Raised Garden beds have become more and more popular, especially for back yard gardeners who have limited space. Raised beds have many benefits over traditional growing, especially in newly broken ground areas. These beds give plants an immediate deep, rich, loose soil to reach their roots down into. These beds can bring the plants closer to you, so you don’t have to bend as far to reach them. They can eliminate the need to till the ground every year which actually disrupts the soil microbiome that is already established, making it have to start all over. Raised vegetable garden beds can also give the garden a clean straight line look that is easy to keep, which is very beneficial in tiny areas.
Let’s take a look at different types of material that can be used for raised beds and the cons and benefits of each.
Wooden raised beds
Wood is probably the most common material used for raised garden beds. Probably because it is easy to use and readily available and gives an organic look that a lot of people prefer. Where you live will determine what type of lumber you might use for your raised bed. Where I’m from in Texas, western red cedar is the most commonly used lumber for raised garden beds. If you are from California, you may use redwood, while other parts of the country may use Doug Fir. Some people have used treated pine, which I strongly urge against because the chemicals used to treat the wood may cause harm to you since they will leach into soil and be taken up through the roots of the plants and therefore into your food.
I have seen and used beds built with logs from the Ashe Juniper tree’s that are prevalent, almost invasive in the Texas hill country. These beds are a little harder to build since the logs are not uniform, but they give a real neat cottage feel to your raised beds. Using local trees as borders for your raised beds if you can, is a great way to recycle/reuse the material that is around you and save trees from other areas that are being cut down in large numbers for building. Also, it is much cheaper than having to buy wood.
The biggest con to using wood is that it won’t last. Certain types of wood will last longer, but because you have one side constantly touching wet soil and because it is an organic material, it will break down through natural processes. The thicker the wood you use the longer life span you will get out of your raised bed, but it is more expensive.
Wood raised beds are my favorite way to build raised beds. How about you?
Concrete and Rock Raised Beds
Concrete is used all over the place, maybe more than I like but can be used to grow your garden. There are different forms that concrete can be poured into but the easiest and cheapest form for raised vegetables beds is using cinder blocks. I have come to really like using cinder blocks for gardening because they are easy to install and the holes in them give you extra space to grow flowers, bulb vegetables like onions or garlic, and smaller plants like strawberries.
I’m not as crazy about the look of these as I am the functionality, but they do a great job and will never rot!
Of course if you have the money you can build forms and bring in concrete mix and build solid walls for your raised bed. This is usually seen in front of store fronts or as planters built by the city to help beautify it. I have also seen large concrete pots used but these are very expensive and heavy to move.
Another option is using rock. You can use what is just lying around or buy some from a landscape store. Rock makes great raised beds and can save you a lot of money if you use what is on your property or someone else’s. You may even be able to do someone a favor by removing rocks from their property that they don’t want.
Metal Raised Beds
Metal raised beds can look very beautiful and have become more popular especially as an architectural design for yards. I have not personally used metal for a raised bed, mainly because I’m not crazy about the look, but also because I worry about the heat that can build up on them in the summer and become uncomfortable to work around, and create a hotter atmosphere for the palnts, especially in the Texas heat.
The use of metal water troughs is very common and are very neat and easy ways to do raised bed gardening. However a downfall to using these are that over time the metal will rust and deteriorate. You could use galvanized metal but just like treated material the chemicals used to do the galvanization can leach into the soil contaminating your food. One of the main reasons I grow my own vegetables is to know exactly what is in my food and using material that has chemicals that can potentially leach into my food is a no go for me. I would totally use these troughs for flowers though!
Composite Raised Beds
Composite material has become more and more popular over the past couple of years, especially for decking. What a lot of people don’t know is it can be a great alternative for raised beds. Composite material is made of recycled wood and plastic, combined together through processes that create nearly waterproof material. Some are actually completely waterproof. One brand that makes a composite material that is completely waterproof is MoistureShield Decking company. You can use their decking to make raised beds or their fascia boards, which are thinner and actually make great planter boxes. They are also slightly pliable and can be made into shapes other than squares or rectangles.
The downside to composite material is that the upfront cost is very high, but the longevity of the material, along with its ability to keep it’s color pay off in the long run.
Building your raised garden beds
There are multiple options to use when it comes to building raised vegetable or flower beds. Whether you use wood, concrete, metal, composite material or anything else you can think of to build your bed you can benefit from having eye-catching beds that give your plants deeper soil for healthier root systems and therefore healthier plants that you can enjoy for food or flowers. The choice is yours as to what you wan to use, whatever it is, have fun, be creative and remember you can never have to many plants!