22 Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening {And The BEST Alternative}

There are significant benefits of raised bed gardening over in-ground gardens that everyone needs to seriously consider before making a decision. This article will discuss those benefits in depth, along with of the pros and cons of this method, the real disadvantages — and what the best alternative is for those of you who cannot build the raised bed gardens of your dreams just yet. Raised bed gardening is truly the best method for most situations, and I’m going to explain exactly why.

A beautiful raised bed gardednwith 6 light green raised beds, arched trellises, and a wooden shed. The garden is full to the brim with many growing things.

In This Article

  • All of the benefits of raised bed gardening.
  • The cons and true disadvantages of raised bed gardening.
  • Why we chose metal raised beds over wood or other materials.
  • How to make a FREE raised bed garden with no skills, tools, or building materials required using the Charles Dowding method — yes, really. This is not clickbait. This is the best alternative if you think you can’t afford raised beds right now or can only buy a few at a time.

Note: the pictures in this article are temporary as we’re currently building out our NEW annual raised bed garden on the homestead. They will be replaced with our own garden photos this summer! If you’re curious, follow me along on Instagram for regular updates and the behind-the-scenes reality of our new homestead and raised beds.

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22 Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening

These are all of the benefits of raised bed gardening followed by the cos and disadvantages — and your best raised bed alternative.

1. Better Soil

One of the most obvious benefits of raised beds gardening is the better soil.

Since you need to fill the raised beds, you have complete control over what goes into them and how the soil is amended and treated throughout the seasons.

2. No-Tilling or Digging

No-till/no-dig gardening methods are MUCH better for the health of your garden plants — but its also much better for the health of the planet to leave soil as undisturbed as possible. Not only can you utilize these methods inside of your raised beds, but the soil and earth beneath your raised bed garden is undisturbed and left protected too.

3. More Growing Space

The efficiency of raised beds means you can really concentrate on maximizing your growing space. You can also concentrate nutrients (through compost and other amendments) easier which can make intensive growing (like the square foot gardening method) MUCH easier.

See my article on the best compost for raised beds.

4. Less Weeds

In combination with no-dig, no-till gardening methods, your raised beds will become easier and easier to weed, especially after the first year.

Check out my article on what you should put at the bottom of raised beds for more information and a step-by-step guide on sheet mulching.

As you’re filling them with your own organic material and soils — less or no weed seeds either.

Beds should ideally be mulched with materials like compost, straw, hay, grass-clippings, or other natural materials (see my article on the benefits of mulching and the best mulches for an organic veggie garden) and any weeds that do pop out can be quickly pulled.

In a raised bed it is also easier to spot what is a weed versus what is a wanted plant emerging.

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5. Higher Yields

The biggest benefit of raised bed gardening that I can see is the higher yields you can get from it in less space. You can truly maximize your raised bed efficiencies, control your soil quality and organic matter fully, and even grow enough food to feed your family for the year if that is your goal.

It is more difficult to do this in the ground. And even if you’re on a homestead like ours, with plenty of growing space, higher yields in a smaller space means less work and maintenance for you — which should be a goal.

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6. Easier To Grow Vertical

The best way to maximize your growing space is to grow up — and this is easier in raised beds and much neater too.

There are so many vegetables that you can grow vertically, and vertical gardening has benefits for plant health and yield too. Things like squash, cucumber, and more can be trellised in an attractive way that is easier to harvest too.

We are installing beautiful arched trellises between all of our beds.

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Three dark grey raised metal beds growing squash and other vegetables with a greenhouse in the distance.

7. Safer For Pets & You

Have dogs? They are less likely to urinate or defecate on your vegetables if they’re off the ground. Your cats are less likely to use the garden as a litter box and all of your pets are also less likely to nibble on anything toxic, or just something not meant for them to eat — like your precious tomatoes which they can’t appreciate anyways.

8. Keeps Unwanted Critters Out

Above-ground critters, like wild rabbits that will eat your tomatoes and other vegetables, are also deterred by the high sides of a raised bed.

