Raised Beds Comparisons

Raised Beds Comparisons

Raised Bed Comparisons

So you want to garden–Yhea!  You’ve started on an amazing adventure!  Gardening is so rewarding for all ages, abilities, and cultures.  One of the easiest ways to begin gardening is to purchase raised beds-or make your own….Raised beds are perfect for keeping slugs/snails, rabbits and gophers out of your garden.  They provide a place for your veggies, herbs, and flowers to grow in soil that you can amend to keep healthy, they decrease soil compaction, can be relatively inexpensive, and can keep out those pesky weeds!!!  Another great advantage is that the soil in raised beds warms up faster in the spring, so you can get to planting those seeds earlier!   Keep in mind when planning your raised bed area, you want to be sure you have a water source readily available, and that your beds are close enough to your house/school/ or other facility to be easily accessible.   When planning your raised bed garden you also want to consider making sure you have at least 24” between beds for ease of access.  Another thing to consider is what those pathways are made of especially if you have wheelchairs or those with mobility issues to consider.  Please refer to a previous blog I wrote specific to accessibility in the garden at this link for specifics. There are many options available for these beds, so let’s take a look at some of the more popular ones.  If any of the videos are helpful to you, be sure and subscribe and let them know.   **Don’t forget to fill your bed with the appropriate type of soil (which I’ll discuss in my next blog)

  1. Building a raised bed by Stacking concrete blocks.

Pros:  Concrete blocks provide flexibility for the size, design, and height of your raised bed.  If you have a small, thin space, or perhaps a space that is unconventional, they could be a good choice.  They are quick to build, help remedy rocky or poor soil, are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and will definitely be around for a long time to come.  According to: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/starting/cinder-block-garden-beds.htm

modern cinder blocks are safe and you do not need to worry about chemicals leaching into your soil.  There are 2 types of concrete blocks- concave edge-(stretcher blocks) and pillar blocks, (square flat edge on one side).  You will need both of them and perhaps rebar (depending on the height of your bed).   The holes are an added bonus on the sides as you can use them for planting, or for adding curved PVC pipe to cover and protect your plants.  If you have beds over 18” high and they are in a poor draining area, you might consider putting a layer of crushed rock or pea gravel in the bottom of the bed to improve drainage.


Check out these two links….They provide excellent “how to”  videos with step by step instructions for learning how to build a 4×8 raised bed 3 bricks high-or (3) 1”  block high beds, and have great ideas for using these types of beds..  https://offgridworld.com/12-amazing-cinder-block-raised-garden-beds/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqFY_X0ltTc -This video is easy to follow and has really interesting info about zucchini plants I was not aware of as well!

Cons:  If you are planning a garden where participants might have mobility issues, you might want to consider the hard surface of concrete blocks as a safety issue.  Also keep in mind that a wheelchair would not be able to roll up the bed (even if it is higher) straight on, as they need an opening for their legs to fit into.  Aesthetically, they provide a more “hard scape” design to the garden, and might not fit into a “nature scape”.

2:  Wood beds:  These are by far the most abundant type of beds you might see.  You can just nail your wood together in a rectangle or square, and voila you have a garden bed.  However, you want to be sure you use the right kind of wood, and that your corners are sturdy enough to stand the test of time.  There are corner options available for this including concrete corners with 4 slots (called planter wall blocks), so that  you can simply slide the wood in to form your bed.   The best wood for wood raised beds is cedar or redwood, which are both resistant to moisture, rot, and termites. However, if you don’t mind remaking the beds in a few years, you can also use wood pallets- which are available for free at many places.   You can make these beds as high as you would like, depending on your materials, and they definitely provide a more natural look to the garden.

Depending on the height, harvesting your garden is easier as well, saving your back and knees much wear and tear.  Wooden raised beds are readily available in kits at most department and hardware stores (keep in mind the wood choices) which have a garden area, online, and many of your local garden centers, but they are also easy to build on your own!  Be sure you kill the grass (you can use heavy boxes for this) and break up the ground underneath your raised bed, so that roots can extend beyond the bed if needed.  

You can find videos on building a wooden raised bed further down the page.  

Many veggies (lettuce, spinach, radishes, etc)  and flowers (alyssum, sedum, porticula, etc) can grow in shallow (8”-12” deep) beds, but ideally you want them to be at least 18”-30”. Most vegetables require about 10” of growing soil for roots to be healthy.   Be sure to consider the width of your beds.  You might want to keep them at 2-4 feet for ease in planting and harvesting.    Garden paths around your beds, should be at least 24” wide for ease of access.   Here’s a few websites with information for step by step instructions for building a wooden garden bed. 

From free wooden pallets: https://greenlivingideas.com/2016/03/04/raised-bed-garden-solutions-for-organic-gardeners/ 


My favorite!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VptBIJ_Y-o 

Cons:  Wooden beds do not last as long as concrete block, as the wood can rot or become infested with insects.  Also If they are built too wide, it is difficult to access the plants within them.  As with all garden planning, be sure you leave a good walk pathway between your beds for wheelbarrows and such.  Of the 3 beds mentioned here, wooden raised beds might be the most difficult to deconstruct, in the event you have to move your garden.  

3:  Elevated beds.  

Pros: Just like wooden beds, elevated beds can be made from a variety of materials wood, plastic, or perhaps even metal.  They are perfect for those with and without mobility issues, as there is no need to get up and down, do a lot of bending, and reach extended areas.  Open legged elevated beds  are the best type of beds to use if you are working with persons in wheelchairs, as they can access the entire bed.   **See the before mentioned blog for more info regarding wheelchairs and these types of beds.  Most elevated beds are 24”-48” high depending on the height of the gardener.   Once your bed is built, you will want to use landscape fabric in the bottom and sides of the bed to promote drainage, and keep the soil contained. I have used Home Depot’s elevated beds before and was very happy with them.  You will find a good resource for purchasing raised beds and elevated beds on this website:


For building your own elevated bed with materials list–You might want the legs longer? :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=af7Oy 

Using cedar fence boards:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vQI0EDk8eg 

Cons:  Because of the ease of access and requiring a bit more materials, these beds are typically more expensive.   As mentioned before, you will find most raised beds, including elevated ones, in plastic, compost, and metal.   Personally, I do not like to use plastic or composite type materials in the garden.  I like to keep my garden as natural looking and sustainable as possible.  I try to be conscientious of my carbon footprint and utilize materials which more naturally decompose or are recyclable.   

I hope you have found this information helpful, and keep in mind you can use many, different kinds of containers for gardening even if you have small spaces.  With good soil, drainage, sunlight, and lots of tender loving care, you garden can flourish!  

 2/2/22. Happy Gardening!   Kathy Gooch, Exec Director at https://lessonsfromthegarden.org/ 

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