what to put in raised garden beds

what to put in raised garden beds

Up to date September 21, 2021

Many starting gardeners plan to develop their greens in raised beds — and for good purpose! These of us who’ve been raised mattress gardening for years testify to how a lot we get pleasure from it! What’s so nice about gardening in raised beds?

You're reading: what to put in raised garden beds

  • Higher harvests
  • Much less weeding
  • Sharp aesthetics
  • Higher Management Over Soil Fertility
  • Makes use of Much less Water & Mulch
  • Simpler to work in
  • Much less compaction = extra airspace in soil = more healthy crops

What’s to not love?

elevated raised bed

However as in any enterprise, errors are frequent. The issue with making errors in a raised mattress backyard is that they aren’t simply corrected. I do know this first-hand!

Had I often called a starting gardener what I do know now a decade later, I might have accomplished many issues otherwise. However fortunately, I’ve been capable of appropriate a lot of my very own raised mattress errors. Others I’ve realized to dwell with, however now I do know!

From each my very own expertise and from listening to the experiences of others, I’ve compiled these errors raised mattress gardeners generally make. (Quantity 4 is the largest one, in my view.)

In case you’re planning a raised mattress backyard for the primary time or including to your present beds, this text will provide help to keep away from most of the errors I and others have made.

And in the event you’re already gardening in raised beds however are seeing lackluster outcomes, you might discover some the reason why right here.

*some hyperlinks under are affiliate hyperlinks, which suggests in the event you click on via and make a purchase order, I obtain a small fee.

1. Raised Beds are too huge.

One of many largest advantages of raised mattress gardening is avoiding soil compaction. You need to have the ability to work in your backyard beds with out stepping on them.

Most freshmen don’t notice this, however wholesome soil wants air as a lot because it wants water! However when soil is trampled upon by both machines or foot site visitors (or each!), the air between the soil particles is pushed out.

To keep away from this drawback, we need to make each effort NOT to step on our backyard beds. This promotes a greater soil construction and in the end more healthy crops.

But when the width of your raised beds prevents you from working all sides inside your attain, you’ll find your self stepping contained in the mattress, defeating this main advantage of a raised mattress.

For that reason, raised beds ought to by no means be greater than 4 toes huge.

Most individuals can comfortably attain into the middle of a four-foot-wide raised mattress with none drawback. However as I’ve experimented with completely different sizes, I’ve discovered a three-foot-wide span is much more snug for me.

three foot wide raised bed

When selecting the width of your raised beds, you additionally should contemplate the location of the mattress. I made the error of placing two 4′ by 12′ raised beds up in opposition to a fence. Not solely did weeds and grass develop between the beds and the fence, however I couldn’t attain into the again of my mattress to simply plant, weed, or harvest.

raised bed by fence
See how shut the electrical fence is behind these raised beds? Massive mistake.

This was such a ache we ended up shifting the fence.

Be taught from my mistake right here: in the event you situate your raised beds subsequent to a fence, I like to recommend the width not exceed thirty inches. This manner, you’ll be able to work your mattress from one aspect solely with ease.

jalapeno peppers in raised bed
This mattress is 2.5 toes huge, which makes it simple to work from one aspect if needed.

2. You don’t plan for irrigation.

Except you need to hand-water your raised beds with a watering can (and that can get previous fast), you should plan forward of time how you’ll irrigate the beds.

First, I like to recommend inserting raised beds close to a water supply. Whether or not you plant to hand-water your beds or use a extra environment friendly system of soaker hoses or drip traces, having water simply accessible will prevent a lot time and headache.

In my early years of gardening, I positioned a garden sprinkler close to my raised beds to overhead water my backyard. However this proved solely inefficient. Not solely did overhead watering waste water, but it surely additionally exacerbated most of the fungal ailments frequent in my space like early blight and powdery mildew.

(Right here’s a extra thorough dialogue I had about backyard irrigation with Joe Lamp’l.)

