Whether you’re a beginner gardener or have been gardening all your life, raised vegetable garden beds are a popular gardening option and it’s easy to see why. In this article, I’ll cover the top 10 benefits of a raised vegetable garden as well as answer some FAQ’s around the topic. So if you’ve been thinking about whether raised vegetable garden beds are right for you, I encourage you to read on.
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1) Fewer Weeds
Let’s face it when weeds take over your carefully planted vegetable garden it can be incredibly disheartening! Weeds are actually the number one reason why gardeners give up on their gardens, so it’s a good idea to eliminate this possibility from the outset.
When setting up your raised garden, create a weed barrier in the bottom before filling it with soil. If the garden is on existing grass, lay a layer of thick cardboard over the area first to kill the grass and weeds (or weed spray if you prefer). Before filling with soil, line the bed with newspaper, cloth or weed mat that you can find from your local garden centre. I would avoid using non-porous plastic as it can retain too much water as well as discourage beneficial bugs and worms coming up from the ground.
2) Plenty of Material Options
There are a variety of different materials available to build raised garden beds – concrete blocks, timber, logs, stone, bricks and corrugated iron just to name a few.
Depending on the look you are going for, traditional garden boxes are made from timber. If you do choose this option it’s important to choose timber that’s NOT been tanalised (wood that hasn’t been ground treated). The reason for this is timber treated chemicals (e.g. Copper Chromium and Arsenic) can be absorbed by soil and plants, posing a risk to your health. Pine, macrocarpa, redwood and cedar are all popular timber options.
3) Less Back Breaking
Not having to get down on the ground to pull weeds is a big plus of raised bed gardening. Depending on your health and flexibility you can build a raised garden as high as you choose.
When planning the width of the garden bed, you want to be able to access the whole garden from the edges without having to step inside. If it’s too wide then you risk compacting the soil too much when walking on it. Keeping soil light and loose allows it to hold more air and enables vegetable roots to grow with less effort. Depending on your reach, the ideal width for a raised vegetable garden bed is around 1 metre (and as long as you would like).
Depth is also important. Depending on the quality of soil below your garden, you want a minimum depth of 150 – 300mm. If there’s poor soil below, aim for a deeper bed to maximise the amount of good soil available for the roots of your plants.
4) They Look Neat
Raised garden beds tend to look a lot neater than garden beds (even when a little unkempt!). Using different materials and creating straight lines and shapes creates a much cleaner look in a garden.
Raised garden beds in a potager garden are designed to be both beautiful and functional with the focus being on planting in a way that looks pretty but is still highly productive.
5) Better Soil
One of the greatest benefits of building a raised vegetable garden is that you’re able to control the soil quality. This is the time to invest in the best soil you can afford as the better the soil the better your plants. A good 50/50 mix of compost and potting mix (or garden soil) is a good starting point (or 1/3 compost is fine too). You can also purchase purpose made bagged mixes from your local garden centre such as a Vegetable Mix if you wanted to add more to the soil composition.
If you’re planning large or multiple garden beds then a more cost-effective option is to get a trailer load of soil/compost from your local landscape supply company. They will also be able to give you good advice on the best mix to choose from.
6) Good Drainage
The soil in raised garden beds drains well and doesn’t pool or sit for long in one place. During wet months this is especially important when constant rain and flooding can cause plants to rot. Even in heavy rain, raised vegetable beds drain much better than planting straight in the ground.
7) Soil Temperature
Another great benefit of being raised is an extended planting season. The soil in raised beds is warmer than on the ground so you can plant crops earlier than you would if you were planting directly in the ground. It also makes the garden less susceptible to frost which can damage seedlings.
8) Designed for Convenience
Provided there is adequate sunlight, you can build a raised vegetable bed to make the most of almost any space. You don’t need to build it in a traditional rectangle shape either; maximise the space you have with various shapes and sizes!
Grassed areas are not the only option when picking a spot for a raised garden bed. Building on any material is possible including stone pathways, bark, concrete or a deck. This makes it possible to choose the sunniest spot on your property to try and ensure your garden receives at least 6hrs of sunlight.
9) Easier Pest Control
Of course, there’s no way to eliminate pests completely, but a high raised garden will deter the likes of rabbits and other animals who like the look of your gorgeous vegetables. It’s also not difficult to create a frame over a raised bed to cover with netting or frost cloth. This will deter white butterfly and other insects from munching on your brassica plants (cauliflower broccoli, cabbage) in the winter.
10) Easy Irrigation
When building a raised vegetable garden bed you’ll want to choose a location that’s convenient when it comes to watering or irrigation. Your vegetable garden will need watering regularly so it’s important to ensure there is a tap or water supply handy.
Drip irrigation hoses are a great way to ensure regular watering. Wicking is also a genius idea to implement when first setting up garden beds. Plants are watered from the bottom up by installing a large water reservoir in the base of a wicking bed. Check out some of the great YouTube videos on wicking beds.
After creating your raised vegetable garden, they really are no more expensive than a garden bed. Plus they offer a whole lot more options as you’ve just read. If you keep replanting plants once one crop has finished, it’s possible to enjoy fresh, seasonal vegetables all year round.
What’s the difference between a Raised garden and a potager?
A potager is a French kitchen garden that incorporates several key design principles including raised vegetable beds, pathways and a key focal point. So raised beds are part of the design that makes up a potager garden. You can read all about potager gardens in my article on why potagers make the best raised vegetable gardens.
Should I mulch my raised vegetable garden?
Mulching is a great way to minimise weeds in a raised garden. You can mulch around new seedlings with straw (not hay as it can contain weed seeds), leaves or any other organic matter. Just be sure to leave a centimetre or two around the stalk of each seedling to avoid wet mulch potentially rotting the base of the plant.
How deep should a raised vegetable garden be?
A good standard bed height is 450mm which will allow you to grow a variety of vegetables. It is also a good seat height which will be more comfortable when weeding and doing garden maintenance.
As a minimum, a raised vegetable garden should be 150mm-300mm to ensure roots have room to grow.
What size should a raised vegetable garden be?
There is no rule as to what size and shape a raised vegetable bed should be. The only guideline is that the width shouldn’t be wider than your reach; you want to be able to access your plants from all sides without having to step into your garden.
A good guideline is to use geometric shapes – rectangle, square, triangle and L shaped are common shapes. The best thing to do though is consider the space you have, the amount of sunlight it receives and then plan your gardens accordingly.
Another thing to note is the width of your pathways or space between the beds. Ideally, you want to be able to fit a wheelbarrow through so paths should be around 1m wide.
Where can I buy raised vegetable gardens?
If you don’t fancy building a raised vegetable bed from scratch, there are many kit set options available. These come in a range of different material options; from corrugated iron to macrocarpa and everything in between depending on size and budget. Vegepods are also a great controlled environment perfect for growing veggies in a small space.
I would recommend visiting your local hardware or gardening store first then jumping online to compare prices.
About the Author
Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.