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Gardening is often associated with planting flowers and vegetables directly in the ground, making it seemingly inaccessible for people without a large piece of property at their disposal. But raised garden beds allow you to plant a garden almost anywhere, from a small patch of grass to a patio. Carmen DeVito, founder of garden and landscape design company Garden Cult, said raised garden beds are also great for beginner gardeners since they allow you to control the size of your garden, as well as factors like soil conditions.
“Raised-bed gardening is an easy way for new gardeners to get their feet wet, experiment and try new things without being overwhelmed,” DeVito, a certified New York State landscape professional, said. “It’s like gardening with training wheels.”
We talked to experts about the benefits raised garden beds offer and compiled some tips for planting in them. We also rounded up highly rated raised garden beds across different sizes, styles and price points based on our experts’ guidance.
Types of raised garden beds
Before shopping for a raised garden bed, you need to decide which type is right for you and your outdoor space. Venelin Dimitrov, senior product manager for gardening company Burpee, said there are three types of raised garden beds: raised ground beds, supported raised beds and containerized raised beds. All three work to lift plants and their root systems above ground.
- Raised ground beds are flat-topped mounds of soil that are 6 to 8 inches high and do not have support frames. Dimitrov said they’re the simplest above-ground gardening option since they only require soil, and they’re sometimes referred to as built-in raised beds. He noted that they’re specifically useful for gardeners who have large areas for planting but do not want the added expense of building support frames.
- Supported raised beds consist of a mound of soil surrounded by a supportive edge or frame. Dimitrov said these beds are especially useful for sloped or uneven ground — you can build a flat surface on top of an uneven surface with this type of raised bed.
- Containerized raised beds are what most people typically think of when they talk about raised garden beds, experts told us. DeVito said they’re essentially large planters or pots. Containerized raised beds have taller sides and a base, and they can be used on lawns, walkways, decks, patios, driveways and porches. Dimitrov said you should be sure wherever you put the raised bed can tolerate its weight and the moisture it may give off. He noted that you may need to use more soil to fill a containerized raised bed, but they’re versatile and work well in high-traffic areas.
Best raised garden beds to shop
To recommend the following raised garden beds, we used our experts’ guidance and rounded up highly rated supported and containerized options. We included raised garden beds across various styles, sizes and price points to help you find one that best fits your outdoor space, ensuring that all of the wood options we recommend are marked as warp-resistant. In line with experts’ advice, all of the containerized raised beds we recommend have drainage holes.
Containerized raised beds
According to Best Choice Products, this wood raised garden bed is weather- and warp-resistant. It comes with a liner that separates the wood from the soil, preserving the structure’s condition over time, according to the brand. It’s available in two sizes — 5 cubic feet or 8.4 cubic feet — and Best Choice Products also makes a similar raised garden bed on wheels if you’re looking for portability. This raised garden bed has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 5,200 reviews on Amazon.
Jumbl’s raised garden bed is made from cedar wood, which the brand says prevents warping and wood rot as well as damage from insects. The bed comes with all the parts and hardware you need to assemble it, and it stands 30 inches above the ground. A liner is also included with the bed, which is available in four sizes. The bed has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 1,500 reviews on Amazon.
A highly portable option, this raised garden bed has two wheels and a handle to roll like a wheelbarrow. The bed features a shelf on the bottom and hooks on the side to store gardening tools and other items, and its planter box offers drainage holes. It comes in two sizes, both of which stand 31 inches tall. The bed has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 300 reviews on Amazon.
Adding a pop of color to your deck or yard, this bright green raised garden bed has a 4.3-star average rating from more than 370 reviews on Amazon. It’s available in three sizes and is constructed from steel panels with reinforced corners. It comes with all the hardware you need for assembly, the brand says.
The planter box of this raised garden bed features divided sections so you can separate different types of plants. It stands about 30 inches tall and has a storage shelf on the bottom, plus comes with a seed sprouting tray. The raised garden bed boasts a built-in watering system with a water reservoir, which the brand says helps keep soil moist. Its water gauge indicates how much water is in the reservoir, and a drainage tap removes excess water when needed, according to the brand. This raised garden bed has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 1,800 reviews on Amazon.
These fabric garden beds from Apipi are made from a water-resistant polypropylene material and feature drain holes to prevent water buildup. Each garden bed has four divided sections so you can organize the different flowers or vegetables you’re growing. The brand’s planters are sold individually or in a pack of two, and they have a 4.4-star average rating from more than 2,600 reviews on Amazon.
Supported raised beds
Measuring 8 feet long and 4 feet wide, this bed provides you with space to plant a large garden. It’s built with thick galvanized metal and the brand says it features crossbars with an anti-rust coating to stand up to the elements season after season. The bed has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 3,100 reviews on Amazon.
Made from pine wood, Greenes Fence’s garden beds come in over a dozen different shapes and sizes — you can choose the one that best fits your property. All beds can be assembled without tools as their walls slide into posts to create the frame. Beds can also be stacked on top of each other to add height, or arranged next to one another to create longer and wider areas to garden in. Green Fences’ raised garden beds have a 4.4-star average rating from more than 600 reviews on Amazon.
Zizin’s raised garden bed is constructed from galvanized metal and it features a reinforced frame and corners to remain intact for multiple seasons, the brand says. The bed is available in two sizes — 5.7 feet long and 6 feet long— and it can be assembled without additional tools. It has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 400 reviews on Amazon.
