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 Cult, a garden and landscape design company, 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 from retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart and more.
Types of raised garden beds
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 to plant 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. 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 just be sure wherever you put the raised bed can tolerate its weight and the moisture it may give off. He noted that you need to use more soil to fill a containerized raised bed, but they’re versatile and work well in high-traffic areas.
As for materials, DeVito said raised garden beds are usually made from wood, metal or plastic and they can last for multiple years. If you plan to make your garden permanent or live in an area where you can garden year round, she suggested investing in a rot-resistant wood bed.
Additionally, some companies sell raised garden beds made from fabric, which DeVito said are more affordable raised garden bed options. She recommended using smaller sized options, 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.
Best raised garden beds of 2021
Best containerized raised beds
This weather- and warp-resistant wood raised garden bed has a 4.3-star average rating from over 2,900 reviews on Amazon, and it’s the retailer’s No.1 bestseller in Planter Raised Beds. It comes with a liner that separates the wood from the soil, preserving the structure’s condition over time. The raised bed has holes in its base to allow excess water to drain out, too. 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.
Jumbl’s raised garden bed is made from cedar wood, which the brand said prevents warping and wood rot, as well as repels 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 over 700 reviews on Amazon.
You can move this raised garden bed around your patio, deck or backyard as it has two wheels and a handle to roll like a wheelbarrow. The bed has a shelf on the bottom and hooks on the side to store tools and other items, and its planter box features drainage holes. It comes in two sizes, both of which stand 31 inches tall. The bed has a 4.3-star average rating from 97 ratings 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 over 490 reviews on Amazon.
Adding a pop of color to your deck or yard, this bright green raised garden bed has a 4.2-star average rating from over 180 reviews on Amazon. It’s available in three sizes and features drainage holes. The bed is constructed from steel panels and has reinforced corners, too. It comes with all the hardware you need for assembly.
Best 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 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 over 1,200 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 4.3-star average rating from over 200 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 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 4.5-star average rating from over 200 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. 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 over 100 reviews on Amazon.
These fabric garden beds from Apipi are made from a water-resistant polypropylene material and feature drain holes. 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 over 1,600 reviews on Amazon.
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 other benefits of raised garden beds include the soil’s ability to thaw and warm up faster than the ground, and that the beds offer better drainage.
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
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. 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 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.
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