Now I like to recommend soaker hoses or drip irrigation for raised beds. For just some raised beds, soaker hoses will carry out simply wonderful.

raised beds with soaker hoses

However you probably have various raised beds, or in the event you backyard with a mixture of raised beds and floor beds like I do, establishing a drip irrigation system works nice and prices much less.

Right here is an affordable soaker hose in addition to a drip irrigation starter equipment much like what I take advantage of in my backyard.

3. Wooden (or different materials) is Unsafe.

Although you’ll find a myriad of hypothesis concerning the security of sure pressure-treated wooden to be used in raised beds, most specialists agree on this: don’t use pressure-treated wooden manufactured previous to 2003.

Strain-treated wooden manufactured previous to 2003 comprises chromated copper arsenate, and also you don’t need that close to your meals backyard.

What sort of wooden must you use in your raised mattress?

Find out: Jardinería

If you wish to construct your raised beds out of wooden, these are the three commonest choices:

  • Strain-treated pine
  • Untreated pine (or comparable)
  • Rot resistant wooden (like cedar)

Strain-Handled Wooden

First, let’s speak about pressure-treated pine. Full disclosure, that is what I take advantage of. Fashionable strategies of pressure-treated wooden use safer practices than these used previous to 2003.

After researching this matter at size, I consider any threat in utilizing pressure-treated wooden for raised mattress gardens is minimal. Copper is the primary substance utilized in fashionable pressure-treated wooden, and copper is definitely a nutrient crops want in small quantities.

Subsequently, in my view, if sufficient copper leached into the soil to pose a well being hazard, we’d see it first within the well being of the crops. The crops themselves would undergo. In my decade of gardening in raised beds utilizing pressure-treated wooden, I’ve by no means seen a plant undergo on this manner.

However what about leaching that does happen? The research which were accomplished (and admittedly, there are few) on pressure-treated wooden in raised gardens have proven a bigger quantity of copper leached close to the wooden itself than is current in the remainder of the soil. Although it’s a minimal quantity, I plant my crops a number of inches from the aspect of the mattress.

Utilizing pressure-treated wooden in raised beds is unquestionably a private alternative. Personally, I select it as a result of I can construct extra raised beds and develop extra meals with the identical quantity that I might pay for a costlier rot-resistant possibility (extra on that under).

However, not everybody will come to the identical resolution. If that’s you, what are your different choices?

Untreated Pine

Some gardeners select to bought untreated pine, primarily as a result of it’s inexpensive than different untreated wooden.

Although I’ve by no means used this, from what I perceive, the lifetime of untreated pine may be very brief — maybe a number of seasons. This probably will depend on the quantity of rainfall your location receives, as rainfall will contribute to the breakdown of the wooden.

This can be an possibility for you in the event you plan in your beds to be momentary and also you need to get monetary savings.

Rot-Resistant Wooden

Many individuals select to make use of rot-resistant and chemical-free woods akin to cedar or redwood. These beds are actually attractive, and so they can final a few years.

The issue? All good issues come at a worth. Once I ready to construct my elevated raised mattress, I in contrast the worth of pressure-treated wooden to cedar, and the cedar would have value me (on the time) two to a few occasions as a lot.

For one small mattress, the distinction in worth could also be value it, particularly in the event you nonetheless have considerations about pressure-treated wooden. For me, although, and the scale of the mattress I used to be constructing, the distinction in worth was within the a whole bunch of {dollars}, if not nearing the hundreds.

One factor to notice — the worth and out there of rot-resistant woods will depend on your location. You will have a prepared supply of rot-resistant wooden close by, so it’s value trying into and pricing your self.

Low-cost Raised Mattress Possibility

In case you’re in search of low cost raised backyard beds, you would possibly need to repurpose wooden that was utilized in a unique capability. Maybe you have got an previous fence you’re taking down, for instance. To be secure, simply be certain that it wasn’t manufactured previous to 2003.

My brother-in-law known as me when he took down his previous fence and requested me if I wished the wooden. Earlier than I took it, I confirmed the fence was solely 10 years previous. Then, I repurposed that previous fence into three new raised beds. You possibly can see my technique of constructing these raised beds from that previous backyard fence right here.

