15 Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening
Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned gardener, raised beds make gardening easier, increase production, and look great. If you’ve been on the fence about making the investment, here are 15 benefits of gardening in raised beds that will convince you to take the leap!
When we moved into our house 8 years ago, I was enamored with the huge yard. As an avid gardener, I couldn’t wait to reduce the lawn and expand the beds for flowers and vegetables.
After clearing the weeds, I began digging to plant a rose. About a foot down, I hit 3 layers of thick black landscape fabric. After cutting through it (I was already working up a sweat) I reached pure sand. Then I hit bedrock.
Planting one rose took me two hours of work.
To make this yard the veggie and flower paradise I’d dreamed of, I’d need another option. While I’ve since conquered the inground borders, raised beds saved me from giving up on my yard when I didn’t have the time to make the ground usable.
I started with wood beds, but they’re beginning to show their age. For my next step, I plan to replace them with Birdies Garden Beds, which come in a variety of heights and colors in long-lasting, food-safe galvanized steel.
Are you wondering if raised beds are for you? In this article, I’ll talk about 15 benefits of raised bed gardening. Raised beds changed the game for me, and they might do the same for you. Let’s dig in!
Control Your Soil Health
When you’re working directly in-ground, you deal with what’s there. The soil may be too acidic or alkaline. It may be straight clay or sand. Erosion may be an issue. Your soil might be deficient in organic matter and nutrients. Or, in my case, you may have layers of landscape fabric and rock to battle with.
Raised beds allow you to create the ideal environment for growing your desired plants. Simply fill them with quality soil and top off with compost, then find out what your plants crave.
Want a blueberry bed? Increase the acidity with elemental sulfur. Want to grow sweet potatoes? Fill a deep bed with lots of loose, nutrient-rich soil.
Enriching in-ground soil is possible, but it can be a long process. Raised beds allow you to manipulate the nutrients easily and tweak the growing conditions so your plants will thrive.
If you struggle with heavy clay soil, you know it can get waterlogged. Very few plants will thrive sitting in soggy soil, which leads to rotted roots. If wet soil is a problem, raised beds make adding amendments like sand and perlite easier to keep water and nutrients mobile.
Overwatered plants are a top cause of gardening failures. Raised beds allow for optimal drainage, allowing water to flow freely to roots and out the bottom. The higher the bed, the better the drainage.
Alternatively, those with lots of sand may struggle with retaining moisture. Completely dried-out soil with no ability to hold on to moisture will lead to desiccated, thirsty plants. For dry soils, raised beds are easy to enrich with compost and mulch to retain moisture.
Lengthen your Season
I sometimes tell myself I should really take up skiing instead of gardening. In my zone 5b garden, I’m lucky to get four months of growing time. Snow is likely during the other eight months, and freezing temps are guaranteed.
If you live somewhere with a short season and have caught the gardening bug like me, any way to prolong your gardening time is a win. You can plant earlier in the season with raised beds because the soil will dry out and warm up more quickly.
In the fall, raised beds make it easy to protect your crops from early cold snaps with frost cloth or floating row covers, and you may even be able to extend your growing season with a cold frame. If you add a couple of weeks on both ends of the season, you’ll soon have an extra month of growing time!
Give Your Body a Break
While I’m not ready to say I’m old just yet, a day of in-ground gardening has started to require a recovery nap. My knees hurt from kneeling on the ground, and my back hurts from constantly bending over. My everything feels the strain.
Raised beds, especially those you don’t have to kneel to reach, can transform the gardening experience. The elderly and those with limited mobility can sit in a chair to tend plants. You can easily harvest your veggies without getting a kink in your neck.
Digging to put in new plants is a breeze in my raised bed garden’s loose, friable soil. It makes gardening more accessible. I have a few different bed shapes, and the pathways between them allow me to reach all my plants easily.
I occasionally think about adding more in-ground planting areas, but the ease of the raised beds wins every time. If you want to make your garden easier on the body, check out this Rotational 6 in 1 garden bed with a variety of flexible configurations for your space or these tall and stylish beds that require no special tools to put together.
