Using Creosote Logs In The Garden?

Q: Can I use Creosote logs for a flower bed or will the Creosote harm the plants?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Sandra from Mississippi

A: Sandra,

Personally, I wouldn't recommend using poles, logs or landscape timbers containing coal tar creosote for gardening. The fact is that about 300 chemicals known to be toxic have been identified in coal tar creosote (common to landscape logs and poles), but it may contain as many as 10,000 other chemicals. Some of these toxic chemicals dissolve in water and move through the soil, eventually reaching our groundwater.


Once in the groundwater, breakdown may take years. Many components that make up creosote are not water soluble, but will still leech out into the soil where they will remain in place in a tar-like mass. Breakdown in soil can take months or longer. Sometimes, small amounts of the chemicals remaining in the soil or water that take a long time to break down are still toxic to some animals and possibly to humans.

Once coal tar creosote is in the environment, both plants and animals can absorb parts of the creosote mixture. How much of these chemical components will be taken up by your flowers depends on a variety of environmental conditions. They may or may not appear to harm your plants, but the chemicals will be causing unseen damage to the environment whether your plants are harmed or not.


The fact that products containing creosote cannot be sold to consumers in most European countries and that many hazardous waste sites slated for clean up in the United States contain creosote residues is a good indicator of its toxicity. These same concerns also apply to other chemically treated wood products.


About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at

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By Kinga. (Guest Post)
March 15, 20060 found this helpful

Not a good idea I read it is toxic to even sit on them. The creosote leaches into the soil and your soil will be contaminated forever.

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March 16, 20060 found this helpful

Aren't railroad ties covered with creosote? I believe they are, and they are sold for enclosing gardens and landscaping--I've used them for years with no problems.

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January 30, 20120 found this helpful

Why not look at this picture another way. Ellen isn't telling you that the new kind of treating of wood is worse than creosote.

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August 14, 20170 found this helpful

No it's illegal according to the EPA

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