Gardening

10 Nifty Raised Garden Bed Ideas We’re Stealing for Our Yards

Your spring herbs and flowers need a home, too!

March  4, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

While you’re sitting at home waiting for the snow to melt, why not get a head start on planning your garden for the year? Whether you’re hoping to grow your own vegetables or just spruce up your yard with vibrant spring flowers, one of the best ways to plant them is in raised beds. There are lots of benefits to planting in elevated beds—there’s no tilling needed, you can easily add soil conditioners like compost, you’ll have fewer weeds, and you won’t have to bend down as far to tend to your sprouts. Need we go on?

If you’re wondering how to build a raised garden bed, you’ll be happy to know it’s a fairly simple DIY project. For a basic raised bed, you’ll want to use 2-by-10-inch lumber to create a four-sided box—no need to put a bottom on it, either. The dimensions of the bed can be tailored to suit your space, but you’ll typically want to keep it less than four feet wide to ensure you can reach the center. Once you’ve cut the boards to size, use deck screws to fasten the short walls to the ends of the long walls, and your raised bed is complete! (If that seems a little too hands-on for you, many home improvement stores sell raised bed kits that include pre-cut materials and are quick and easy to assemble.) Before you fill it with soil, you may also want to line the bottom with landscape fabric to block weeds from growing.

However, this is far from the only way to build a raised bed. The gardeners of the internet have come up with plenty of cool, innovative ways to create gardening beds that are both highly functional and attractive, and to be honest, we’re probably going to borrow a few of these ideas to use in our own gardens!


Give Your Beds Built-in Seating

You’re going to end up crouching or sitting around the edges of your raised beds when tending plants and pulling weeds, and we love that these beautiful beds have an extra board attached horizontally to the upper lip, creating a convenient seat to perch on.


Swap Wooden Walls for Stone Blocks

Raised beds are most often made from wood, but there’s nothing that says you can’t use another material instead. This crafty gardener used wall blocks to build beautiful beds in her yard—this method will probably be more expensive initially, but it’s also extremely durable.


Make Your Garden Mobile

If you have a small outdoor space, you might not be able to install a full-sized raised bed. However, this portable option is the perfect solution—its elevated design offers the same benefits as a traditional raised bed, and it’s even enclosed with wire to prevent critters from munching on your produce.


Embrace Outside-The-Box Shapes… Literally

Sure, raised beds are typically square or rectangular, but there’s no rule that says they have to be. This creative gardener created an octagon-shaped bed with a “keyhole” that lets them access the innermost plants. There’s also a compost cage in the center that feeds nutrients to the bed—so cool!


Build Extra-Tall Beds for Improved Ergonomics

If bending over to reach a low garden bed hurts your back, you can create taller raised beds like these! They’re a little more complex to build and require more soil to fill, but we think the effort is worth it, as your beds will be more accessible and easy to tend to.


Try Quaint Wicker Walls to Match Your Patio

How cute are these wicker raised beds? The woven walls are undeniably charming, and they’d look perfect on a patio alongside a set of wicker furniture. If you’re hoping to recreate this look for yourself, Master Garden Products has a whole line of Willow Raised Beds, including several sizes and shapes.


Make the Most of Sloped Space

Another benefit of raised beds is that they can be built on sloped ground where you otherwise wouldn’t be able to plant. These beds are the perfect example of this, as they’re built alongside a fairly steep staircase, serving as a retaining wall, as well as a spot to plant herbs and veggies.


Use Raised Beds to Break Up Your Yard

We love that this raised bed is doing double-duty—it’s a convenient spot to plant vegetables or flowers, but it’s also helping to separate the patio from the rest of the yard. The long, narrow design also makes plants easy to access. Win-win!


Give Your Beds Two Tiers

If you’re having trouble reaching—or seeing—the innermost section of your raised bed, you can make it easier to access by building a second tier. Case in point: These square metal beds have a second level that allows you to see the vibrant flowers more clearly thanks to their staggered heights.


Use a Fence as One Side

Do you have a sturdy fence in your yard? You can use it as one side of your raised bed, creating a small garden that stretches along the edge of your yard. This is a great solution if you don’t want to sacrifice too much yard space but still want to plant vegetables, flowers, or other greenery.

Would you try your hand at a raised bed? Tell us below!

More For Your Ears...

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Douglas
    Douglas
  • Gail Dalmat
    Gail Dalmat
  • Christine Hayes
    Christine Hayes
  • Smaug
    Smaug
  • gandalf
    gandalf
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.

12 Comments

Douglas April 9, 2021
Very nice photos but a bit unrealistic if someone is serious about gardening. The beds described are certainly valued at 100+ dollars each and since most use wood construction, how many years would they last before rotting? Using treated lumber for growing food is not advisable due to its toxicity.

I wish I could afford your garden beds. I use less 'pretty' containers that were once used as water troughs (for horses or cattle). If they already didn't have holes or cracks, I added some for drainage. Mine are made of plastic but new metal troughs can be purchased (e.g. Tractor Supply stores).
 
Gail D. March 15, 2021
I've used everything from lumber to pallets to mud buckets, from trash cans to laundry baskets to livestock troughs. Though not attractive per se, though, I've got three WADING POOLS (3 ft dia) in the side yard that have survived the NYS Winters and Summers for three years now! One has June-bearing strawberries; one has cutting flowers, and one has mixed wildflowers. I got them at the Dollar General. You could plant hostas or something around the outside, to camouflage them if you like. I've been wondering about using an old hot tub or spa tub, building some camouflage around it, either for a garden pond or a raised bed.
 