But one big surprise for novice gardeners is the fact that wildlife like groundhogs, moles, and voles will dig underneath the soil of your gardens and eat your vegetables (especially root crops like carrots) from underneath.

This can be a devastating lesson to learn come harvest and it has happened to many gardener friends of ours. One of the BIGGEST benefits of raised bed gardening is that you can lay down cheap metal hardware cloth underneath each raised bed and stop this from ever happening.

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9. Keeps Chickens Out

One of the biggest complaints and questions of chicken keepers is on how to keep their chickens out of their delicious vegetable gardens. Well, raised beds work beautifully. Last year, when we had a temporary straw bale garden at the new homestead, our chickens and ducks did not disturb a single plant.

You may have much smarter chickens that will hop up onto your beds though, so this is not necessarily foolproof.

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10. Less Pests & Disease? Maybe.

Gardens and pests go together, they inevitable. And disease will happen too.

But as we’re planting off of the ground, and controlling conditions inside the bed, it is potentially much easier to ward off pests and diseases that can cause serious headaches for you.

It may be tougher for slugs to enter your garden beds, especially if you put into place barriers and traps, and if the paths are hard, dry wood chips.

The diseases that cause tomato leaves to curl or other plants to wilt may be staved off too.

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A wooden raised garden bed outside with wood chip paths. The plants are starting to emerge.

11. Better For Your Physical Health

Toiling on your hands and knees over a plot of dirt is not that great for your back, knees, and joints. It will take a toll on your body eventually and make the beautiful act of gardening more of a chore and less of an enjoyable hobby you look forward to.

Although you should be stretching regularly to counteract all of this, a raised bed garden is simply much better for your body and health.

12. Better Drainage

In areas (like our property) prone to flooding, and standing water, especially in the spring from snow melt, but also after heavy rains — a raised bed garden is really the only choice for getting the best and healthiest crops. An in-ground garden just doesn’t work. Raised beds will always sit above the standing water and thus the plant roots will never rot. This also lets you plant earlier.

13. Better Water Retention

Conversely, if your soil is super sandy, you will have much better water retention in a raised bed filled with the appropriate material. Things like peat moss (or the more sustainable leaf mould or coconut coir) help with this too, while still providing excellent drainage.

14. Warmer Soil Earlier

As the soil level in a raised bed is above the ground, it thaws and warms earlier and faster. This means you can plant faster and earlier too thanks to the soil temperature.

Some people will utilize hoop covers to achieve this in early spring.

15. Warmer Soil Longer

Your growing season can be extended much further as the soil is warmer for longer in a raised bed.

Add hoops with row covers, or other methods of trapping heat, and you can grow food throughout the winter months in cold climates too. Your raised beds can become mini greenhouses.

16. No Soil Compaction

As there is no foot traffic and you’re not stepping into your raised beds, there is no soil compaction to deal with.

Soil compaction can negatively affect roots and plant growth.

Keeping beds constantly planted and mulched (you should keep bare beds mulched too) will also keep soil from compacting.

A single white raised bed full of vegetables starting to grow.

17. Aesthetic Advantages

One of the biggest benefits of raised bed gardening is the aesthetic advantages. This may not be important to you, but I care very much about having a beautiful space. Raised beds can look much prettier and neater on your land. They can be configured in many different ways.

You can really let your creativity shine in how you design and arrange your vegetable garden and I find this deeply rewarding and satisfying as a gardener and homemaker who is passionate about feeding my family the best food possible while also creating a beautiful environment for all of us.

18. Can Be Temporary (Portability)

If you need to, you can change the location of your raised beds. If you’re renting, you may find that raised beds are a better option. And although it’s a bit of a pain, you can take your raised beds with you whenever you leave.

19. More Placement Options

With in-ground beds and vegetable gardens, home gardeners may be limited by the geography of your house and land. But raised beds can be a great way to put growing spaces in so many places — even on top of concrete, concrete blocks, stone, and gravel.

