I hear this question a lot: Are raised garden beds even necessary?
After years of gardening in ground (unsuccessfully) and gardening in a raised bed (quite successfully), I've converted to almost exclusively creating raised beds. Not only do raised beds help you maximize what you can grow in a small space, but they also help you define your space as something special—your own little edible oasis.
Here are my top three reasons for planting in raised beds.
top 3 reasons for planting in raised beds
reason #1 to grow in a raised bed: maximize productivity
When you pop a plant into the ground, its roots are going to sprawl outward and stay fairly shallow, closer to the surface of the soil, which means each plant needs a lot of space so that its roots don’t annoy its neighbor. The instructions on seed packets for spacing your plants several feet apart apply to a row garden rather than a raised bed because they assume you’ll be planting your seeds in the ground.
We want to be able to pack more plants in our gardens, and we can do that by giving roots an opportunity to burrow much deeper underground in a raised bed. The plant will follow suit and grow more vertically. Plants like peas, which would normally take up lots of ground space, can be helped upward by trellises to make every inch of your small garden space count.
Good drainage is also important in increasing your productivity. While you might love a good, long soak in the bathtub, your plants do not. Most plants you grow in the kitchen garden—cabbages, radishes, kale, peas, etc.—like to be watered frequently but hate to have their roots sitting in water. It’s hard to control what kind of drainage you have in the ground, so you’ll most likely be battling mold, rot, and mildew. Poor drainage can even just prevent your greens from flourishing.
In a raised bed, gravity works in our favor to keep those roots happy.
Discover how to create your own edible oasis right in your backyard with a membership in Gardenary 365. Get the plan, the how to, and the motivation you need to make the garden part of your everyday life—every day of the year. Gardenary 365 is an online membership that gives you front-row access to professional gardening courses, ebooks, and garden coaching so that you always know exactly what to do in the garden, from starting seeds indoors to building a new raised bed kitchen garden.
Along with good drainage comes good soil. You’ll spend several seasons amending the soil of a row garden to get the right composition for growing vegetables. With a raised bed, you start with the best soil, leading to success in your garden much faster.
Productivity also increases with raised beds because you can plant earlier and later in the season, extending your total growing time. Near the end of winter, the top three or four inches of soil in your raised garden bed will warm up faster than the ground.
reason #2 to grow in a raised bed: increase convenience
I’m betting you didn’t get into gardening to spend time trekking through mud or kneeling in the dirt pulling weeds for hours. We learned quite quickly that the maintenance on ground gardens can be intense. With a two-foot tall raised garden bed, you bend over from the waist and are at the plant’s level, which makes tending and harvesting so much easier and more convenient.
Garden work should be an enjoyable part of your daily routine, not a chore.
Learn more about the ideal raised bed height.
reason #3 to grow in a raised bed: enhance aesthetics
Raised garden beds elevate your outdoor space and provide lasting beauty all year long. Even if your plants aren’t growing yet, your raised bed is a hardscaping piece that becomes an integral feature of your landscape.
Plus, no matter the style of your home, there’s a raised garden bed material to compliment it.
The importance of the aesthetic component really struck me when a client referred to her raised beds as a home improvement project. But unlike slapping on a fresh coat of paint or laying new tile, you can eat the fruits of this labor.
Kitchen Garden Revival
Find out how to maximize your vertical garden space even more and grow all year long!
are there any plants that shouldn't grow in a raised bed?
While I grow the majority of my plants in my raised bed kitchen garden, there are some things that are not suited to raised beds.
large fruiting plants
Squash, pumpkins, melons, and gourds have vines that trail horizontally and take up a lot of room. The growing space in my raised beds is too precious to turn over to plants in the Cucurbit family, with the exception of cucumbers, which I can train up a trellis. Learn how to create your own backyard "squash patch" to grow these large fruiting plants.
flowers for pollinators
I still plant lots of flowers in my raised beds, but I also created a pollinator garden that's a less formal space than my kitchen garden, a place to scatter zinnia seeds haphazardly and with glee. The flowers and herbs that grow in my pollinator garden are not as particular about the soil they're growing in as fruiting plants like nutrient-sucking tomatoes. Read the step by step to create your own pollinator garden.
Like the large fruiting plants, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes can really spread out, but this time, most of that horizontal growth is happening under the soil. Potatoes also thrive in a more acidic soil than the rest of your veggies. Explore the steps to plant your own organic potatoes.
I love to tuck herbs into the corners of my raised beds. Mint, however, is unlike its herb cousins and does not play nicely with others. Mint's roots will elbow their way past whatever other roots are in their way to take up as much space as possible. For this reason, it's best to grow mint in its own pot or container.
Ready to build your own raised bed?
Complete Guide to Gardenary Raised Beds
Get three books in one and learn how to make each of Gardenary’s signature raised beds.
You’ll learn the step by step to create:
-the $100 raised garden bed used in Salad Garden School
-the rolling steel planter used in Herb Garden Guide Course
-the Gardenary signature raised bed with trim
Now that I’ve seen the light shining on my raised beds, I’ll never go back to growing my tomatoes, peppers, or lettuce plants in the ground again. Have I convinced you?
If you’re looking for more resources on how to set up your own raised kitchen garden, you can check out my book, Kitchen Garden Revival. We also have raised bed instructions here and in our Kitchen Garden Academy course, both of which you can access through your Gardenary 365 membership.
Here's to your future raised bed that will increase your production, make tending easier on your back, and add beauty to your yard!
When you join 365, you not only get monthly garden instruction and challenges, but you also get full access to our Gardenary course library so you can focus on one aspect of gardening at a time throughout the year.