Gardening in Raised Beds

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Are you thinking about starting a garden this year? If so, I highly recommend gardening in raised beds. There are so many reasons raised beds make gardening easier. Let’s explore a few of them.

Benefits to gardening in raised beds.

Raised Beds Warm up Sooner

First, since raised beds are above the ground, they tend to warm up sooner in the spring. This allows you to get started planting earlier.

Many seeds won’t germinate if the ground is too cold, but because the beds are above the ground, they catch the sunlight better and warm the soil quicker. Sometimes you can even plant about two weeks earlier than normal, provided the crops are frost tolerant.

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Loose Soil

Since you are adding soil to the area, raised beds tend to have looser soil that makes it easier to work.

This looser soil also makes raised beds ideal if you are planting root vegetables such as potatoes or carrots. The plant roots don’t have to work as hard to go deep so carrots tend to be straighter and potatoes less oddly shaped.

The soil is also less compacted in raised beds because you don’t actually walk in the growing area. Since you aren’t walking on the soil with your feet, the dirt is much easier to dig and plant in.

You won’t have to till the soil, yet it will still be workable. Even if you don’t want to use raised beds, having designated garden areas and specific walkways in your garden will keep your soil much more workable.

Watering Considerations

Another benefit to gardening in raised beds is that you can use less water simply because you don’t have to water walkways like you do in a traditional row garden.

You only water the planting areas. (If you want to conserve even more water, check out my post on using black plastic in the garden. I went on vacation for two weeks in the summer and my garden did not receive any rain. When we returned it was still lush and healthy!)

Raised beds can make it easier to install a drip irrigation system or use soaker hoses if you prefer not to have to water your garden by hand.

Raised beds also help provide good drainage for the soil. This means that even in periods of heavy rain, your garden probably won’t be a mud pit like a traditional row garden. Plus, the sides of the raised bed will keep the soil from washing away during heavy downpours.

A raised bed garden during the heat of summer.
A raised bed garden during the heat of summer. It also utilizes my black plastic method.

One of the few downsides to using raised beds is that you often have to water a bit more frequently as the soil tends to dry out quicker. One way to minimize water loss is to use nutrient-rich soil when installing your beds.

Be sure to keep the soil surface moist when you sow seeds and check the soil moisture frequently to ensure you or Mother Nature is providing adequate water for your crops.

More Nutrients

One benefit to raised beds versus container gardening is that raised beds don’t have bottoms like containers do. Since they are open to the ground, earthworms and other beneficial insects are able to aerate the soil.

The open bottom also allows roots to grow further into the ground accessing nutrients deeper in the soil. In turn, your vegetables grown in raised beds will have more nutrients in them too versus the same vegetables grown in a container.

Gardening in Raised Beds Means Better Soil Quality

Many times, people with poor soil can still have a successful garden by using raised beds. Because you are building up a raised bed, you typically will be adding soil to raise the growing area above the ground.

When choosing soil to add to a raised bed, it is also a good idea to add some additional nutrients to the soil in the form of compost or other amendments such as cow manure or fertilizer.

This is a perfect solution for those with soil that is too sandy or for yards that have too much clay. You can work lots of organic matter into the dirt which will allow for healthier vegetables.

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More Food and Fewer Weeds

When you garden in raised beds, you can space the plants closer together. This means you can grow more food in a smaller space. And if you select varieties that are suited for small-space gardening, you can get even more out of a small raised bed.

Another benefit to putting the plants closer together is that they will help shade out any weed seeds that are in your beds. And if weeds do germinate, they are much easier to pull up thanks to the looser soil.

Gardening in Raised Beds is Easier on Your Body

Another benefit to gardening in raised beds is that you don’t have to bend over as far to reach the bed. This can be especially helpful for the elderly. There are even raised bed kits that have sides you can sit on to make gardening easier.

You can start small with one raised garden bed and add on to your garden when (and if) you choose to. And when starting a garden, I always recommend that beginning gardeners START SMALL. This way you can decide if you like gardening and you don’t become overwhelmed.

Make the Most of the Gardening Season

Raised beds are a great way to help you extend your growing season. Most raised beds are easy to cover if frost threatens. By covering the beds you can often get a few extra weeks out of your vegetable garden crops.

Materials to Build Raised Beds

You can build a raised bed with lots of different items. I have used cinder blocks, bricks, rocks, and wood boards to build mine.

Rocks & Bricks

While rocks and bricks are not ideal (They really don’t make much of a raised bed, more of a garden bed.) they do work if that is what you have. (And since we had some leftover bricks from building our house, that is what I use!)

Concrete or Cinder Blocks

Making a raised bed out of cinder blocks or concrete blocks is super easy. Just place the blocks around the edge of your bed and fill them with soil.

The top of the blocks makes a good place to sit while you work in your garden. And if you fill some of the holes with soil, you can even plant flowers or additional veggies in the holes. My Mom sometimes plants her beans and peas in the cinder block holes.

Wooden Boards

If you want to use wood for the sides of your raised bed, you can find many instructions online on how to put one together. (These instructions seem really simple, but I haven’t tried them myself.) Keep in mind that wood will eventually rot, especially the area touching the ground.

