Raised beds can be as humble or creative as you like using brick, stones, or upcycled materials. A raised bed planter can be a temporary or permanent fixture for plants to settle in and mature. The initial cost of getting your raised bed set up will depend on how elaborate you make it. You can make raised beds cheaply or for free if you craft raised beds from old planks or used bricks. Once created, raised beds are no more expensive than traditional gardens to maintain.
Depending on whether you want it to be a permanent or temporary bed will determine the foundation material you use. Some typical materials used for the base of your raised garden bed can include cardboard, newspaper, concrete, straw, mulch and wood scraps, leaves, grass clippings, rock, burlap, wool, landscape fabric, and plastic. If you have a large raised bed, you might want to line the bottom with large stones, plastic bottles, or straw so the water drains and doesn't pool or make the soil soggy. Plan for drainage holes at the bottom of your raised bed planter.
Get Inspired by These Raised Garden Bed Design Ideas
You don't need to line a planter—brick or otherwise—however, it is recommended because it keeps burrowing animals away from your plant roots and allows for good drainage while not allowing the soil to drain away.
What Is a Raised Garden Bed?
Raised bed gardening involves growing plants in soil that is higher than the ground. You can most commonly do this with some type of enclosure or frame made of wood, stone, bales of hay, or even repurposed material like old dressers.
Benefits of Raised Garden Beds
Raised beds have a lot of benefits, such as better soil drainage, bringing the planting depth up, so there is less stooping down, and temporary structures can be removed if you change your mind about keeping them. Here's a list of the advantages:
- Easier on a gardener's back
- Looks nice
- Fewer pest invasions
- Improved drainage
- Fewer weeds
- Better soil temperatures
- It can be temporary or permanent
- Less concern about soil contamination
01 of 31
Custom-Designed Raised Beds
Raised bed gardens can fit just about any space. With creativity, you can create an entire garden sitting area. This multi-level raised bed incorporated simple straight lines by Peter Donegan Landscaping. It comes complete with a potting shed and lamppost. Add a bench section, like the one at the end of the front bed, and you have seating for the outdoor dining area. As the plants fill in and the wood weathers, this garden will have a natural, rustic appearance.Continue to 2 of 31 below.
02 of 31
Built-In Red Brick Raised Beds
Red brick raised beds can enhance the design of your homestead or backyard. When making a raised bed, instead of going in-ground, place a bed where the sun or shade is the best for the plants you want to cultivate.
Bricklaying is not for everyone. It takes a lot of patience and precision to get it right. Choose bricks that will survive well in continually wet conditions. Most red brick raised beds are built using mortar to keep the walls intact.Continue to 3 of 31 below.
03 of 31
Grow Bag Raised Beds
Another great advantage of raised bed gardens is that they sit well above the underground frost line, so the soil warms up faster in the spring, and you can start planting sooner.
The material used for your beds makes a difference here: metal holds more heat from the sun. But grow bags are a good option as they don't freeze solid, and the soil in them defrosts rather quickly. Also, it is a great way to provide the heat needed to grow Mediterranean plants like sage and lavender. Grow bags may seem too easy, but within minutes you could have a great raised bed garden.Continue to 4 of 31 below.
04 of 31
Herb Spiral Garden
Spiral gardens are a popular permaculture technique. They increase the amount of usable planting area without taking up more ground space in your garden. You can easily build them out of stone, brick, or wood, or simply pile up the soil.
The unusual shape and swirl of plants make for an eye-catching focal point in your garden. