Metro-East Living

Best ways to preserve wood when you set up a raised bed

Q: After what we experienced this year with our vegetable garden, we have decided to build a raised bed in 2017. Sometimes, we had too much rainfall and the soil would not dry out, and a lot of our vegetables did not produce well. We plan to use lumber on the sides to build the soil up for better drainage. A number of our relatives said to be careful on what type of wood preservative to use as some can leach poisons into the soil. Is there anything safe?

L. K. of Collinsville

A: If you can find good bald cypress lumber, you would not have to worry about any preservatives because this type of wood resists rotting without any treatment. It can last more than 30 years. It is sold in different dimensions than other lumber, however.

There are many types of wood preservatives, including those pressure-treated in kilns. Brush-on preservatives can leach out poisons that may enter your edible plants. There is only one natural preservative: Linseed oil, which is made from flax seed. You will need to use at least two coats. Remember, it takes a long time to dry. Make sure it’s totally dry before applying the second coat.

Q: The trunk has split on my Japanese maple. A neighbor held it together with screws and some tape circling the trunk. So far, it looks good, but is there any concerns that I should be aware of? And should I put on tree wound paint?

D. D. of Mascoutah

A: The screws are fine and should last until the bark callus grows over and helps the crack grow back together. Over time, the tape can girdle the tree and kill it if not removed. When you notice swelling, especially on the lower part of the trunk below the tape, you should remove it. The tape should be removed usually within a year.

There have been many university studies showing that tree wound paint does not aid in healing tree injuries. In many cases, the paint is detrimental to the healing process. Trees can compartmentalize the damaged tissue and form a callus over the damaged area.

Q: When you tell everyone how to get rid of pests and squirrels in their yards, you never say if any of these tricks hurt the bees and hummingbirds. Could you include them when giving advice?

D.L. of Beckemeyer

A: Back in 1998, I was lucky to be invited to attend a National Science Foundation Workshop in Mt. Shasta, Calif., dealing with Holistic Resource Management and A New Framework for Decision Making. Somehow, I was the only attendee east of the Mississippi River. Everything that I recommend takes into account the total environment.

Bees, other pollinators, insects, birds and amphibians are taking a hit now all over the planet. I have raised bees twice in my life. My wife has as many as 50 hummingbirds feeding from five hummingbird feeders each year.

Allan Savory, who first termed “holistic management,” taught that the environment is alive and that every action taken is reflected in the increase or decrease of each organism present in each distinct area. He changed and challenged everyone’s paradigm thinking. And our paradigms change from moment to moment, just as our environment changes patterns in the development of living communities. Thank you for challenging me in my answers and bringing me back to this dynamic event in my life.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Do it now

As the days shorten and the weather turns cool, we need to tend to the water plants when they begin to die back and begin to move these plants inside before they freeze.