Wood touches for backyard gardens (and bats and chickens)

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Choose the right cedar planks for raised beds, vertical planters, birdhouses, bat boxes and other features.

As spring unfurls and summer nears, Puget Sound house dwellers daydream about long days in their backyards. Gardeners prepare to plant and cultivate edibles, flowers and plants. Entertainers look forward to enjoying warm weather, watching wildlife, and dining alfresco on the patio or picnicking on the grass. Every spring, staff at Issaquah Cedar and Lumber in Issaquah help customers choose the right planks for raised beds, vertical planters, birdhouses and bat boxes, and other garden features. Here are some tips on what’s possible with cedar.

Raise the beds

Wooden raised garden beds are popular with many homeowners and can last for years, if constructed correctly and from the right type of cedar – typically Western red cedar or Alaskan yellow cedar. Most beds will last at least a decade, and sometimes much longer before wood needs replacing or repair. “Cedar’s perfect for earth contact because it’s naturally rot-resistant and pet-resistant,” says Stacy Kovats, who directs marketing at century-old Issaquah Cedar and Lumber. Depending on the wood choices made for a larger 4-foot by 8-foot garden bed, the amount of wooden planking needed can cost as little as $90 and rarely more than $200, meaning a raised bed is an inexpensive addition to a landscape where gardeners plan to grow edibles. Many customers planning to install raised beds aren’t sure how wide their beds should be, Kovats says. Issaquah Cedar recommends a width of up to four feet if the bed will be placed somewhere where gardeners have access to all sides of it, or no more than two feet in width if the bed will be accessible from only one side. This assures all those tasty edibles and beautiful flowers will be within reach (and makes weeding easier).

Grow a vertical garden

Those with smaller spaces or challenges with the crouching and kneeling gardening sometimes requires often opt for vertical gardens, Kovats notes. Using cedar planking, customers will use garden boxes on legs, planters suspended from ladders, or other types of vertically suspended planters mounted on wooden screens.  “If people come in with a picture of what they want, we can help them choose materials,” Kovats says. “These types of planters typically have a 10-year lifespan.”

Coop the chickens

Cedar plank frames provide a sturdy skeleton for families pursuing the “backyard chicken coop movement” and installing housing for feathered friends. Because of its rot-resistance and pest-resistance, cedar makes a far superior material for coops than other choices consumers commonly make.Many people use lower-end wood framing material, such as simple fir 2x4s, which can rot fairly quickly, but cedar sidesteps that problem.

Birdhouses for bats

Another popular garden addition built from cedar? Bat boxes – which Kovats describes as a “birdhouse for bats.” Bats hibernate in winter, emerging as early as March but typically late in spring. They provide a valuable service to gardeners because they eat pesky bugs and insects that snack on humans and plant life. Brown bats typical of the Northwest may gravitate to bat boxes, but to provide effective shelter to bats – whether they’re hibernating or roosting until nighttime during their active season – consumers will need to build them properly. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife provides guidance on how to construct an ideal bat house, which should perch atop a post and be at least 2 feet high and 14 inches wide, with appropriate entry widths.


Pass the chips – cedar chips, that is. While too acidic for use in gardening, cedar chips offer groundcover options or, better yet, they can be useful for smoking or barbecuing. Cedar planks are, of course, popular for those grilling salmon. “You can buy a whole stack of cedar planks for $8 when you visit us, versus the prices in the grocery stores,” Kovats says. “Cedar is a part of all of the Northwest’s best backyard traditions.”

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Specialty Siding & Lumber Seattle WA

Specialty Siding & Lumber Seattle WA

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