What Can You Grow in a Raised Garden Bed?
Raised beds are the ideal place to grow herbs, leafy greens, root crops, and fruit for everyday use inside the kitchen—plus, some beautiful flowers to attract pollinators. You'll be amazed at how many plants you can fit in each raised bed. Here's why:
Raised beds filled with nutrient-rich soil allow kitchen gardeners to practice something called intensive planting. The idea with intensive planting is to fit a lot of plants into a small space and to add variety into every garden bed by filling it with a mixture of herbs, veggies, and flowers. Just nine square feet of growing space could, for example, contain chives, pansies, radishes, cabbages, Swiss chard, kale, and a sugar snap pea plant growing up a trellis.
The reason we can plant intensively and grow way more plants in a raised bed than we could in the ground is because the raised garden bed provides room for roots to dig down deep, the soil provides the nutrients they need to thrive, and the trellis provides vertical support and encourages larger plants to grow up and stretch out.
So, keep reading to learn some of the best herbs, veggies, small fruiting plants, and flowers to grow in your raised-bed garden. Pick a couple from each category to ensure you always have something yummy to harvest and enjoy from your garden.
The Best Herbs to Grow in a Raised Garden Bed
Herbs feel right at home in a raised-bed garden filled with soil that drains quickly. Herbs take up a relatively small space in your garden beds but will give you loads of delicious harvests. I like to plant herbs around the edges of my raised beds and encourage them to drape over the sides.
Let's look at some of the best herbs to grow in raised garden beds based on their two different growing cycles, which will help you know how best to care for them.
The Top Perennial Herbs for a Raised-Bed Garden
Perennial herbs will grow year round in warmer climates. In colder climates, they'll die back during the winter and then return from their roots in the spring (except basil).
Here are some of my favorite perennial herbs to grow in my kitchen garden:
Rosemary, oregano, marjoram, lavender, sage, and thyme are great herbs to grow together since they all prefer their soil staying dry. (This makes them perfect for growing on the edges of raised beds, where the soil tends to dry out faster.) Basil is quick and easy to start from seed, but I typically recommend buying these other herbs as plants in order to maximize the time you can enjoy them in your garden.
I also love growing my own mint and lemon balm, two excellent perennial herbs to have at home, but it's best to grow these two in their own containers. If you put them in raised beds, their roots tend to spread in a way that can disrupt other plants
The Top Annual Herbs for a Raised-Bed Garden
Annual herbs will complete their life cycle in one year and will need to be replanted for the next growing season (except parsley, which can potentially last for two years).
Here are some of my favorite annual herbs to grow in my kitchen garden:
Dill, cilantro, and parsley are a perfect trio of herbs to grow together since they have the same water and temperature preferences (moist soil and cooler weather).
These herbs are fast growers and easy to start from seed.
Learn why you should grow lots of herbs in a kitchen garden. Check out our ultimate guide to growing your own herbs.
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The Best Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds
Let's take a look at the top leafy greens and root crops to grow in your raised beds. (By the way, some of the plants we typically think of as veggies in the cullinary sense will be found under fruiting plants.)
The Best Leafy Greens to Plant in a Raised-Bed Garden
Leafy greens are super easy to tend and will give you so many delicious, nutritious leaves to harvest. I like to really pack leafy greens into my raised beds so that I can cut enough leaves for regular salads and smoothies. Just know that the closer you plant leafy greens in your raised beds, the more often you'll need to commit to harvesting from them.
The Top Leafy Greens for a Raised Garden Bed
Explore our reasons for growing these salad greens to determine which ones are the best for you and your garden. You can grow several rounds of smaller greens like arugula, lettuce, and spinach in your raised beds each year, while larger plants like kale and Swiss chard will spend several seasons in your garden (and take up more room).
Check out my favorite varieties of kale to grow and how I use up the leaves.
The Best Root Crops to Plant in a Raised-Bed Garden
Root crops love the well-draining and loose soil inside of raised beds, which allows them to grow nice, large taproots without encountering any obstacles like rocks or hardened clay. You'll be able to fit many root crops within just a couple square feet of raised-bed space. There are few things more exciting to harvest from your garden than a beautiful beet or carrot that's been forming underground—out of sight but not out of mind!—for weeks.
The Top Root Crops for a Raised Garden Bed
These are my favorite root crops to grow in a raised bed:
Root crops grow pretty quickly and don't like to be moved, so you'll plant these guys directly in your raised beds by seed.
Radishes are by far the easiest and fastest root crop to grow in your garden. I've had incredible success with French breakfast radishes and highly recommend them to gardeners who are new to growing roots.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes are also really fun to grow, but these tubers typically grow best outside of your raised beds.
Our newest online gardening course guides gardeners how to grow their own root crops, including radishes, carrots, potatoes, ginger, and beets.
The Best Small Fruiting Plants to Grow in a Raised Garden Bed
Small fruiting plants are often the crown jewels of your kitchen garden.
These plants love the extra room for their roots that raised beds provide. They also tend to be a little picky about their soil, so it's great that raised beds allow us to start with the best!
