Are old railroad ties toxic?

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I live on a pretty steep hill. We used railroad ties to build a three tier retaining wall. Originally it was going to just be planted with bushes and ornamental grasses. I have always wanted a garden. There is no where that gets good sun because of all the trees on my land except the 3 tier retaining wall. I have converted the bottom two tiers into a garden. A friend mentioned that it might not be safe to grow my garden there.

  8 answers
  • Lynne Webb Lynne Webb on Mar 26, 2018
    Personally, I wouldn't plant edibles using railroad ties. Neither would I use pressure treated lumber. Same as using old tires. If I did, I'd use something as a buffer between the soil and these components until whatever is in them, leaches out. And, it will in time. I am a huge fan of old newspapers. Just the black print, not the colored sections. Is it totally harmless? Probably not but the lesser of the evils. We live in a chemically saturated world. You just do the best you can with what you have.
  • Jayde Jayde on Mar 27, 2018
    Yes they are. Some are treated with arsenic but if you line your beds with plastic it will be safer. Google the question and then you will have the answe. That is how I get answers and info hahaha
  • William William on Mar 27, 2018
    OH YES THEY ARE! Railroad ties are treated with creosote. It's a petroleum based tar substance. Some are also treated with arsenic to protect form termites and carpenter ants in certain areas of the country.
  • AmAtHome AmAtHome on Mar 27, 2018
    Yes, I wouldn't use them near where I was planting any edible plants.
  • Sharon Sharon on Mar 27, 2018
    Your friend is right, railroad ties are treated with creosote ..... https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=64&tid=18
  • Tim Odell Tim Odell on Mar 27, 2018
    Doughtful that significant amounts of creosote are still leaking out of old repurposed ties. You could try a plastic barrier around the edge by piling dirt in middle then backfilling. Good way to till for spring planting too
  • Michelle Michelle on May 06, 2021

    Yes, they leak out oily substance and into ground water. My aunt's neighbor had them on a terraced area Looked terrible too due to the leaking

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