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Planting Food in Creosote Logs

Category Growing Food
Q: My mom and I are planting a garden. She has some old creosote logs about 40 years old. Is it ok to plant strawberries in the holes of the logs? I don't want anyone to get sick on strawberry short cake.

Hardiness Zone: 9a

Bryan from Longview WA

A: Bryan,

I would not recommend using creosote logs for landscaping or gardening regardless of how old they are. It's hard to say whether or not your strawberry plants (or the guests eating your shortcake) would be visibly affected, but the chemicals leeching into the ground from the coal tar and creosote would certainly be causing unseen environmental damage. Around 300 known toxic chemicals have been identified in coal tar and creosote. Some of these chemicals breakdown and move through the soil (and into the ground water) rather quickly, while others remain intact (and toxic) in the soil and in landscaping timbers for years.

According to the Center for Disease Control, some of the serious negative health effects brought on by long-term exposure to creosote include chemical burns to the eyes, lungs and skin, kidney and liver problems, skin cancer, loss of consciousness and in severe cases, even death. How it affects a person's health depends on the level of exposure and the susceptibility of the individual.

Because of their size, children are more susceptible to the negative effects. Given the fact that most countries in Europe have banned the selling of products containing coal tar and creosote to consumers and that a large number of EPA declared Superfund sites (areas slated for cleanup due to hazardous waste) the U.S. contain creosote residue, it seems only logical to avoid contact to creosote by finding alternatives to using creosote treated products for landscaping and gardening.


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By guest (Guest Post)
May 15, 20060 found this helpful

With wood that old, there shouild be very little crreosote left. I wouldn't worry about planting in or near it.

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 15, 20060 found this helpful

I have always heard that the creosote will kill plants, so do NOT use the logs around anything that you wish to grow. I would plant the strawberries well back from the logs, or use the regular garden logs. Good luck!! When I lived in the city, I used strawberries as an edge plant for my flowers. They looked very cute and were delicious.

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 17, 20060 found this helpful

don't do it!! creosote is high toxic!

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May 18, 20060 found this helpful

Anna Marie may be right, but I do know that when we attempted to get rid of our 50-year old creosote logs that had been used for landscaping, the local garbage companies refused to take them. They stated that they were toxic and would not accept them. We ended up talking to the state environmental agencies who forced the garbage guys to accept it.

So I'm feeling like it's probably a bad idea. Perhaps you should err on the side of caution and be careful with your lovely plants (not to mention that you'll be eating them). Hope that helps.

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 18, 20060 found this helpful

kamor (2),

Thank you so much for the kind way you offered your rebuttal. In light of your answer, I withdraw my suggestion.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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