For many home gardeners, a lack of yard space or difficult growing conditions can make planting a robust vegetable and herb garden seem out of reach. Elevated raised garden beds provide the perfect solution, allowing you to grow bountiful gardens on small patios, in high traffic areas, and even on uneven or infertile ground.
Raised beds lifted above ground level on legs offer unique advantages over traditional garden plots. By controlling soil quality and drainage while reducing bending and kneeling, elevated raised beds expand your gardening horizons and make growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers easy for anyone.
Choosing the Right Location
When selecting an optimal spot for installing elevated raised beds, sunlight exposure is critical. Most vegetable plants and herbs require at least six to eight hours of direct sun daily during the growing season. Position your raised bed in a sunny area devoid of shade from buildings, fences, or trees to maximize success.
It’s also important to locate raised garden beds on a flat, level surface that can readily support their weight when filled with soil. Concrete patios, wooden decks, and gravel or paved areas typically provide adequate structural support.
Sunlight Needs by Plant
|At least 6 hours of direct sun
|Vegetables, herbs, flowers
|4-6 hours of sun
|Leafy greens, root crops
|Less than 4 hours of sun
|Salad greens, peas
Raised beds come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your specific needs. The most common depths are between 6 and 24 inches tall. Shorter beds around 6 to 12 inches work well for salad greens and herbs, while taller beds up to 24 inches are great for larger plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and peppers which need ample root zone depth.
Consider how many plants you want to grow when choosing dimensions. As a rule of thumb, allow for 1 to 4 square feet per individual vegetable plant. For example, a 4×8 foot raised bed provides approximately 30 square feet of growing space, enough for 30 small plants or 7-8 larger tomato or pepper plants. Leafy greens can be planted more densely while sprawling vines like cucurbits need more elbow room.
Raised Bed Size Calculator
|24 in W x 48 in L x 12 in D
|10-16 small plants
|Herbs and greens
|48 in W x 48 in L x 18 in D
|Mix of vegetables
|72 in W x 72 in L x 24 in D
Elevated raised garden beds can be constructed from durable, long-lasting materials like rot-resistant wood, powder-coated steel, plastic lumber, or molded resin composites. Consider factors like cost, longevity, and aesthetic appeal when selecting materials.
Cedar and redwood are excellent wood choices as they resist decay and insect damage. For metal raised beds, a galvanized or corrosion-resistant powder-coated steel offers durability and strength. Plastic lumber or HDPE beds are lightweight, easy to assemble and virtually maintenance free.
Common Raised Bed Building Materials
|Can be expensive
|No maintenance needed
|Less aesthetic appeal
|Can transfer heat
|Customizable sizes & styles
Although pre-fabricated elevated raised bed kits are widely available, constructing your own is often simple and affordable. Basic woodworking tools like a saw, drill, screwdriver and sand paper are all that’s needed to assemble a basic raised bed from cedar planks or lumber.
For fool-proof assembly, opt for interlocking plastic raised beds or metal beds with pin and hole connections. Modular raised garden systems also allow flexible expansion by adding more bed sections over time.
Building Your Own Raised Bed
Follow these basic construction steps:
- Cut four planks to the correct length for sides of the raised bed
- Attach corner posts between the boards with exterior screws
- Add supporting legs or feet at least every 5-6 feet
- Sink posts at least 6 inches into ground for stability
- Line interior walls with landscape fabric to prevent soil contact
Filling With Soil
An ideal raised bed soil mix will contain a blend of compost and inorganic materials like perlite, vermiculite or coconut coir to balance moisture retention, drainage and nutrients. Pre-mixed potting soil or compost is widely available. You can also make your own custom blend.
Start by lining the bottom of your raised bed with a 2-4 inch layer of coarse gravel for improved drainage before filling the remainder of the depth with soil mix. Adding supplemental organic granular fertilizer or compost is recommended when first establishing plants.
Soil Mix Tips
- Use lightweight mix, not heavy clay soil
- Blend compost + inorganic amendments
- Add slow-release organic fertilizer
- Line bottom with gravel for drainage
The raised structure inherently improves drainage by allowing excess water to percolate down through the soil bed. Adding gravel, sand or wood chips in the bottom further enhances drainage and keeps plant roots from getting waterlogged.
For container-style raised beds, incorporating several half-inch drainage holes into the surrounding walls or base allows water to escape and prevents soggy soil. Just be sure to situate raised beds on a solid, paved foundation rather than directly atop grass or soil.
- Line bottom with coarse gravel
- Poke holes along perimeter
- Elevate above ground level
- Repair leaks promptly
What to Grow
One of the best aspects of raised garden beds is flexibility – they enable growing all types of edibles including leafy greens, root crops, vining plants, fruits, herbs and more regardless of native soil quality. You can also intermix flowers, pollinator-friendly plants and ornamentals in raised planter boxes.
Since quality soil, drainage and spacing can be controlled in a raised bed, you can achieve higher yields in less space compared to a conventional garden plot. Favor vertical growing plants like cucumbers, peas and pole beans by incorporating trellises and cages.
Adding Support Structures
Installing climbing supports in elevated raised beds optimizes the vertical growing space for vining crops and makes harvesting easier. Training cucumbers, tomatoes, peas and beans to grow upwards saves space and reduces disease by preventing contact with soil.
Add bamboo rods, mesh net trellises or wire cages when first establishing plants. As vines develop, gently weave new growth through supports. Place trellised plants on northern side of raised beds to avoid shading other plants.
Best Support Methods by Crop
|Bamboo poles & trellises
|Mesh net trellises
|Trellises & fencing
|Cages & stakes
Watering and Care
Plants grown in elevated raised garden beds typically demand more frequent watering than conventional in-ground plantings, especially during hot, dry weather or in free-draining sandy soils. Check soil moisture daily by probing the first 1-2 inches deep and water beds thoroughly whenever top layer becomes dry.
Fertilizing with a water-soluble or compost tea every 2-4 weeks during the growing season replaces soil nutrients. Cut back foliage, remove spent plants and top off mulch layer in fall to tidy beds for winter.
For elderly gardeners or those with limited mobility, raised beds with handles, knee clearance and built-in seating simplify gardening chores greatly. Mount beds on sturdy legs roughly 20-30 inches tall to reduce need for stooping, bending and kneeling while tending plants.
Outfit tall raised planters with timber or metal handrails around two to three perimeter sides to provide stability when leaning over to plant, weed and harvest. Containing gardens at waist level eases stress on the back and joints.
Available in a rainbow of color finishes like bold reds or soothing sage greens, today’s elevated raised beds marry form with function. Paint, stain or seal wooden raised beds to protect the lumber while adding visual appeal.
For beds atop paved patios or decks, arrange decorative pots overflowing with ornamentals around the edges. Training flowering vines along the vertical supports creates a stunning showcase.
Preserving vegetables in elevated raised beds through cold winters expands the harvest season. Start by fortifying soil fertility in fall and installing winter-hardy plants like onions, garlic, spinach and cold tolerant greens.
Insulate beds against deep freezes by mounding chopped leaves, straw or other organic materials around plants to retain warmth. Temporary protective coverings also help shield beds from heavy snow loads and whipping winds which can damage delicate greens.
From apartment balconies and condos to rooftop patios, elevated raised garden beds enable growing bountiful vegetables, fruits and flowers in tiny spaces or inhospitable landscapes. Take control over soil quality while reducing back strain and time on your knees weeding. Growing up with raised beds offers easy access for gardeners of all abilities to nurture and harvest wholesome, homegrown edibles.