What Is a Raised Bed, Anyway?

Learn all about what a raised bed garden is, including what it's made of, how big it should be, what kind of soil to put in it, and more.

A raised bed garden can mean many things! In general, though, it's when a planting bed sits on top of your existing soil. It can be anywhere from just a few inches tall to waist-high (or higher), and can be made of many different materials. Usually, there's room left around the outside of each bed so you can walk around it (not in it), which allows the soil to stay loose and fluffy instead of compacted. That's important, since roots grow best when the there's room for air and water to move easily through the soil.

Most raised beds have frames, but what that frame is made of is entirely up to you. Traditional raised bed frames are usually wood or sturdy plastic, but they can also be made with stones, cinder blocks, bricks, patio pavers, broken concrete pieces (from that recent sidewalk renovation), corrugated metal, straw bales—you get the picture. In other words, you can create one to match your own style and landscape, using purchased or reclaimed materials. You don't even have to do much in the way of building if you don't want to, as raised beds also come in kits. (Intrigued? Check out our customized Raised Garden Bed Kits. Just choose your favorite collection and everything you need to get growing—easy-to-assemble raised bed, soil, plants, and plant food—will be shipped right to you.)

Whatever it's made of, the ideal raised bed is narrow enough (usually 4 feet or less) that you can reach into the center from either side, though it can be whatever length you want. Beds can be different depths, too, and the depth you choose depends on what you want to grow—for example, deep-rooted plants like miniature fruit trees and tomatoes need more soil than shallow-rooted plants like lettuce and pansies. Raised beds can also be elevated on legs, so you don't have to stoop to care for your plants.

A raised bed doesn't need a bottom, though it can be helpful to have one made of fine mesh hardware cloth if you have issues with gophers or other tunneling critters. They can have solid bottoms as well (perfect for decks and patios), but need a fair number of drainage holes so any extra water has somewhere to go.

Native soil or topsoil should never be used in a raised bed garden, as it's simply too heavy. Instead, it should be filled with bagged soil like Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil, which is the perfect weight and texture for growing big, bountiful plants. The following spring, give your old raised bed soil new life by mixing in Miracle-Gro® Refresh™ Soil Revitalizer. When added, following label directions, it helps restore soil structure, renew water retention, and replenish depleted essential nutrients.

As for what grows well in a raised bed, the options are nearly endless! It's certainly a terrific space in which to grow edibles like the many varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs offered by Bonnie Plants®.

You'll want to keep your new green raised bed buddies nourished and happy, too, by feeding them with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Plant Food starting a month after you plant. This superb combination of Miracle-Gro® soil and plant food plus Bonnie Plants® will turn you into a raised bed super-fan by delivering 3 times the harvest over the growing season (vs. unfed) when you follow directions!

Ready to try raised bed gardening? You've totally got this!