Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

Can I use wood preservatives in my garden?

Many gardeners ask if treated lumber can be used in gardens and landscapes. Since there is ongoing concern about the health risks associated with using treated wood in the garden, the best advice is not to use it. Pressured treated lumber should not be used in children's play areas.

Products using creosote and penta are still made for industrial use such as telephone poles, heavy timbers, and the like, but you are not likely to find them at a general lumber yard. One exception is salvaged railroad ties. Although treated with creosote, once they have weathered for many years, they produce very little vapor. Their use is widespread and seems to be acceptable for industrial use but they are not recommended for home landscaping and garden use.

You can purchase one of the new generation preserved wood products such as Natural Select (TM) wood. This may be satisfactory for above ground use, but even these naturally longer lasting woods will not last for more than a few years and periodic replacement can be quite expensive. Alternatives include stone, cinder block, brick, plastic lumber, and other building materials.

Select materials that complement your landscape design, but do not alter your soil's pH. Remember you can mask building materials with vines, groundcovers and creeping perennials and shrubs. Whatever your final choice, read and follow all label instructions on the products you use. Finally, always consider the cost and potential risk to you, your plants and the environment before you buy landscape and garden materials.