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Why You Should Choose Cedar for Your Next Garden Bed Project

By Bryan Traficante | Last updated: April 29, 2021
Key Takeaways

While there are other options, nothing beats cedar when it comes to building a raised garden bed. Bryan Traficante explains why he is sold on cedar.

If you are looking for a raised garden bed, it’s important to consider the material it is made of. Although plastic and metal are viable options, a perennial favorite is wood.

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Wood comes in a variety of options, but there are particular species known to be rot and insect resistant—perfect for outdoor projects. Cedar, in particular, is not only naturally rot- and insect-resistant, but also durable with a great track record of withstanding the elements.

Rot and Insect-resistant Traits

Cedar, like other rot-resistant species, has its own natural complex chemical compounds—known as extractives—that protect it against rot. Rot is caused by mold, termites, and other organisms feeding on the wood. To defend against these invaders, rot-resistant trees such as cedar create extractives that discourage rot and promote longevity.

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The wood’s ability to minimize decay and repel insects can depend on the amount of extractives within the wood. The outer wood, known as sapwood, has less extractives and may not last as long as the inner wood, known as heartwood. Cuts of wood from the heartwood will generally last longer and be more resistant to the environment.

Rot and insects are a wood’s worst enemy, so choosing a species that is resistant will help your raised garden bed last longer.

Durability

Cedar wood is durable thanks to its excellent density. Wood density is a measure of how close the grain is compacted. Hardwoods, like oak, have a high density and are generally heavier.

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Cedar is categorized as a softwood, and is lightweight by virtue of its low density. Its density means it can maintain a constant level of moisture, which helps it last longer.

The weight of soil in your raised bed garden exerts significant outward pressure. Materials like plastics and composite boards can bow and flex, whereas cedar will maintain its integrity.

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Durability in wood is important for outdoor projects because hearty wood can withstand pressure and utilization.

The Beauty of Cedar

Cedar is durable and rot-resistant, but what about its aesthetic features? It turns out cedar isn’t only effective, but it’s pleasing to the eye as well. Cedar has natural tannins that vary the wood’s color and shade, and it has varying grain patterns that can look like stripes.

The colors can range from brown to red to nearly white, sometimes all within the same board. Rich striations throughout the grain gives it a warm personality that looks right at home in the outdoors.

Beyond color, cedar also has some physical variations that complement its strong usability. Cedar will have some knots, but these are not negative imperfections. Knots are simply unique grain striations where tree limbs grew from. They can add character to the boards and create natural visual artistry.

Cedar wood has another physical trait; it can “check.” Most woods are subject to this natural process. Checking can range from very slight slivers, to cracks running the full length of the log into the heart of the wood. As wood releases moisture, checking can occur across or through its annual growth rings.

This is a normal result of wood seasoning and occurs only on the surface of the wood. In fact, these characteristics can add to the natural beauty. Checking is completely normal and won’t affect the integrity of the wood or the strength.

In short, cedar wood is a practical and aesthetic choice when you’re looking for an effective garden bed that will last and withstand the elements. It is a lightweight, durable, attractive, and rot-resistant wood that is ideal for raised bed gardening.

For more raised bed gardening tips, see 5 Raised Bed Gardening Tricks Every Gardener Should Know.

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Written by Bryan Traficante | Co-founder

Profile Picture of Bryan Traficante

Bryan Traficante co-founded Garden In Minutes® in 2012, turning a passion for home gardening and innovation into a family-owned venture to make starting a quality garden easier. Bryan and his family invented the Garden Grid™ watering system, a pre-assembled plant spacing guide and watering system in one, which combines square-foot gardening planting principles with ground-level irrigation.

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