Railroad Ties Landscaping Ideas
You Bet Your Garden
Question of the Week © 2017 Mike McGrath
Note: Hundreds of Mike's informative articles are available (in alphabetical order!) right here at the Gardens Alive website. To find Mike's answers to your specific garden problem, on raised beds—found under the letter R). You can use non-dyed wood chips or bark mulch to cover the two-foot-wide walking lanes between the beds, but nothing weirdly colored or bad smelling.
Then you'll be growing in clean soil for sure. And there won't be contaminated soil or sawdust blowing around for people to inhale or otherwise come into contact with. As we've stressed in the past, the big danger with treated wood comes from inhaling the toxins and absorbing them through your skin—so "just growing ornamentals there" as opposed to food crops isn't a safe option. Do it right; you'll sleep better at night, And you'll also get highly productive garden beds out of the deal.
You can even take your time and build a few of the new raised beds every season—my 'go slow' approach for people who have just moved into a new place. But that's just for building the new beds. I'd want all the old wood and that top inch of soil out of there right away. Otherwise, the people in that house are in danger of inhaling toxins every day.
And if those people were to try and work in un-remediated soil without protection, they'd risk ingesting the chemicals through inhalation And skin contact; and even worse, getting a toxic splinter. No matter what kind of wood treatment was used, the splinters are nasty!