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Gardening At New Heights: A Guide To Successful Raised Bed Gardening

You’ve seen them everywhere recently — highlighted on home improvement shows and featured in glossy lifestyle magazines.

Raised bed gardening has become increasingly popular over the last several years, and it’s no wonder why. Offering a practical option for growing your own produce in style, these charming containers are a big hit.

But despite their undeniable appeal, planting your own raised bed can seem like a huge undertaking. Are you feeling unsure of where to begin? No worries!

From selecting the proper site and container to choosing your plants and getting the most out of your harvest, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with raised bed gardening.

raised bed gardening

Find Your “Why”

As you embark on this project, ask yourself what you hope to get from your raised bed? There are many reasons why people opt for this style of planting. Beginning with your particular gardening goals can help inform your choices regarding setup and supplies.

Practical Produce Gardening

Perhaps the most popular reason for getting into raised bed gardening is for growing food plants. Many types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be successfully nurtured and harvested in a raised bed, allowing you to access fresh produce in your own backyard.

You can choose your plants based on your personal preferences and what works best in your location. Some gardeners also enjoy selecting a recipe theme for their bed, such as a “salsa garden.” The possibilities are endless!

Other Purposes

While more commonly used to grow food, raised beds can be employed for aesthetic and decorative purposes as well. Some people simply like the look of an elevated planter; other gardeners take it a step further, creating elaborate terraced designs with beds staged at multiple heights.

For the nature lovers out there, raised beds can also be used to attract certain wildlife. As a dedicated area of your garden, it’s easy to use the container as a space for flowers chosen for a specific purpose, such as attracting butterflies.

Choosing the Right Location

raised vegetable garden

As they say in real estate — location, location, location. The spot you choose for your container is crucial and will determine many other aspects of your raised bed gardening experience.

Sun Exposure and Shading

When choosing a place for your raised bed, think about how much sun the area gets; this will influence what sort of plants you can successfully grow. Consider the spot’s directional orientation, your area’s climate, and the availability of shade from trees and structures nearby.

Typically, six hours of direct sunlight per day is the recommended minimum exposure for raised bed gardening. Some plants prefer a balanced mixture of sunlight and shade, while others thrive in full sun exposure.

Water Source and Drainage

While it’s easy to overlook during the planning process, a water source is, of course, going to be vital to your raised bed’s success. Remember that you’ll need to be able to get water to this spot, either through a nearby hose hook-up or by carrying the water yourself.

Water drainage is also an important consideration, especially if you’ll be using a standing container or placing your raised bed on a hard surface such as a patio. If water collects in the bottom of your container without escaping, it can be detrimental to the soil and plants. Ensure there are enough small holes in the bottom of the bed so excess water can drain away.

Ground Preparation

Depending on your site, you may need to make some modifications and prepare the ground before beginning with raised bed gardening. First, determine whether the area is suitably flat; if not, you’ll either need to plan to level it out or account for it when constructing your container.

If you’re using a grounded container (i.e. not on legs or a stand) on the grass, you’ll need to somehow remove the grass underneath. One option is to remove the sod and till the soil yourself; however, this can be difficult, especially if the ground is too hard.

Another method involves planning ahead and, in the preceding fall or winter, putting down cardboard that’s the size of your intended bed and covering it with soil. This will smother the grass over time, giving you an open area to begin raised bed gardening in the spring.

Choosing a Raised Bed

Bok choy in raised garden bed outside. Young Bok choy plants growing in rows with defocused garden background. Leafy vegetables also known as Brassica rapa, pak choi or pok choi. Selective focus.

Now that you’ve got your spot selected, it’s time to pick out the proper container to use as you begin raised bed gardening.

Material and Construction

There are many options when it comes to the material for your container. You can select from a variety of prefabricated models on the market, many of which are readily available at home improvement stores.

If you’re feeling handy, you can choose to build your own container out of wood or metal. This option can provide more room for customization if you’re seeking a unique size or shape based on your site.

One of the fun things about raised bed gardening is that there’s so much room for creativity. Feel free to think outside the box (er, bed?) when selecting your container. Some gardeners have put their own twist on things by using old tires, wheelbarrows, and bathtubs.


The size of your raised bed will largely depend on your selected location and material, as well as the type and amount of plants you’re hoping to grow there. When considering width, think about whether you’re growing just a couple of plants or several rows.

While your raised bed can be as shallow as 6″, a depth of 12″ to 18″ is more conducive to most plant types. Doing some research on the needs of your intended plants can help you determine how deep your soil will need to be.


Raised bed gardening is a wonderful option for those with physical challenges. When selecting the size and height of your raised bed, don’t forget to take your own comfort and convenience into account. 

Unlike traditional ground-level gardening, which often requires bending, squatting, or kneeling for long periods, the elevated height of raised beds allows you to tend to the plants from a more comfortable position.

If this is an important factor for you, be sure to select a raised bed that you can reach while sitting in a chair. Containers on stands can also add extra height if you prefer to stand while working.

Planning Your Plants

riased veg garden

Once you’ve chosen your container, you can move on to the fun part: selecting what you’re actually going to grow.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Your Plants

As we discussed earlier, it’s helpful to consider why you’re doing raised bed gardening when deciding what to plant. Are you hoping to harvest produce, or are you leaning toward flowers and herbs? Your location’s climate and sun exposure are also important factors to take into account.

