What is a Raised Bed Garden?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

A raised bed garden, also called a raised garden bed, is an elevated area used for planting garden fruits and vegetables, herbs, and ornamental plants. A raised bed garden can offer a number of advantages over a ground level garden, and there are a variety of ways of constructing one.

Clay-like soil can be amended with compost or other additives to provide better drainage.
Clay-like soil can be amended with compost or other additives to provide better drainage.

There are several advantages to using a raised bed garden. One is the ability to better control your soil mixture. Because a raised bed garden plot is more or less separated from the ground, you can make alterations or additions to the soil to suit the particular plants you are growing in an individual raised bed. Other benefits include improved drainage and the ability to garden in sites that would otherwise be problematic due to rocky or poor soil.

A raised bed garden can be made wheelchair accessible.
A raised bed garden can be made wheelchair accessible.

Beyond this, the elevation can be altered to make them easy to reach for people with impaired mobility—they can even be made wheelchair accessible; they make crop rotation easier; the elevated soil warms more and allows earlier planting in chillier climates; with new soil, you can avoid problems or diseases that have struck your in-ground garden in the past and if disease strikes you can dump the soil, clean out the area and start again fresh; and you can build pest control—both beneath and above ground level as well as above garden level—into your design.

Deciding how to construct a raised bed garden will tie closely with what you need it to accomplish. It can simply be a raised bed of earth built up above the ground level of a garden area. Alternatively, it could be a framed area created by making walls of straw, wood, brick, stone, copper, plastic, or concrete blocks or your raised bed garden could be one or more containers ranging from barrels to five-sided, open-topped boxes—both with adequate drainage.

Any of the raised bed garden solutions can be a do-it-yourself project, but plans, kits, and pre-built items of various kinds are also available. As you are choosing your design and approach, consider the variety of possible shapes in the space you have available and with regard to access for planting, maintenance, and harvesting. Consider the look and style in relationship to the garden itself and the rest of the yard and your house. Of course, you’ll also want to consider cost. And if you’re not sure that you want raised gardens long-term, you could try an inexpensive rough-and-ready solution for a year and see how it works for you before making a further investment.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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