When building raised beds from lumber, be sure you don’t buy treated boards. Many times, they are treated with chemicals and you don’t want those chemicals leaching into your garden soil. The chemicals can eventually find their way into your vegetables and fruits too.

If you can afford cedar, it is your best bet for a wooden raised bed. Cedar boards are long-lasting and rot-resistant. There are also corner kits or in-line connectors you can purchase to help put together a wooden raised bed. Check your local home improvement stores for the best prices.

Pre-made Kits

Another easy way to build a raised bed is to purchase a pre-made kit. While usually not the most economical choice, a kit you put together is certainly the easiest.

These kits come in many sizes and are usually quite simple to put together. These are ideal for someone who wants to test out gardening or for children who may be wanting a garden of their own. I recommend either a 4′ x 4′ kit or a 3′ x 8′ bed.

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There are also elevated raised beds which are perfect for the elderly or anyone with back problems. They can make gardening much easier since you don’t have to bend over so far. There are many different types to choose from, depending on your needs.

Other Raised Bed Options

If you really want to have some serious raised bed envy, check out what Jill of The Prairie Homestead built her raised beds from. They are both beautiful and functional, but probably too expensive for most of us.

Plus, I encourage you to start small with one or two beds if this is your first foray into gardening. (But if you really want those corrugated raised beds, you can find similar ones here. I especially like the blue ones.)

Where to Locate Your Raised Beds

Most garden vegetables need at least 6 hours of sunlight. Locate your beds in a sunny spot, preferably near a water source.

Best Vegetables for Raised Beds

Here is a list of many of the vegetables that I recommend to grow in a raised bed.

lettuce growing in a raised bed
  • Leafy greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, and any salad greens are perfect to grow in raised beds and are easy for a new gardener. Lettuce is one of the first vegetables I recommend everyone try to grow.
  • Tomato plants do well in raised beds and you can grow any type from slicer tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or paste tomatoes.
  • Because of the loose soil, root vegetables do very well. Crops like carrots, radishes, turnips, and sweet potatoes will usually do better in raised beds than in-ground gardens.
  • Green beans are a great option in raised beds. Both pole beans and bush beans grow well. Just remember you will need to add a trellis for pole beans.
  • Don’t forget to add a few annual flowers like marigolds to repel pests in your new garden.

While you can grow many crops in raised beds, there are a few vegetables I don’t recommend. Corn is one vegetable that isn’t likely to do well.

One reason is that corn is wind pollinated so you need to plant a minimum of 4 rows for it to produce a decent harvest. It can be difficult to fit 4 rows of corn in the limited space of a raised bed.

The second reason corn can be difficult to grow in a bed is that the corn stalks tend to be knocked over more easily by the wind in the looser soil and raised area.

A few other crops I don’t recommend growing in raised beds include perennial vegetables and fruits like asparagus and rhubarb unless you know that you are going to leave those spaces alone and not try to grow something different there the next year.

Raspberries and mint should also not be grown in raised beds as they will take over the entire bed, leaving you no room to plant anything else.

Tools You Need for Gardening in Raised Beds or Small Spaces

If you will be gardening in raised beds this year, you might be wondering what tools you need to grow a successful garden. You really don’t need very many.

A trowel, gardening gloves, scissors, and maybe some plant tags are really all you need. Gardening in raised beds doesn’t really require many tools.

Recommended Books on Raised Bed Gardening

There are many books on the market on raised bed gardening. I have quite a few myself. These are some of my favorites to learn the basics of growing a garden in raised beds.

All New Square Foot Gardening

If you would like more info on growing a garden in raised beds, check out Mel Bartholomew’s book, All New Square Foot Gardening. It is an invaluable resource for learning the square-foot gardening method in raised beds.

Raised Bed Gardening for Beginners

Raised Bed Gardening For Beginners by Tammy Wylie is a great book to help you get started growing a small garden in a raised bed. This book explains how to decide where to locate your raised beds and how to determine what size you need.

There is also a section on plant profiles that covers how to grow many popular vegetables in your raised beds.

Raised Bed Revolution

Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan explains the basics of how to grow a garden in raised beds. However, she takes the raised bed concept further by detailing how to make many different raised bed designs.

The book includes a whole section on raised beds for small spaces and another section on using found items as raised beds. The photographs are beautiful making this a book you could easily leave on your coffee table too! This book will show you that there is truly a raised bed for everyone.

For Further Reading

For further reading, check out my post on how to choose the vegetables to grow in your garden and how to create a garden plan. You can locate all of my other gardening articles here.


Growing a garden in raised beds allows you to have a bountiful harvest without having to use as much space as a traditional garden. Raised beds can often provide higher yields than in-ground garden beds and it makes it easy to use the principles of succession planting to harvest a wide variety of crops.

Do have questions about gardening in raised beds? What about other gardening topics you are struggling with? Please leave a comment below about any gardening related issues you may be having. I might create a post just for you!

benefits to gardening
There are so many benefits to gardening in raised beds.

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