There’s something so appealing about a neatly-laid out raised bed garden! Everything looks so fresh, so well-tended, so intentional. But raised beds aren’t just the prettiest way to grow your veggies: they’re also a fantastic opportunity to improve your garden’s yield, deal with problematic soil, and keep weeds to a minimum.
Raised Bed Garden Benefits
I first started raised bed gardening after two years of trying unsuccessfully to keep my fluffy, springtime soil from packing into hard-as-rock dirt by midsummer. I really didn’t expect to see such a huge improvement in my garden’s performance that first year—that was a delightful surprise! My soil stayed soft and workable all season long and my vegetables grew vigorously in their new beds.
Raised bed gardening is growing in popularity for so many reasons. Elderly gardeners (or those who just prefer to put less strain on their backs) love building taller raised beds and gardening from a comfortable standing or sitting position. Raised beds allow you to decide which position is most comfortable for you, and tailor your garden to meet your needs.
These beds are easier to maintain throughout the growing season as well. No more crawling along a scraggly row of veggies trying to catch up on your weeding; raised beds have fewer weeds to begin with because pathway weeds can’t easily infiltrate. And you can easily keep them weed free by building your raised bed soil over gardening fabric or a layer of black plastic.
I even discovered that raised beds helped to deter dogs and chickens from scratching and rolling among the plants!
In the springtime, raised beds allow you to start planting sooner, because they’re up out of the mud. They’re also easily covered with clear plastic or glass to form a quick cold-frame for hardening off your seedlings. The soil also warms up quicker than the surrounding ground because it’s higher and looser.
Most vegetables will take to raised bed gardens with ease, but here I’m sharing 17 that absolutely revel in the more structured space a raised bed provides.
One of my favorite greens to grow, kale keeps producing well into the cool autumn. In a raised bed, you can easily cover your hardy kale to make cold frames and extend the growing season. We use old box-framed windows for this.
If you live in an area with mild winters, this could keep your kale growing strong all winter long.
2. Swiss Chard
Chard loves the supportive atmosphere of a raised bed. It’ll keep the soil loose and nutrient dense, allowing big growth and bright, tender stalks.
Grow Swiss chard with kale and keep both going well into the cold weather!
For two years, my carrots were pathetic. The quickly packed-down soil stunted them. They had no room to grow, but raised beds gave them the loose soil they needed to really shine.
Build a tall, deep bed for long carrots, or a short, low bed for tiny, French carrots. Enjoy harvesting healthy plants without all the knobs and stunted roots that conventional beds often produce.
Like carrots, parsnips need nutrient-dense soil that’s loose enough to grow long and strong in. Give these sweet roots a raised bed of rich soil and watch them grow happily all season long.
Heavy feeders that grow and spread like weeds, tomatoes are the ultimate raised bed crop. They hate weeds and need a lot of support to keep them safe from slugs and other pests.
Build a four-poster raised bed, (tall posts on each corner), “fence” it in with twine for the tomatoes to vine around, and weave your young tomatoes through the twine.
Cucumbers do so well in raised beds because they need well-drained soil. Given the right conditions, they’ll produce the tender, crunchy, fresh-tasting cucumbers we dream about all winter long! If the soil stagnates, the cucumbers toughen up.
These vines also tend to take over their beds, but put them in a raised bed all their own, and give them something to trellis on and you’ll keep those crazy, climbing cukes under control.
All onions favor raised beds because they can be guaranteed plenty of nitrogen and well-drained soil, but graceful leeks seem to turn raised bed gardening into an art.
Build a long, low raised bed and plant leeks as a beautiful border in your garden. They’ll take up almost no space, provide such a lovely visual divider, and give you a lovely harvest of tall, thick leeks for autumn soups and stews.
We all know zucchini can be an overwhelming crop. It’s the joke of summer gardens: everyone has too much zucchini coming in all through the season. Putting it in a raised bed won’t keep zucchini’s yield to a manageable size, but it will keep zucchini plants from taking over your garden.
The wide leaves and spreading stems will have their own space. Don’t try planting anything else in your zucchini bed (except maybe horseradish) and you’ll still have to make zucchini bread for every autumn potluck.
Head lettuces look beautiful in raised beds. Absolutely beautiful. Balls of bright green, dark green, red-tipped green dotting deep brown rectangular beds with neat corners—nothing could be prettier.
Lettuces also love the warmer soil and fewer weeds of raised beds! You can direct seed your lettuces earlier and keep them growing later in the season.
These easy-to-grow roots love the loamy soil you can just pile into a raised bed. Mine share their space with horseradish—another hardy rot crop that loves feeling pampered in our low beds’ friable soil and low-weed environment. The raised bed keeps the beets in a soil designed especially for them: well drained and not too heavy on the nitrogen. They also keep the horseradish from spreading all over the garden!
11. Salad Greens
Growing salad greens like arugula and spinach in a raised bed is ideal, especially if you have chickens or dogs. They’re just out of easy reach for intrusive pets, and the bed walls provide protection from scratching and digging. Like lettuces, delicate salad greens also love raised beds’ warmer soil temperatures and well-drained soil.
Another plant that just wants to take over your garden! Trellis your melons in a taller raised bed to keep them contained, and safe from slugs while they grow. You’ll also be saving your slow-ripening melons from rotting on the damp earth by giving them a more controlled and well-drained environment.
Growing melons in raised beds also allows you to really focus on the soil. Melons need consistently warm soil to thrive. Plant them in taller raised beds (over 6” high) and be sure to bulk up the soil with lots of organic matter.
Everyone says radishes are easy to grow, but in reality, radishes are moody, picky little roots. They hate over-rich soil, soggy conditions, dry conditions, hot weather, and clay soil. They’re practically screaming for a raised bed all their own!
Build a perfect raised bed for your picky radishes. Fill it with perfect soil and keep it well drained (but not too dry) and you, too, will be able to tell everyone that radishes are easy to grow.
Mix in lots of straw with the soil in your potato raised bed and you’ll be amazed at how easily the rootlets grow into fat potatoes.
One of the unexpected darlings of raised bed gardening, these tubers love everything about growing in raised beds. Harvesting potatoes is also a joy when you can just sit beside your bed and tug at roots instead of bending over and following a row.
15. Broccoli Raab (Rapini)
Broccoli likes to be grown whereever you have space for it, but broccoli raab is smaller. It gets overwhelmed by larger plants and loses nutrients when it has to share space. Grab an old wooden trunk and give your rapini a home of its own.
This delicious vegetable can be started earlier in the season in a raised bed’s warm soil, and since it’s such a quick-growing plant, even in the north, you’ll have time for a few plantings.
This is another crop that practically demands to be planted in a raised bed. Celery is picky. It needs a long growing season, rich soil, and consistently damp soil. Your celery will thank you for all this attention by becoming sweeter and more tender than you can even imagine.
17. Bok Choy
A quick-growing, heavy feeder, bok choy longs for rich, loose soil and hates sharing space with weeds. A raised bed is an ideal place for this vegetable, especially in northern gardens. This cool-weather crop can easily grow well into the late fall with just a little bit of protection from the cold.
Raised beds give gardeners countless different building options. Low or high? Wood or stone? Wide pathways or tightly packed rows? And they give us vegetable options as well, because they help us build our gardens into places that can sustain a wide variety of crops.
Give it a try! Throw together one or two tall beds and grow something new.