Many of these fruiting plants can be trained up a trellis so that you can maximize the total available growing space in your raised bed. Learn which plants need a trellis to grow best in the kitchen garden space.
The Top Small Fruiting Plants for a Raised Garden Bed
Whether it's 40 degrees outside or 100, there's a fruiting plant that will thrive in your garden. Here are some proven winners as far as ease of growing, fruit production, and flavor:
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, and zucchini can take a while to grow to the point where they're producing fruit. I recommend starting these guys by seed indoors or buying them as small plants from a local nursery before introducing them to your garden. You can plant beans, okra, and peas by seed in your garden as soon as the weather is right.
There are many delicious large fruiting plants you can grow at home, including large melons, pumpkins, and gourds. These guys need so much space to spread out that it's generally best to plant them in the ground row-garden style, especially if space in your raised beds is limited.
What Flowers to Plant in a Raised Garden Bed
We never plant out a raised bed without some flowers in the corners. Flowers are not only beautiful, but they also attract beneficial insects into your garden that will pollinate the flowers on your fruiting plants, which means you'll be able to harvest more from those small fruiting plants!
The Top Flowers for a Raised Garden Bed
Learn more about growing flowers in your raised garden beds. In addition to some flowers in the corners of your garden, I also recommend planting a pollinator garden around your raised beds. Explore which flowers grow great in the ground and don't need a raised bed to thrive.
Raised Garden Bed Planting Guide
What Not to Plant in a Raised-Bed Garden
Some plants are too large and sprawling or just have growth habits that make them unideal to grow in your raised garden beds. These plants include:
- Berry Bushes
- Fruit Trees
Learn more about the different types of plants to not grow in your raised beds.
How to Plant in a Raised Garden Bed
When you're planning out your raised garden beds, it's best to plant the small and short plants on the outside of your bed, then the medium plants in the middle, and the large plants in the very center if you can access the bed from all sides. If one side of the bed, however, is up against a wall or tall structure, you'll want the taller plants toward the back. That way, they don't block sunlight and airflow from the smaller guys.
Typically, herbs and smaller flowers go around the edges of the bed and in the corners. Medium plants like peppers and leafy greens go in staggered rows next; and your largest plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, or pole beans will climb up the vertical support in the center or back of the bed.
Again, we recommend trellises to add height and visual interest to the middle or back of a raised bed. Trellises can provide a great deal of extra room for planting small and medium plants around their bases.
Steps to Determine What to Plant in Your Raised Bed
Follow these simple steps to plan which herbs, veggies, fruits, and flowers to grow in your raised beds.
Step One: Figure Out Which Growing Season You're in
Google the average high and low temperatures for your area for the next couple of months. Use the average temps to determine which growing season you're currently in or about to enter. Here's a breakdown of the different growing seasons:
- Cold Season - Average high temperature below 30°F; guaranteed chance of frost/snow
- Cool Season - Average high temperature between 31°F and 64°F; likely chance of frost/snow
- Warm Season - Average high temperature between 65°F and 84°F; no chance of frost/snow
- Hot Season - Average high temperature of 85°F or above; no chance of anything close to cold
Step Two: Learn Which Plants Like to Grow in That Season
Root crops and many of the leafy greens I recommended grow best during the cool season. Most of the small fruiting plants like warm weather. Look up the top plants you want to grow in your garden and find out which season they grow best in. Make a list of your favorite plants for your current growing season.
Step Three: Categorize Plants by Size
Note whether the plants you want to grow are small, medium, or large. This will help you determine how much space you'll need to give them in the garden and how many plants you'll be able to grow in your raised bed. (Learn more about plant sizes and how many of each plant type you can fit per square foot here.)
Step Four: Draw Out Your Raised Beds
We like to draw our raised beds on graph paper to figure out where plants can go. Remember to put smaller plants along the edges and taller plants in the middle.
Below is a sample planting plan for a cool season garden. This garden is 4ft. x4ft. and is accessible from all sides. Dill, flowers, and arugula are all shorter plants that will grow around the edges. Beets will fill the middle of the bed, while the very center is reserved for sugar snap peas growing up two obelisk trellises.
Don't Grow Alone
Gardenary is here to help you take the guesswork out of gardening. Whatever you're growing in your raised beds, we've got tons of resources to help you find success.
I highly recommend that you watch our online video lessons in Kitchen Garden Academy or read Kitchen Garden Revival if you're setting up a raised-bed garden. Both go over kitchen garden design and what to grow during each season to maximize your harvests.
We've also got a membership program called Gardenary 365, where we drop new content to help you grow every month.
If you're looking for one-on-one help, search our business directory for a trained garden coach near you to come out to your space and help you grow. That person will be the expert in what grows best in your climate! Follow them on social media to see what they're planting when in their own gardens.
Thanks for being here and helping us bring back the kitchen garden!
When you join 365, you not only get monthly garden instruction and challenges, but you also get full access to our complete Gardenary course library (including our popular courses Microgreens, Cut Flower Gardens, and Growing Roots) so you can focus on one aspect of gardening at a time. There's no other place to grow your self online like this!