University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A
A: Please avoid barberry. Yes, deer don’t eat it, but this has made barberry a new invasive. Barberry has seeded (via birds) into our parks and natural areas, where deer are eating the native understory (mid and low height plants) and leaving the barberry. Thorny barberry, both green and purple varieties, are the new understory.
This is a sneaky plant which can actually change soil chemistry. Pick a new plant from our Resistance of Ornamentals to Deer Damage publication, which lists plants according to how tasty they are to deer. Read it online or we’ll mail you a copy.
Keep in mind that deer will eat anything when they are hungry enough. Many “deer resistant” plants still need some protection when they are young and tender
Q: Can I use lumber from our neighbor’s old deck to build a raised bed? I plan to grow vegetables, especially potatoes. Recycle-Reuse is good, right?
A: Sometimes. Old treated lumber is treated with arsenic and copper. Arsenic can leach out into the soil as the lumber ages. It does not travel far but can be absorbed by plant roots. So it’s best to avoid growing root vegetables nearby.
The lumber industry has discontinued arsenic-treated lumber, however now treated lumber contains copper (a heavy metal) or other chemicals and is not labeled for use in vegetable gardens.
Some people have used treated lumber in raised beds by sealing the lumber or lining the bed with plastic, but we recommend using stone, concrete block, locust or oak, recycled untreated board, or creating raised beds without side structures.