Monday, March 19, 2012

garden expansion, pressure-treated lumber

I completed phase one of the garden expansion project yesterday.  I called up the landlords, got the OK to buy the materials, and went to Home Depot to buy some timbers.  I went looking for natural timbers, i.e. timbers that had not been pressure-treated, but all the timbers in the size I needed (6" x 4") were pressured-treated, so I bought those and drove home, worrying.  Both Guy and Rick told me not to use pressure-treated lumber because it is rumored to be toxic in the garden.  To ease my worry on the drive home, I exercised some common sense thinking: any toxic chemicals in the lumber that might leach into the soil could be collected by the roots of non-edible border plants.  That was one idea.  Another idea was that the amount of toxic chemicals that would leach out of the lumber would lessen each year, making my overall exposure to them insignificant in the long haul.  The truth is that I didn't know the first thing about pressure-treated lumber nor which chemicals they use to treat it.  At home I found a very good article that asks if pressure-treated lumber has a place in the garden.  The author of the article does not answer that question for the reader, but he does provide enough information so that the reader can make up his own mind. I decided that it was safe enough for me.   

I didn't do the best job ever.  I didn't excavate around the perimeter of the new raised bed, lay down a bed of gravel, compact and level that gravel, lay the timbers, etc etc etc, but I also didn't do a total hack job.  The level here is not for show.  I used it where it made sense to use it.  Some of the old timbers that frame the bed had sunk, and I raised them back up to level, so that the new timbers adjoining them would not look completely ridiculous.  The fact is that once there is soil in the bed, and once the border plantings take hold, the little imperfections will not even be visible, and so it was that I didn't spend too much time obsessing over perfection, though admittedly I am still somewhat unsatisfied with the work and will definitely make some adjustments soon, adjustments that nobody will notice or care about when the garden is in full bloom.  

The new timbers are joined to the old timbers with strong ties.  The galvanized nails I used to attach the strong ties often bent when they encountered knots in the wood.  Framing in the bed would have taken a lot less time if it had not been for so many knots and so many bent nails.  One joint (that no one will ever see) has five nails that are incompletely driven into the wood.  I bent them down and said, f**k itI'm not trying to win a beauty contest here.  It only needs to function.  This photograph was taken before I set the neighborhood to resounding with galvanized nails and the occasional God damn it.  To do this job perfectly I would have had to dig up and re-level all the old timbers first.  I could have done that, but it didn't seem necessary.  Next time I will buy shorter nails.  


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