Raised beds for growing vegetables

Hi, I am fairly new to gardening and wonder if it is ok to use railway sleepers to construct raised beds - are there any concerns using these as they have been chemically treated. Any help will be much appreciated. Also is there an optimum size for the bed?
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mrssue


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On Fri, 21 Aug 2009 18:17:36 +0100, mrssue

The general consensus is, old railway ties are OK if you are growing flowers but, not to be used if growing edibles. And, since you posted to rec.gardens.edible, the short answer to your first question would be no.
Ross.
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mrssue wrote:

Often sleepers have been treated with toxic chemicals and so they would not be suitable for vegetables, find out from the source what they have been treated with and then research the risks of that treatment. Some are timber that is durable in contact with the soil without treatment (and may have never actually been used on a railway) so they would OK.
The bed should be a width that you can readily work from the side without standing or kneeling on the bed, so it depends on your height and flexibility. As a guide 3' to 4' (90-120cm) or half that if you can only access one side. The length is a compromise between reducing land lost to paths (longer is better) and the convenience getting between paths without having to jump over (shorter is better). As a guide 8' to 15' (2 -5m) , mine are 32' (10m) but I am nimble :-) The size and shape of the area available is a factor of course. It is good to make the paths wide enough for a barrow if you can spare the space. Full sun is important for most vegetables. It is usual to orient the longest side north-south to get even sunlight on both sides.
David
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Real railway sleepers usu. called ties around here, are always treated with toxic chemicals and are toxic to the core. --Even 20 years later, if there is any solid wood left in one, cutting into it produces a strong, fresh creosote smell.
Several times a year I argue myself out of going to the railway embankment near here to pick up free ties for soil erosion efforts because of this. The RR crews just leave the ones that fall over the side of the embankment as a kind of ...litter.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railroad_tie
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not
timber
Do local poplar logs require any special treatment before edging raised beds? Space is no problem and the back acre, once a horse pasture, is choked full of grey birch and poplar (the local weed species) most 10 years old (since the great Ice Storm of 1999.)
We now are planning winter logging to open up for better sunlight. We can burn poplar in the stove (100-120 days/ year) but it is poor fuel and a couple of cords of maple are seasoned already. Use of poplar logs (6 to 12" diam.) as edging would mean moving it shorter distances. Can these logs be used intact with bark or is there some chemical reason to peel them (next spring)?
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Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
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Don Phillipson wrote:

I would allow them to cure stacked up as, from what I have read, green poplar logs can sprout new trees when in contact with the soil. I know early pioneers, particularly Nordic peoples in North American made log cabins of poplar so you should be able to use them.

I would cure them over the winter and then just use them bark and all next spring. I'm not sure how long they will last before rotting when in contact with the soil but it sounds like you could easily replace them every few years.
I would definitely NOT use railroad ties that have been treated with creosote or with any of the arsenic compounds to prevent rot. They will degrade your soil to a certain extent.
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We started using tree trunks, cut to 6' lengths, but after they rotted, we decided cinder blocks were better, and allow bench-like seating as well.
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