Should You Be Using Scaffold Boards For Raised Beds?

Raised bed gardening has become a popular way to cultivate everything from ornamental plants to a veggie garden. They have grown in popularity to the point where some companies manufacture raised garden bed kits, some are often constructed out of plastic, but you can find them made out of wood too. However, making your own raised bed might be preferable.

Now, you might be wondering, if lumber is a good material for raised beds, do scaffold boards enter into this category?

Can You Construct Your Raised Bed With Scaffolding Boards?

Yes, scaffolding boards can be used for a raised bed vegetable garden, but some precautions must be considered. CCA-treated boards should not be used because the chemical in them is harmful. ACQ and CA-B treated boards, however, are safe to use. You could also add further security by lining the inside with food-grade plastic sheets.

There are many different types of materials that can be repurposed for the construction of a raised garden bed. Timber is one of the most commonly used materials due to its durability and how it would perform in the damp environment of a garden bed.

These are some of the qualities of scaffold boards that make them an excellent constriction material for raised beds:

  • The wood has been well seasoned. Scaffold boards are often made of seasoned wood, which is a combination of a drying and treating procedure that hardens the wood while making it more durable and weather resistant.
  • The scaffolding’s dimensions. The boards are often long, wide, and thick, giving you more options for the size of garden bed you may want to build without the need to link boards together for a lengthy raised bed. The planks can be 1.5-inches, 2-inches, or 2.5-inches thick, and are typically 9 or 10 inches wide. Also, the length can range from 6 feet to 12 feet, giving you a wide range of bed sizes to choose from.
  • Easily accessible. Scaffold boards are updated regularly by scaffold businesses because they pose a health and safety hazard if they break or warp. These rejected boards are then sold as scrap at a low cost, which makes them very budget-friendly.
  • They are strong and long-lasting. Scaffold boards are designed to be used and abused in the construction sector. And even after they have been ruled unfit for this use, they remain a popular material for raised beds. 

Are There Any Drawbacks Of Using Scaffold Boards For Raised Beds?

The treatment used to maintain the boards is one of the most serious concerns. Older boards were treated with CCA, which stands for chromate copper arsenate. The EPA declared CCA-treated boards unsuitable for residential use in 2003 because arsenic can leach out of the boards and represent a health risk. As a result, CCA-treated planks are likewise unsuitable for raised vegetable beds, since the arsenic in the boards might leach into the soil.

Since then, these boards have been treated with ACQ and CA-B, both of which include copper as an insect repellent and a fungicide to keep the fungus in the soil from damaging the wood. The arsenic component has been removed.

Nevertheless, there are still some old CCA-treated boards circulating, so make sure the boards you buy were created after 2003 and look for any indications on the board that could indicate CCA treatment. 

If you are still concerned about the condition of your wood, you can line the inside with a heavy-duty plastic designed for garden use. This is the preferred way for constructing timber-raised garden beds for growing certified organic veggies.

Where Can I Get Scaffolding Boards?

Scaffolding boards are easily obtained from organizations that rent or sell scaffolding equipment to the building and construction industries. If there is no such company near you, you could always conduct an internet search for secondhand scaffolding boards in your area.

Construction businesses that source their own scaffolding will frequently be pleased for you to come and remove their pile of old scaffolding boards and make some room for them.

You can also go to current building projects and ask the project manager for any old boards that are no longer being used. They should be ok with this, because generally when the building crew leaves, these planks are frequently thrown out or even left on-site. Just keep in mind that you should never take scaffolding boards from a job site without first asking. Doing this might get you into trouble.

Can A Raised Bed Be Made From Other Materials?

Scaffolding boards are popular for raised bed gardening, but other materials work well as substitutes if you can’t get these boards. You can get timber cut to custom size for your raised bed from your local lumberyard.

Because of its natural resilience against insects and weather, cedar is the finest wood you can use for your raised garden bed. You could also use pine with the added benefit that it is a reasonably inexpensive wood. Just coat the boards on both sides with boiled linseed oil, and they will last for a very long time. The benefit of this is that no potentially hazardous chemicals are used to cure the wood.

Another option is to use a cement and bricks wall for your raised beds. This will create a strong structure that will also survive for the longest time.

Another reasonably priced material to use for your raised bed is corrugated iron roof sheeting. This material is pretty robust. You will have to attach the corrugated iron to wood corner posts, and you’ll also need to install stakes across the length of the bed to support the sheets. But this will prevent them from bending out when filled with soil.

If you want to go for a more natural approach. You can always use regular stones. If you have a lot of rocks on your property, simply stack them together to create a raised bed. You can even use cement to strengthen the framework.

Materials You Should Avoid When Building A Raised Bed

We already established you should avoid any pressure-treated wood that has been treated with CCA. But there are other materials you should avoid employing when building a raised garden bed.

Creosote-treated lumber. Creosote is a chemical combination that can be poisonous and damaging to your health.

Railroad ties. Also known as railroad sleepers, they have typically been treated with toxic materials and should not be considered when constructing your raised bed.

Wooden pallets. Some pallet wood are ok to be utilized to construct your raised bed, but others should not. Everything is dependent on the treatment applied to the pallet wood. Some scaffold boards are coated with toxic chemicals and pesticides and these, of course, should be avoided. The ones marked with HT for heat treatment are fine to use, but if you see any other markings on the wood besides this, don’t use it in your garden.

Cinder blocks. Some cinder blocks made of cement are safe to use; however, cinder blocks made of fly ash contain hazardous heavy metals and toxins and should not be used for raised garden beds.

Old Tires. Heavy metals are utilized in the production of tires, and it is feared that these toxins would leach into the soil. This is a contentious issue since some people seem to think that the rubber binds the heavy metals together thus preventing them from seeping out into the soil. However, it is preferable to avoid using old tires altogether rather than risking your health.

Final Thoughts

While using scaffolding boards for a raised garden bed is permissible, there are some steps to take to ensure these boards are safe to use. Do not use boards that have been treated with CCA.

You can, however, use boards that have been treated with ACQ or CA-B, but your crops will not be labeled organic. Although you can get around this by lining the inside of the wood with plastic recommended food and gardens.