Raised beds can be as humble or creative as you like. A raised bed planter can be a permanent fixture for perennial plants to settle in and mature. The initial cost of getting your raised bed set up will depend on how elaborate you make it, but once in place, raised beds are no more expensive to maintain than traditional gardens. They offer a lot of benefits.
What Is a Raised Garden Bed?
Raised bed gardening involves growing plants in soil that is higher than the ground. Most commonly, you can do this with some type of enclosure or frame made of wood, stone, bales of hay, or even repurposed material like old dressers.
Built-In Raised Beds
When making a raised bed instead of going in-ground, you can place it where the sun or shade is the best for the plants you want to cultivate. You can also prevent tunneling pests from decimating your plants. Plants can be healthier and more productive in a raised bed because you can control the quality of the soil and water drainage. If you build the sides wide enough to make a bench, you can even sit and garden. For those with back problems, that makes it easier to tend the plants.
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Sheet Metal Raised Beds
Another great advantage of raised bed gardens is that they sit well above the underground frost line, so the soil warms up faster in the spring, and you can start planting sooner. Metal will ensure that the ambient heat from the sun is retained in the soil. Sheet metal is easier to form into shapes. Also, it is a great way to provide the heat needed to grow Mediterranean plants like sage and lavender.
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Square Foot Raised Beds
Square foot gardening involves dividing the growing area into small square sections, typically 1 foot per square. The aim is to produce an intensively planted vegetable garden or a highly productive kitchen garden.
Using a raised bed for growing vegetables allows you to control the soil quality and prevent it from becoming compacted. Vegetable roots can grow unimpeded. The beds do not have to be very high off the ground to get the benefits from being in a raised bed. Even 6 to 8 inches can be enough.
These vegetable beds are enough to improve water drainage. This garden uses Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening technique to make layout easier and amp up the harvest.
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An Herb Spiral
Spiral gardens, like this herb garden at Mill Creek Gardens, are a popular permaculture technique. They increase the amount of usable planting area without taking up more ground space in your garden. You can easily build them out of stone, brick, wood, or simply pile up the soil. The unusual shape and swirl of plants make for an eye-catching focal point in your garden. Herbs are the plants of choice in this photo, but you can grow anything using the spiral design.
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Hoop House Raised Bed
With a little pre-planning, you can create a multi-season vegetable garden. Raised beds give you more flexibility to control the growing conditions in your garden and make it harder for animals to get at your vegetables.
If you build a hoop house on top of a raised bed, you can be prepared for any weather, handle frost, and give yourself a headstart in the spring. Oregon university offers instructions if you want to build your own.
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Raised Bed Border
Raised beds are a terrific option for yards with steep slopes. By building up the beds at their lowest sections, like these stone raised beds, you can create the illusion of a level garden. Make your beds wide enough so that you can still have a layered flower garden with a border of shrubs framing the back of the garden and plenty of room for perennials that will provide colors, textures, and edge-softening drapes.
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Beautiful Faux Creations demonstrates one of the easiest ways to create raised bed gardens by using animal feeding troughs. There is no assembly required, but be sure to drill some drainage holes in the bottom before you add the soil. The metal gives the garden an industrial look and conducts heat, warming the soil in the spring. Depending on what you chose to grow, the plants may need a bit of extra water during the hottest part of summer.
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Custom-Designed Raised Beds
Raised bed gardens can be fit just about any space. With a little creativity, you can create an entire garden sitting area. This multi-level raised bed incorporated simple straight lines by Peter Donegan Landscaping. It comes complete with a potting shed and lamppost. Add a bench section, like the one at the end of the front bed, and you have seating for the outdoor dining area. As the plants fill in and the wood weathers, this garden will take on a natural, rustic appearance.
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Raised Bed Arbor
Using a trellis or arbor with a raised bed makes it even easier to harvest vegetables and keeps them neater than if they were sprawling on the ground. Vertical gardening allows you to grow more plants without taking up more space.
This example by Family Food Gardens shows that whether you grow flowering vines or sprawling vegetables, this garden teepee trellis creates a living arbor that gives the vines plenty of access to sunshine without shading out the plants in the raised beds below. Your design can be as simple as creating an A-frame by leaning two bamboo poles together, tethering them, and stretching garden netting across.
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Gardens in small spaces can often feel cluttered and untended. In contrast, the raised beds lining this pathway garden looks like it was well thought out. You can even plan out your planting so that you provide four seasons of visual interest, as pictured, in this small garden. Form beds into any shape from bricks, pavers, or composite decking material. Not only do they define the space, but they also make the garden seem more sizeable by breaking up the view and provide an extra seating area in a shady part of the garden.
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Colorful Concrete Block Garden
There are many ways to build raised beds out of recycled materials. Concrete blocks are one of the most popular. This gardener at Home Designed Inspired took it one step further and personalized their block garden with a little colorful paint. Note that some older cinder blocks may contain fly ash, which is the “cinders” that remain from burning coal. It is still being debated whether this is safe to use around edible plants. If you get new blocks that are made out of concrete, you can avoid the ash issue. The new blocks are substantially heavier than older cinder blocks but are OK to use for a vegetable garden. Be careful though—concrete blocks leech lime. Lime can raise the soil’s pH. To be on the safe side, use plants that thrive in alkaline soil.
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Tiered Raised Bed
Raised beds have very few limits. This multi-tiered raised bed from Home Stratosphere looks like a pagoda or fountain. Once the flowers grow out, you might not even see the beautiful wood frame supporting them. It looks good all year long. During the holidays, you can also decorate it with seasonal greens and decorations and give it a Christmas tree feel.
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Garage Doors Re-Purposed as a Garden
Look in your storage area or visit some salvage shops for items lying around that would make attractive, easy-to-assemble raised beds. The gardener at Life at the Cottage created her kitchen garden from some vinyl garage door panels attached to resin reinforced vinyl fence posts and finials. This raised bed looks attractive, is low maintenance, requires no waterproofing or painting, and will last longer than most wood products.
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Sunken Raised Bed
Rather than merely terracing the entire area of a sloping yard, you could create a garden at eye level. Maria Michelle photographed this seating area at the level of the hillside. A stone patio and retaining walls create an alluring garden path and seating area surrounded by raised beds. This scene required a lot of soil removal and stonework, but it would last for years.
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Milk Crate Garden
Repurpose milk crates and make your raised bed portable. This milk crate raised bed is easy to set up, and you can configure into any shape you like. If you need your plants closer to your kitchen, or you want to place it in a shadier spot, just pick up the crate and go. These containers already come with drainage holes. And, when you need to change the soil, you can just lift the crate and dump the contents in the compost pile and start again.
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