Different Supplies for Raised Beds

Today gardeners are getting progressive and are utilizing quite a lot of supplies to develop their vegetable gardens. When you all the time need to keep away from previous tires or railroad ties, listed here are secure choices to think about:

  • Raised Beds constructed from metal panels (like Jill Winger’s raised beds right here).
  • Metallic raised beds (like Birdies raised beds – get 5% off with code JOURNEYWITHJILL)
  • Rocks (like Elliott Homestead makes use of right here)
  • BPA-free polyethylene pre-built raised beds (from Good Concepts, Inc. – get 10% off with code JILL10)

These are just some choices, however as you’ll be able to think about, the choices for the best way to body your raised mattress are just about infinite. Simply make sure you do your analysis and select a cloth you’re snug with.

4. Raised Mattress Backyard Soil Lacks Vitamins ⬅

Inadequate vitamins in raised mattress soil might be the commonest mistake I see. However while you get it proper, the greens in your raised beds will thrive.

Many soil mixtures will work properly with raised beds, however some don’t. Potting soil, for instance, drains too shortly. Except your raised mattress sits on concrete or rocks (and thus acts extra like a container), skip the potting soil. You want extra substance than what potting soil can present.

Potting soil additionally usually lacks vitamins to maintain a raised mattress backyard all season. Raised beds aren’t containers that want fixed fertilization; as a substitute, raised beds operate finest when stuffed with natural, nutrient-rich soil from the start.

One other warning: Once I carried out a raised mattress soil take a look at, I discovered that crops grown in a raised mattress stuffed solely with bagged soil grew a lot slower than these beds with some quantity of natural materials blended in.

What’s the finest soil for raised beds?

Personally, I’ve discovered one of the best success in my raised beds through the use of a mixture of native soil (or topsoil) and natural materials like compost, however relying on what you have got out there and your finances, you have got many choices to select from.

The doable mixtures of raised mattress soil can get overwhelming, particularly in the event you’re on a finances. That’s why I put collectively a free information to assist any gardener — on any finances — uncover the perfect soil mixture for them. Obtain the free information by clicking under.

5. Raised beds are positioned too shut collectively.

Working in raised beds may be the enjoyment of any gardener. That’s why you need to create essentially the most snug working space as doable.

To do that, you need sufficient room to have the ability to work between the beds comfortably — two to a few toes at the very least. I made this error by solely permitting a few foot between my raised beds, and it’s all the time a problem weeding, planting, and harvesting from these edges.

One factor all of us neglect is that not all of our crops will keep within the traces of our raised beds. Many crops spill over the sides (like squash and pumpkins), and others simply develop so huge they attain over the walkways.

Read: how much manure to use in vegetable garden

With all that in thoughts, then, while you place your raised beds on the bottom, guarantee you may get your backyard cart or wheelbarrow in between them. When you have got sufficient house to do this, you’ll be able to sit a stool beside the beds for a cushty working space.

6. Pathways develop up with weeds and grass.

There are few issues extra irritating than going out to my backyard, planning to get pleasure from a while working in my raised beds, and discovering the grass has grown up beside them.

Weed and grass overgrowth all the time has the potential to harbor snakes, and overgrown grass causes my legs to itch. My husband and I each attempt to maintain the world trimmed with a weed eater, however with three acres to keep up, generally we are able to’t all the time maintain it tidy.

In case you don’t need to maintain mowing or weed consuming the grass and weeds round your raised beds, place a barrier down earlier than the weeds and grass emerge for the season.

Choices for the Paths Round Raised Beds

To maintain the world round your raised beds tidy and straightforward to work, you have got a number of good choices. Listed below are just some:

  • cardboard packing containers
  • sawdust
  • pine needles
  • gravel

Cardboard packing containers

Damaged down cardboard packing containers with a light-weight layer of mulch on prime works nice! However an excellent simpler methodology I’ve begun to make use of is rolling brown kraft paper between beside my beds and protecting with mulch.


