wood in the landscape
Wood is a common material used for construction both indoors and outdoors. Used in the landscape, wood is subject to the wear and tear of weather. Being organic, heat, cold, dry and wet will wear it down over time. Insects will eat wood or set up bore out homes inside the tissues of wood. So it will need protection if you want to extend the lifetime of any wood used in building your landscape.
Choose wood for its color, texture and durability. Wood used in the landscape will last longer if it is treated with a preservative or coated with a protective finish like oil, paint, stain or sealant.
Use treated wood or ‘green wood’ for the strongest resistance to weather. Railroad ties are also long lasting. There has been some debate about poisons leaching from commercially treated wood. You may want to avoid using questionable materials near edibles just to be safe. Railroad ties are treated with creosote which is definitely dangerous to use around fruits and vegetables. Another alternative is simply to line the planting area with plastic to make sure no unwanted chemicals seep into the soil.
The next toughest outdoor woods that are not treated are redwood and cedar. These are safe to use anyway and last longer than other, less resilient choices.
Design with wood to capture effects in your garden. Bamboo can be found in all widths from delicate pipes to five or six inch posts. It is a strong wood but will eventually split. Use it to design an Oriental, rainforest or tropical theme. Try rough cut lumber for a natural, informal look. Recycle tree trunks or stumps to carve out seating, table bases, rustic supports or string together raw tree branches for a woodland garden fence.
Wood is a versatile building material to use in the landscape. But it will break down over time. Choose the right kind of wood for whatever you are building and make sure you care for it, protecting it as much as you can from insects and weather. Eventually, it will need replacement.
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