20. Avoid Contaminated Soil

Are you dealing with contaminated soil? Raise beds are the obvious solution as you won’t be growing in anything toxic.

21. Accessibility

Raised beds come in all sorts of heights, including waist-high so that you never have to bend over or get on your knees to plant and dig if you don’t want to.

We found that 17 inches was the best option for us. But for seniors, or those of you with other physical challenges, taller raised beds can make gardening easy. And higher beds can be filled with logs and wood chips below the soil/compost, making it as affordable as the lower beds.

22. Grow ANYTHING

Anything can be grown in a raised bed because you control the environment and soil inside of one. So if you’ve had trouble with any crop — you can master it inside of a raised bed. Grow corn, peppers, strawberries, garlic, herbs, perennials and annuals, and never worry about changing soil conditions or flooding.

Two DIY wood raised beds just starting to sprout seedlings.

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Disadvantages of Raised Bed Gardening

  • Cost of the raised beds themselves.
  • Cost of soil, as you probably have to buy it.
  • Soil may warm too fast in the spring for some crops.
  • Work to setup. Raised beds may be less work over all, but setting them up and filling them involves some real labor.
  • Accessibility of soil and compost.
  • Soil will dry out faster, especially if you do not keep it adequately mulched and protected. An irrigation system (soaker hose) will help.
  • Raised beds require more watering as the soil drains better.
  • Leaching from bed material depending on what material you choose.

Why We Chose Metal Raised Beds

Last year, short on budget and time, we built a disastrous, useless straw bale garden. It was a waste of time and money.

My sister-in-law’s garden was the first place I saw metal raised beds. And they were absolutely stunning. Beautiful sage green in color.

After doing our own research we realized that metal raised beds were a superior choice to wood or other materials in a way that went far beyond looks.

Wood is prohibitively expensive, especially cedar, wood can harbor pests which will come out at night to harm your garden, wood rots and degrades after a few years, and honestly — I think that wood looks great the first few years.

After that it starts to fade and warp and can sometimes look kinda junky depending on the construction and wood used.

My first raised bed garden was a wood plot in my community garden and I had these issues.

Other materials like plastic just don’t look the greatest to me, potentially leach contaminants after some time, and I’m just not interested in adding to our massive microplastics issue more than I need to.

Metal raised beds last for 20+ years, are cheaper, safe, rust-proof, pest-proof, and just look better to me.

After lots of research, we have made a decision — these are the raised beds we will be installing in Spring of 2023. Follow me along on Instagram or right here on the blog for all the designing and planning and planting.

9 in 1 Metal Raised Garden Bed Large From Vegega

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How To Make FREE Raised Beds (Really!)

Okay, so you see the many benefits of raised bed gardening but you can’t afford it this year.

So what do you do?

Well, first things first, what I recommend, is that you take advantage of sales and savings, and start with buying 1 or 2 — or however many you actually can afford right now.

There is no reason why you have to go all out and get 10 massive raised beds and arches like we did in one go. Just design your garden layout with the future in mind and start where you can.

But just start! Don’t let analysis paralysis stop you from growing food and gardening!

NEXT you look into the easiest way to make a raised bed without actually having a physical raised bed, and that’s by using the Charles Dowding method.

Charles Dowding props up 4 pieces of wood planks with rocks, and then adds his compost into it. The wooden planks are temporary and kept in place for 4 months before being removed.

There is no building, skills, tools, or materials required and anyone can do this with little effort. Okay, you need 4 wooden planks (and some free rocks), but you can find those anywhere or buy them for next to nothing.

Watch this video to see how he does it:

Start with however many raised beds you can afford and then build these temporary structures side-by-side in your annual garden.

As you add more of the raised beds you want, you can simply place your raised beds over top of the nutritious soil you have built up and keep going.

This is the best alternative I have ever seen and I highly recommend this if its right for your situation.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of raised bed gardening are truly many and I firmly believe they are the best and most efficient way to create a garden that is both highly productive, efficiently organized, and able to provide you with maximum yields from healthy plants.

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