Reduce Weed Pressure
Who loves weeding? If you didn’t raise your hand, raised beds could give you more actual gardening time by reducing weed pressure. Those that spread via rhizomes (I’m looking at you, Bishop’s Weed!) won’t get into the beds, and the new, weed seed-free soil you use to fill them isn’t already populated with a new generation of weeds.
The soil is less compacted, more nutrient-dense, and can be intensely planted. All of these factors make raised beds less hospitable to weeds.
I kid you not when I say the area around my raised beds and the lawn is filled with dandelions. I garden organically and avoid pesticides and herbicides for the health of my kids, pets, and the ecosystem. The dandelions never grow in the raised beds! Turfgrass, the most significant weed pest of all in my in-ground beds, doesn’t encroach on my flowers and berry bushes the way it does in-ground.
If a stray weed does show up, it’s easy to spot and pull, unlike the back-breaking work of managing them in the ground.
Put Away the Tiller
Tilling is still commonly practiced in agriculture and some home gardens, where it loosens compacted, nutrient-poor soil and aids in the removal of existing plants.
Unfortunately, tilling also damages soil structure and disturbs the microorganisms that help create healthy soil. Raised beds, easily amended yearly by adding a new top layer, make tilling completely unnecessary.
I don’t pull roots out of my raised beds. Instead, I clip off spent plants at dirt level, leaving the roots behind to decompose, nourishing and aerating the soil. In the fall, I cover the beds with chopped leaves. In spring, I refresh with a layer of compost and mulch.
Every year, the layers of nutrient-rich material you add on top of your raised beds will further enhance and refresh soil health, allowing the structure and microbial activity to improve over time.
Create a Neat Appearance
I’m a fan of the cottage garden style, with lush, overflowing borders, flowery meadows, and meandering paths. While this look delights me, it can look a bit…messy… to others.
I let much of my yard grow into a managed, beautiful chaos, but raised beds keep the kitchen garden looking neat and tidy. If you love organized spaces and clean lines, raised beds will make you happy. If you’re relaxed about order but don’t want to alarm the neighbors, raised beds will make you happy.
Raised beds naturally create a structured area surrounded by intentional pathways. They look crisp and neat, making creating an aesthetically pleasing garden easy. If your lawn is weed-filled, dried out, or patchy, raised beds filled with healthy plants are an immediate, beautiful upgrade.
Give Pests the Boot
Raised beds make it easier to keep pests out of your garden. Tall beds will slow down slugs and deter rabbits. Voles are impeded when the bottom of beds are lined with a reliable mesh. Dogs can’t raise their legs to pee on your peas.
If flea beetles and whiteflies plague you, it’s easy to throw row covers over your veggies when they’re nicely tucked into a raised bed. While raised bed gardening won’t cancel out pests, it puts a big dent in the problem.
Keep it Flexible
Raised beds provide you with maximum flexibility. Are you currently renting? Pick portable, durable, raised beds that can go with you anytime you move. Your raised bed setup can be temporary, allowing you to garden wherever you are.
Try small raised beds for apartment balconies or pocket-sized patios. If you plan on moving, don’t waste your time investing in an in-ground garden. Raised beds will keep you gardening in any setting.
If you do have a permanent residence, raised beds help you avoid root competition from large trees and shrubs. You can place them wherever there is the most direct sun (6-8 hours is best) and make the best use of the space you’re working with.
Avoid Compacted Soil
I have to step on my soil to get to the middle of my deep, cottage-style pollinator garden to weed and divide plants. Walking on the soil, especially when it’s wet, leads to compaction.
Pathways between narrow beds make it easy for you to reach your plants. No foot or pet traffic is smashing your plants and compressing the soil. The dirt stays loose, allowing air to circulate and water to flow through. Problem solved!
