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Old 03-16-11, 08:17 PM   #1
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Another garden question

Do you all think it would be OK to used varnished - not treated - boards to make a raised bed for vegetables? I know treated lumber is a no-no, but how toxic can a coat of dried varnish be?
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Old 03-16-11, 08:19 PM   #2
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My wood dining room table is varnished. I haven't noticed any ill effects in the last 20 years.
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Old 03-16-11, 08:21 PM   #3
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Should be fine.
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Old 03-17-11, 08:02 AM   #4
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An alternative to wood is to use straw or hay bales. Straw will not "grow", but hay is sometimes less expensive - depends upon where you live. You place the straw bales as the boundary of your raised bed, and fill in the middle with your gardening material. You can put planks on top of the bales, or just leave them plain - gives you a place to sit & weed! You can also plant strawberries into the sides of the bales. Hay bales may sprout & need to be trimmed periodically. Some people I know add an additional line of bales & plant their potatos right into the bales - no dirt required.

After a few years - again, depends on where you live - the bales will need to be replaced, but you won't have to take them far - just toss them into the bed & work them into the soil.
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Old 03-17-11, 08:07 AM   #5
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I have no input here, as I have no idea what is in varnish and what can come out of varnish
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Old 03-17-11, 08:43 AM   #6
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An alternative to wood is to use straw or hay bales. Straw will not "grow", but hay is sometimes less expensive - depends upon where you live. You place the straw bales as the boundary of your raised bed, and fill in the middle with your gardening material. You can put planks on top of the bales, or just leave them plain - gives you a place to sit & weed! You can also plant strawberries into the sides of the bales. Hay bales may sprout & need to be trimmed periodically. Some people I know add an additional line of bales & plant their potatos right into the bales - no dirt required.

After a few years - again, depends on where you live - the bales will need to be replaced, but you won't have to take them far - just toss them into the bed & work them into the soil.
Straw can sprout too. It depends on the harvest. If it was combined and the grain separated, sprouts are far less likely but still possible. If it was simply mown, all seeds will be present and sprouting a distinct possibility.
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Old 03-17-11, 10:01 AM   #7
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Straw can sprout too. It depends on the harvest. If it was combined and the grain separated, sprouts are far less likely but still possible. If it was simply mown, all seeds will be present and sprouting a distinct possibility.
hmmmm... straw IS the refuse of combined grasses; hay is mown & baled grasses for forage product.
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Old 03-17-11, 10:26 AM   #8
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hmmmm... straw IS the refuse of combined grasses; hay is mown & baled grasses for forage product.
Straw is generally the 'refuse' of specific grain products, oats, barley, wheat, rye, triticale, etc. There are farms however that simply produce straw and do not harvest the grain. The straw then contains all the grain. The potential for sprouting exists even when the grain is harvested because the harvest process is not 100% efficient. I've followed our combine many times in the field and eaten oats, wheat, and barley that passed through.
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Old 03-17-11, 04:19 PM   #9
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OK, though I can't imagine WHY someone would grow grain & not harvest it - but, come to think of it, hay bales sell for $2.50 - $3, straw (the harvested kind) for $6 in WV. People buy straw so it DOESN'Tsprout; hay is for animals, wet hay for compost - or garden borders!
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Old 03-17-11, 06:19 PM   #10
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Getting back to the varnish. I threw a bunch of compost, then soil into my varnished frame, then sprinkled it with radish and lettuce seeds. The soil was cold to the touch and very heavy and moist. We will see if anything sprouts. If it does I will soon be eating fresh veggies. If not I'll plant it again after things warm up a bit. It's still a bit early to be gardening. Our average last-frost date is in mid April.
On another note, my Chinese cabbage from last year has resumed growing. I've been plucking and eating the center leaves.
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Old 03-17-11, 07:32 PM   #11
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I'd recommend starting your plants indoors this time of year and putting them out later. There is almost always a frost here in early May. Maybe that doesn't happen in Illinois.
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Old 03-18-11, 10:51 AM   #12
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There's an old farmer's saying: fog in February, frost in May.

I've tracked this over the past few years, and it appears to be pretty accurate - on the exact same date, too. No February fog by me this year, so the fruit trees should be safe! We had no apples last year due to a May frost.
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Old 03-18-11, 11:08 AM   #13
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I'd recommend starting your plants indoors this time of year and putting them out later. There is almost always a frost here in early May. Maybe that doesn't happen in Illinois.
I don't have much to lose. If it frosts I'll just sprinkle on more seed. We're only talking a 2 x 4 foot raised bed. The real garden is still covered with leaves and such.
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Old 03-18-11, 11:30 AM   #14
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I don't have much to lose. If it frosts I'll just sprinkle on more seed. We're only talking a 2 x 4 foot raised bed. The real garden is still covered with leaves and such.
Ah, my mistake. Go for it.
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