Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Is Stain Safe for Raised Vegetable Beds?

By Catherine Duffy ; Updated September 21, 2017
Raised vegetable garden beds are constructed from a variety of materials.

Raised vegetable beds can be temporary structures made of piled earth or more permanent beds bordered with frames made of stone, wood or synthetic timber. Some materials with an unknown history are effectively treated with oil-based stains.

Materials And Contaminents

Timber from unknown sources may have been pressure-treated with chemicals containing arsenic or copper. Railroad ties contain or are coated with creosote, which damages plants. The United States Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend using railroad ties in home landscapes.


Some woods, like redwood and cedar, require staining for aesthetic reasons. Other woods require staining to prevent rot and deterioration. Stain wood with an oil based stain in order to prevent the wood from deteriorating. According to Purdue University's Department of Horticulture, applying oil-based stains also seals toxins into the wood and prevents leaching into soil and edible plants.


Landscaping with reclaimed materials -- railroad ties, tires and whiskey barrels -- is seen in urban gardens. Many gardeners with this style preference work around the possibility of contamination by lining the container with plastic. The entire surface does not need to be covered. Simply drape the plastic between the area where the container meets soil.


About the Author


Catherine Duffy's writing can be found on gardening blogs, tech sites and business blogs. Although these topics seem quite different, they have one area in common: systems and design. Duffy makes systems and design (as they pertains to plants, supply chains or software) entertaining and welcoming to general readers.