Contain Aggressive Plants
Have you ever planted mint? Kale? Oregano? If so, you know that these nutritious and pretty garden favorites can become bullies. Mint will take over your yard before you know it’s happening, kale reseeds everywhere, and oregano I don’t even want to talk about. Growing herbs in raised beds, as well as other aggressive plants, helps keep these plants contained.
Don’t let fear of their aggressive nature deter you from growing these great plants. A raised bed will keep them in check! I have a bed of different types of mint combined with equally robust giant sunflowers. In the ground, they would slowly take over.
Raised garden beds keep aggressive plants manageable while making their abundance look lush and purposeful rather than out of control.
Avoid Contaminated Soil
I’m currently volunteering with an afterschool gardening club to create a garden at a local high school. The day before we began transplanting our starts, grounds maintenance sprayed Roundup all over our future garden site.
The students were understandably upset, but fortunately, all was not lost. In situations like these, raised beds can save the day.
While we can no longer plant in the ground, we can still use the site and keep our plants out of the contaminated soil. We are using large containers and donated raised beds to grow instead, filling them with fresh, safe soil.
Whether your garden is on an old orchard site recovering from pesticide use or in any area exposed to environmental pollutants, raised beds make it possible to garden safely where you are. Remember to conduct a soil test if you are concerned you might have contaminated soil, and use raised beds if there’s any question, especially for food gardens.
Increase Your Production
Increased yield is one of the major advantages of raised bed gardening. Raised beds allow you to plant intensively, with more plants per square foot. You won’t have to walk on beds to harvest them, eliminating the space usually reserved for pathways and rows and avoiding soil compaction.
You get healthier plants when you can actively influence the soil quality and nutrient availability in a raised bed. Root development is stronger in the loose, oxygenated soil, and production increases.
Studies indicate that raised bed growing can increase yield by 30-50%, depending on the crop and growing medium used. In a small home garden, this makes a big difference!
Facilitate Crop Rotation
Diseases and pests bank on their host plants growing in the same spot from year to year. Diseases can remain in the soil or on decomposing plant matter, ready to strike again the following spring. Pests lay eggs or pupate in the soil, overwintering to feed on their favorite plants next season.
Crop rotation prevents pests and diseases from getting too comfortable in one spot by changing up what you plant in each area.
If you previously experienced tomato blight, you can still grow your favorites in a new spot where they can start fresh. Always avoid planting species from the same family as were planted last year— no new nightshades in the old tomato bed.
What does this have to do with raised beds? They make it easy to track and rotate your crops. Just jot down what you planted in each bed to help you organize each year’s rotation. I don’t do anything fancy and stick with a simple sketch of my beds and their layout.
If I planted tomatoes in bed A last year, I might put in squash this year. I aim to switch it up for 3-4 years, beginning the process again with tomatoes afterward. Soon you’ll have an easy rotation to follow that you can keep going indefinitely, making your garden less hospitable to pests and disease.
Raised beds conserve water. Many lawn sprinklers water the garden indiscriminately, watering weeds and bare areas as much as your veggies. Raised beds allow you to concentrate your water directly to your desired plants at the root level where hydration is most needed.
Drip irrigation is more water-wise than sprinklers and hose wands and is easier to set up in a raised bed. While raised beds may dry out more often, the water you use drains well, and retention is improved via organic matter and mulch.
Did you know that overhead watering can lead to fungal diseases? Fungal spores thrive on damp foliage, and these fungal diseases can spread more readily when the weather is cool and damp. When your garden is planted in a raised bed, the elevated plants make aiming at the root level easier. All in all, raised beds are a smart choice for reduced water usage.
Raised beds make gardening easier and more productive. They give you the flexibility to garden in whatever space you have. They extend the season, increase yields, cut down on weeds and water waste, and reduce pest and disease pressure.
If these benefits aren’t enough to convince you that raised beds are the way to go, check out how your back feels after your next day of gardening. Imagine not having to bend deeply or kneel to weed. Sound dreamy? I thought so. Investing in raised beds will keep you gardening regardless of your future limitations.
Raised beds are an all-around win. Go ahead and get (or build) some. You’ll be glad you did.