

Longevity is another deciding factor. Obviously, you want to use wood that will hold up for a long time and not need to be repaired often, disturbing the plants in the bed.

Untreated pine can last up to seven years if you have good draining soil. Cedar could easily triple this lifespan, but if you want a short-term and cheaper solution, pine may be the right option for you.

Safety of using pine or cedar for raised bed gardening

When it comes to growing vegetables, the main concern is using preservatives and chemicals in certain woods. These chemicals can leak into the vegetables, which is not good for obvious reasons.

This is another reason that cedar is better than pine when it comes to making raised beds. Cedar is dense and long-lasting, with no added preservatives, making it an ideal choice for raised beds. Pine usually needs to be treated for longevity.

Side by side comparison of Cedar vs Pine

Here is a comparison list of Cedar vs. Pine:

Using cedar for raised bed gardening and its considerationsUsing pine for raised bed gardening and its considerationsHas a life span of up to 30 yearsIt can last up to 7 to 10 yearsNo preservatives or chemicalsUsually requires the addition of micronized copper azolesHighly durable and stableDevelops checked appearance in timeIt does not warp or shrinkNot guaranteed against shrinking or warpingIt turns grey with timeDecays in the groundMore expensiveMore affordable option

If you choose pine to make your raised beds, one way to ensure that it will last longer is to paint the boards with raw linseed oil. This will protect the pine, and over time it will turn from a beige color to grey. This is a good way to bridge the gap between the notable cost and durability difference of Cedar and Pine.

Knotty grade cedar is also a slightly cheaper option; it retains strength but has more visible knots in the wood.

The different types of cedar and pine which can be used for making raised beds

The individual type of Cedar or Pine which you choose to make your raised bed will likely depend on what’s available in your area and the cost. It is important to weigh these factors against the characteristics of the wood to choose the most suitable for your raised bed.

Cedar wood types

ends of a stacked pile of timber

Strictly speaking, there are four types of cedarwood – the deodar cedar, the Lebanon cedar, the Cyprus cedar, and the Atlas cedar.

These types of cedar all have slightly different characteristics and are therefore used for different purposes. The most common form of cedar is Western Red Cedar, which isn’t a true cedar but is ideal for garden use because of its durability and long-lasting nature.

Pine wood types

Like cedar, there are many variations of pine wood. These different species vary in properties such as strength and hardness. Shortleaf pine is solid wood, similar to Red Oak.

Softer variations such as Sugar Pine, Western White Pine, and Eastern White Pine decay more rapidly than harder pines.

These harder pines – Shortleaf, Slash, Longleaf, and Loblolly Pine, are commonly used for outdoor construction as they are more robust.

What should a cedar or pine raised bed be lined with?

Lining a raised bed improves its durability and stops toxins from going into the soil. Some people use plastic to line their raised bed, which isn’t ideal as it tends to retain excess water and deter insects which are beneficial to growth. This is particularly true of non-porous plastic.

The best material to use for a raised bed lining would be landscape fabric.

This can usually be found at gardening stores, or you could use cloth fabric from old clothes if you want to be thrifty!

Lining your raised beds with this for mole prevention

A good way to prevent moles and gophers from harming the plants in your raised bed is to line it with metal hardware cloth.

This lining will prevent them from coming up through the bottom of the bed and wreaking havoc on your shrubs.

What do I put on the bottom of a raised garden bed?

Put organic material like compost, grass clippings, and leaves on the bottom of the garden bed. This will boost your soil’s health and benefit your plants. Refrain from putting rocks on the bottom as they may create a water table within the raised garden bed, causing root rot and improper drainage.

How depth affects a raised bed

When constructing your raised bed, it is important to have enough depth; otherwise, plants and vegetables may struggle to grow.

There is room for maneuver, but six inches of soil should be the absolute minimum for raised garden beds.

Generally, most garden plants require at least six to twelve inches for their roots, so twelve inches would be ideal.

Considerations for raised garden bed, depending on where they are built

raised bed in a greenhouse

If the raised beds are built over concrete, they are likely to need more depth because they won’t gather nutrients as easily.

If they are built over grass or soil, you can afford to make them less deep because there will be more nutrients available to them.

The key to making your raised bed deep enough is to consider which crops you intend to grow and do some quick research on how much depth they require for their roots. This can vary greatly from plant to plant, so there is no definitive answer. Also, to aid you in this process, I have created an article on raised bed gardening, and this covers everything from bed material, design, how to make them, how many you need, and even soil percentages for it.

Effective ways to drain a raised bed and why drainage is important

Whether you choose to use Cedar or Pine for your raised bed, drainage is a significant consideration.

Draining saves good soil and stops waterlogging from occurring.

If the raised bed doesn’t have adequate drainage, it could become a hard environment for plant roots to breathe.

Draining considerations for raised garden bed

Firstly, when trying to determine how much drainage your raised bed needs, you will need to consider which types of shrubs or vegetables you intend to grow. If the raised bed is below knee height, generally speaking, drainage probably isn’t required.

Materials using for better drainage for raised bed garden

There are a variety of materials that can be used as drainage in a raised garden. Some of these materials are more effective than others.

One of the best materials to use is crushed granite because it’s affordable and has great draining properties.

Sand is a reliable option but try to use washed or river sand to ensure a low salt content which could negatively affect growth. Pebbles and other gravels can be used to be careful that the topsoil doesn’t combine with the rocks, as this will limit its drainage ability.


Conclusion on cedar vs pine for raised garden bed material

When choosing between Cedar and Pine, these are noteworthy aspects that determine which woods make the best-raised bed. Cedar is a very stable wood. It will not shrink, warp or check over time.

On the other hand, Pine is a slightly cheaper wood, but the quality difference reflects this. The pine has to be pressure treated and dried, after which it should last for at least a decade without decaying, compared to cedar, which could last for thirty years! Hopefully, these comparisons will help you decide which raised garden bed material is a better fit for you and your garden.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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