Tips for Planning Garden Layout

It may be surprising, but the layout of your garden can be just as important as the actual plants you select.

Know How Much Space Each Plant Needs

Plants need a proper amount of soil space in order to thrive. While they may seem small as you’re starting out, remember that their root systems will need plenty of room to take hold and expand.

If planted too close together, your plants won’t grow to their full potential and may even sabotage each other.

Make sure you do your research on how much space each of your plants will need. If you’re starting raised bed gardening in the hopes of growing vegetables but are finding that space is tight, it may be helpful to consider planting dwarf varieties instead, as they require less soil.

Pair Plants for Added Benefits

Did you know that, due to their individual characteristics, certain plants do better when planted near other specific plants? This is called companion planting, and it’s your new secret weapon. As you plan the layout of your raised bed gardening project, be mindful of which plants grow better together and take advantage of it

If you’re a visual person, the Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner is a web-based tool that can help you determine the best layout for your garden. It takes companion planting principles into account to help you determine the best way to arrange your plants.

Plant in Rows for Easy Weeding

Planting in rows isn’t just a technique used in traditional crop farming — it’s helpful for raised bed gardening as well. Instead of planting randomly, a row layout allows your plants to grow together and form a leaf canopy more quickly. This provides more shade for the soil, decreasing the number of weeds that can grow.

Building Your Garden Soil

Of course, good soil is an essential part of any successful planting project — and raised bed gardening is no different.

Components of Healthy Soil

A healthy soil should have enough nutrients for your plants to thrive; soil that is too sandy or rocky won’t give you the results you’re looking for. You can either use soil from your own property or purchase it at a gardening store. Traditional potting soil is a decent option, as are the newer raised bed soils which have recently come on the market.

Benefits of Mulch

Mulching provides a variety of benefits, making it a valuable addition for raised bed gardening. Mulch can help prevent the growth of weeds, cutting down on the time you’ll spend pulling them. It can also facilitate irrigation and water retention, especially in warmer climates.

Introducing Your Plants

Once you’ve got your soil ready, it’s time to make the magic happen and begin planting. At this stage, you have two options for introducing your plants into your container: seeding and planting.


One option for planting is to start from scratch with seeds. Direct seed planting gives you the full gardening experience, allowing you to oversee the complete life cycle of your plants. However, keep in mind that growing from seeds takes a longer time and requires you to begin planting earlier in the season.


Many folks who are newer to raised bed gardening prefer transplanting already-growing plants into their container. This method provides more control and predictable results and can be especially helpful if you’re starting a little later in the season.

Tending Your Garden

You’ve got your plants all settled into their new home — now it’s time to help them flourish and thrive!

Watering and Irrigation

While watering by hand is a viable option, drip irrigation is considered to be one of the most efficient watering methods for raised bed gardening. For a simple watering solution, check out the Raindrip Automatic Watering Kit. This easy-to-install system delivers a steady amount of water to your plants and features a convenient automatic timer.


Supports can be a useful addition to your garden, particularly for heavier plants that need to be kept off the soil surface. Proper trellises can lead to the growth of larger, healthier yields. Grapes, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all frequently supplemented with trellis systems.

If you’re growing plants that could benefit from a trellis, check out the Orgrimmar Garden Support Stakes. These customizable stakes allow you to easily construct supports in the exact sizes and shapes you need.


Although it can be tedious, weeding is something that every good gardener has to do on a regular basis — and raised bed gardening is no different. Weeds can pose a threat to your plants, as they can interfere with their root systems and take valuable nutrients from the soil. Weeding your raised beds routinely can help to combat these issues.

Protecting from Pests and Weather

Depending on your climate, you may find it necessary to cover your plants from time to time. Cold and inclement weather poses the most common threat, although pests can be another culprit. For an all-purpose cover for your beds, look no further than the Valibe Plant Cover. This large, versatile cover will protect your plants year-round in all weather conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Image of a Vegetable Garden Bed

Now that we’ve gone through many of the essential considerations for planning your own raised bed, let’s dive into some frequently asked questions.

Q: What are some options for raised bed gardens in smaller spaces?

Raised bed gardening isn’t just for people with large yards and outdoor spaces; it can easily be done on a cozy patio or apartment balcony as well. If you can’t build out, build up — that is to say, if square footage is a limiting factor, vertical height may be the way to go.

For raised beds in smaller spaces, consider tall terraced and graduated containers. You can grow flowers, herbs, and smaller vegetables just as easily in a succession of small containers as you can in a larger bed.

Q: How can I use compost in raised bed gardening?

A compost tumbler can be incredibly helpful for storing your compost and getting it ready to use in raised bed gardening. The FCMP Outdoor Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter can have your compost ready to go in just two weeks!

Q: How can I plan ahead/prepare in advance for next year’s crops?

One of the best ways to ensure your raised bed’s success in the long run is through crop rotation. While this concept may evoke images of farmers and vast fields at first, it can also be employed in raised bed gardening to help boost your yields over time. Rotating your crops annually can improve your soil quality and protect against pests and pathogens.

Raised Bed Gardening

Having familiarized yourself with the fundamentals, you’re ready to move forward. Raised bed gardening doesn’t have to be an intimidating project; rather, with the proper planning, it can be a fun and joyful endeavor.

You’ll have created something beautiful with practical value as well, and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.

Want more garden content? Visit our gardening page for in-depth guides, explainer posts, and great ideas!