This bed is constructed from 2-ply galvanized steel and can be assembled without tools. It comes with two pairs of gardening gloves and gardening tags, and has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 900 reviews on Amazon. The bed is sold in two sizes: 17 cubic feet and 31 cubic feet. The smaller bed is available in Grey, Ivory and Jade-Green, while the larger bed can be purchased in Charcoal-Grey and Green.
Made from white vinyl, this square bed slides together without tools. The brand says it’s lightweight, too, so you can move it around your yard or deck between seasons if you want to change the location of your garden. The bed has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 150 reviews on Amazon.
You can stack the boxes of this garden bed to create a three-tier structure, or use each box individually on the ground. The bed is made from fir wood and comes with all the hardware needed for assembly. It has a 4.6-star average rating from nearly 1,000 reviews on Amazon.
If you’re looking to customize the size or shape of your raised garden bed, you can use Oldcastle’s Planter Wall Blocks. The blocks help form the border of a supported raised bed when you slip 2-by-6-foot wooden boards into their side slats. The brand says you can also stack wall blocks if you want a raised bed with higher walls. You can purchase blocks individually or as a pack of 24. The blocks have a 4.8-star average rating from more than 1,200 reviews at Home Depot.
How to shop for raised garden beds
Before shopping for a raised garden bed, survey your outdoor space and think about how much of it you want to dedicate to a raised garden bed. Raised garden beds of all types come in a variety of sizes, so there are options for small patios and decks or larger yards.
After you decide the size of the raised garden bed you’re looking for, consider what the garden bed is made out of as well as additional features like drainage holes and liners.
DeVito said raised garden beds are usually constructed from wood, metal or plastic. DeVito said metal and plastic beds usually last longer compared to wood, which may rot over time. Some people may prefer wood, though, and if you plan to make your garden permanent or live in an area where you can garden year round, she suggested investing in a pressure-treated or rot-resistant wood bed, looking for woods such as Ipe or Cedar.
Some companies also sell raised garden beds made from fabric, which DeVito said are a more affordable option. If opting for fabric, she recommended using smaller sized beds, which are easy to move. Fabric raised garden beds should be put on top of gravel, soil or stone — DeVito said they would make a deck too wet.
Drainage holes and liners
While researching raised garden beds, we saw many options that are built with drainage holes or come with liners.
DeVito said she typically does not suggest using liners unless there’s a reason for it, which can range from soil contamination and tree roots to aggressive weeds on the surface you plan on housing your raised garden bed on top of. Liners can also come in handy if you’re putting a raised garden bed on a wood, stone or concrete surface — DeVito said this can help protect the surface from staining.
Like indoor pots, outdoor planters such as containerized raised garden beds need drainage holes to allow extra water to drain out the bottom. This ensures that water does not gather at the base of the planter, which can cause plant roots to rot or fungus and bacteria to build up. DeVito said a lack of drainage puts plants at risk of staying wet for a long period of time — and too much water is just as harmful to plants as too little.
Benefits of raised-bed gardening
Dimitrov said raised garden beds are popular because they allow gardeners to control the soil quality they’re planting in. When you’re planting in the ground, it’s hard to know the exact composure of the soil or if it has the proper nutrients your plants need to thrive. But you fill raised garden beds with the soil of your choosing, and you can be sure it’s not contaminated or stripped of essential vitamins and minerals. Dimitrov added that in a raised garden bed, the soil is able to thaw and warm up faster than it is on the ground.
Additionally, DeVito said raised garden beds are beneficial if your property is filled with tree roots, large shrubs or aggressive plants that make it challenging to dig in certain areas. Planting in raised garden beds is essentially a blank slate — you can start from scratch and avoid some of the challenges that come with in-ground gardening. DeVito also noted that raised garden beds make gardening easier for people with physical challenges or disabilities that make it difficult to bend over, work on their knees or squat down close to the ground.
How to fill and water a raised garden bed
The first step to preparing your raised garden bed for planting is filling it with soil. DeVito said what you’re planting often dictates what type of soil you should use, but as a general rule, she relies on screened topsoil — soil without any rocks, sticks or clumps — mixed with compost. Dimitrov said you can also purchase soil that’s premixed with compost, and to look for options that feature 50 percent soil and 50 percent compost.
Dimitrov said there’s no special way you need to water plants in a raised garden bed. In fact, raised garden beds are able to drain excess water from heavy rains away from plants’ root zones, which ensures that they don’t get over-saturated. DeVito said raised-bed gardens tend to dry out more than in-ground gardens, which may mean plants need to be watered more often, especially during the hot, dry summer. Overall, she recommended hand-watering plants using a hose with a shower nozzle attachment, or, for larger raised garden beds, setting up an automatic soaker hose system.
What to plant in raised gardening beds
Raised garden beds are most often used for growing food like vegetables, herbs and fruit. You can also use them for a cut flower garden or small shrubs. DeVito said the only plants she would not put in a raised garden are large trees or shrubs that require a lot of space for their root systems, leaves or branches.
Devito also noted that raised garden beds are a great way to introduce kids to gardening. She said the contained area gives kids their own space to explore working with dirt and seeds, and she recommended starting kids off with growing easy, low maintenance vegetables like radishes and beans.