My husband can also be a interest woodworker, so I unfold sawdust between my beds. I don’t suggest sawdust as mulch as a result of it could retard plant progress. However that makes it an amazing barrier the place I don’t need nuisance grass and weeds to develop. The hot button is to put it on thick — 4-6″ is good.

Pine Needles

Another choice is pine needles in the event you occur to have pine bushes close by. Pine needles are my favourite for pathways as a result of they break down extra slowly than different supplies. Like different natural mulches, lay it on thick, and a layer of cardboard or kraft paper beneath helps as properly.


Although costly, a layer of gravel is an possibility many gardeners select, particularly when their whole raised mattress house is in a single space. Like the opposite choices, I like to recommend placing down a barrier first. With out it, grass and weeds will develop between the gravel, and also you don’t need to should pluck weeds out of gravel (belief me).

What about panorama cloth?

I do know we’ve all been tempted to make use of panorama cloth to line our pathways (whilst a layer beneath a few of the choices above), however I don’t suggest it. In my expertise, weeds will finally get via anyway. In case you do select a extra everlasting barrier, I like to recommend a greenhouse-grade plastic sheeting as a substitute of permeable panorama cloth.

7. Neglecting to Mulch Raised Beds

Mulching your raised beds is simply an vital as mulching in a floor backyard mattress, and maybe even extra so.

Although weed stress is often much less in raised beds, it isn’t non-existent. Weed seeds from native soil discover mild and sprout. Seeds floating within the wind and deposited from birds love the wealthy soil of raised beds. For these causes, mulch will dramatically scale back your weeding time.

However extra importantly, mulch regulates the soil temperature and retains moisture — each essential wants of raised beds within the sizzling summer time.

One large benefit of raised beds is how the soil heats up faster within the spring, permitting for quicker planting. However it additionally heats up because the season goes on. Mulch helps regulate that temperature greater than naked soil would.

Mulch additionally regulates moisture. In moist seasons, it acts like a sponge, absorbing extra rainfall. In dry occasions, it retains moisture from evaporating within the warmth of the summer time. You will see your mulched raised beds a lot more healthy than these with out it.

I desire to mulch with wooden chips, and on this publish, I discuss concerning the execs and cons of 4 frequent forms of mulch — all of which I’ve tried in my raised mattress gardens.

Replace for 2021: listed here are 9 natural mulch choices you’ll be able to contemplate as properly.

Hopefully, by avoiding these 7 errors, you may be in your approach to an gratifying raised mattress gardening expertise with plentiful harvests!

Do you have got something so as to add to my record?

Extra Raised Mattress Gardening Assets

The best way to Troubleshoot and Revive a Raised Backyard Mattress

In case you’ve had issues together with your raised mattress soil, this publish explains what the issue may be and the best way to repair it: Issues with Raised Mattress Soil

3 Raised Mattress Soil Mixes Examined

What’s the finest soil mix to fill your raised beds with? I put three frequent raised mattress soil mixes to the take a look at, and the outcomes could shock you.

What do I Placed on the Backside of Raised Beds?

Whenever you’re constructing your raised mattress, must you line it with something? How are you going to fill it within the least costly manner and nonetheless present fertile soil? This publish provides your choices: What do I placed on the underside of raised beds?

Raised Mattress Backyard vs. In Floor Backyard

Jill Winger of the Prairie Homestead talks with me about why she modified from an in-ground backyard to a raised mattress backyard to assist others determine if it’s proper for them on this publish.

FAQs of Raised Mattress Vegetable Gardening

I’ve obtained many follow-up inquiries to this publish, and I addressed the commonest ones right here: Raised Mattress Gardening FAQs: 9 Frequent Questions

Raised Mattress Soil Choices Free Obtain

Don’t neglect to obtain my free Raised Mattress Soil Choices for any finances information under:


I talk about every of those seven errors in much more element on this episode of the Newbie’s Backyard Podcast. Hear right here or in your favourite podcasting app.

7 Common Raised Bed Gardening Mistakes

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