Christine H. March 8, 2021
Wow, I love this nice summary and survey article of garden bed options! Each description gives a little snippet of info that people can research and apply to their own personal gardening/space needs if interested. I'm so happy you covered the basic concepts of how raised garden beds can be designed. Now readers can see what will work best in there yard, then consult internet know-it-alls about the intricacies of wood, dirt and moisture!
 
Christine H. March 8, 2021
Their yard* sry got distracted by all the nitpicking
 
Smaug March 4, 2021
Sigh. This really needs to be gone over point by point, but it seems futile. However, a few very basic facts to consider;
1) Wet dirt+ wood=rot. There are woods that stand up better than others- out west it's mostly redwood, cedar or pressure treated. Old growth redwood, which you can't get, had a high resistance (the heartwood, anyway), modern stuff less. Most people avoid pressure treated with vegetables.
corollary; do NOT use a fence as part of your planting. It's a very expensive repair, and the fence is in most cases owned jointly by you and your neighbor (even if you built it). This is pretty basic stuff, lumber yard employees should be able to make recommendations for your area.
2) wood expands when it gets wet, shrinks when it dries. This makes joinery for outdoor construction quite problematic, as joints tend to loosen up and become increasingly vulnerable. Mitre joints are particularly bad, as the wood will expand in width but not in length, changing the angles. An expert carpenter can mitigate the effect some, but it's always there.
3)End grain is particularly susceptible to both absorbing moisture and admitting decay causing organisms. Sizing with a dilute waterproof glue or polymerizing oil will help some. The butt joints suggested for a basic box are particularly vulnerable- far better to add a 4x4 post and bolt through with carriage bolts.
4) In a raised bed, the interface with the soil matters. Going from the sort of loose soil used in raised beds to the denser soil below is difficult for roots, and in some cases water; there needs to be an interface if plants are expected to root past the bottom of your box. Landscape fabric will not stop burrowing animals; you need hardware cloth or gopher wire, and it needs very careful installation.
5) Lumber in contact with soil is an invitation to termites, who can invade your home and other structures.
 
gandalf March 4, 2021
Slightly off topic, but what are you doing now in terms of garden prep? I am weeding these days before I put down some composted manure to till into the soil; and over the past 2 weeks have started tomatoes and peppers under a grow light, with the hope that I can get them in the ground and/or some large pots by April 15 (the average last-frost date where I live) or shortly thereafter. I have some collards in the ground that overwintered, and my garlic has pushed up through the mulch quite a good bit.
 
Smaug March 4, 2021
I usually count mid-February as the beginning of spring here, so anything I'm doing now is late. I have tons of plants in containers, which I'm behind in root pruning; bonsais and roses , especially, are already breaking dormancy; I make my own potting soil, which requires sifting the fall/ winter compost (mostly caught up with that). Most of my veggies are up- even in winter, they mostly spend days outside; I've started leaving some out overnight. Still harvesting peppers- mostly poblanos- from last year's plants; they often live over winter here. I had a piquillo for at least six years; finally just got tired of it and got rid of it; they're very good tasting, but small and the skins are very thick; they have to be peeled, so I tend not to use them that much. Bulbs have been blooming for some time here; the daffodils are getting old, but various iris, Africans of various sorts etc. coming along. It's been pretty dry, so soil can be worked and beds prepared- something I don't do much anymore because of gophers. I prefer prepping beds in fall, but who gets around to it? Feeding everything in sight. I've found that calendar gardening is less and less dependable with the changes in climate going on- certainly what's going on here is pretty unconvincing as a winter..
 
Jo March 4, 2021
Exactly. All the right points. My heart sank as I read through this, thinking of how disappointed some gardeners will be with their nice looking raised beds.
 
Author Comment
Camryn R. March 8, 2021
Thanks for taking the time to share this. This article is in no way a fully comprehensive guide to raised beds—as you've pointed out, there are many nuances gardeners should take into account when deciding what design is right for their needs.
 
Smaug March 8, 2021
Well, I'm not sure you can really dismiss this stuff as nuances; suitability and proper use of materials is pretty basic to the design process, and some of these things are putting at risk more than just your planting bed.
 
Vivian K. March 15, 2021
I agree w. all of the points made in previous comment. Raised bed are a necessity on our Sonoma County property because of the rocky adobe soil. My husband and son built four beds, each more than 60 sq. ft. using concrete blocks. We also have gophers so bottom of each bed is covered with gopher wire topped with some soil excavated from the property topped with fabric and then layers of compost and garden soil. The beds are about 4 feet wide--enough to allow two rows of plantings while allowing me to reach the middle from each side. Adobe is great for growing produce once it's heavily amended and my beds are currently producing large crops of broccoli, chard, kale, leeks, spinach, and radishes. The beds may not be deep enough for tomatoes and corn, which I will plant in another large bed that we dug in the ground last spring. That bed is now planted with onions, celery, snap peas, brussels sprouts, chard and kale, most of which will be replaced with tomatoes, beans, zucchini, and corn when the soil warms up. Last year's tomatoes were unbelievable--especially the Sweet 100s and Brandywine.
 
Gail D. March 15, 2021
Ha ha ha ha ha! I have two deck boxes (window boxes) on the rails of my front porch. One still has a clump of green onions from last Summer. So far it hasn't thawed enough to do ANYTHING (and I've got a little rake and trowel sitting in there). Also, did a walkaround of my yard and so far, no sign of crocuses, much less daffodils or tulips. AWFULLY slow this Spring.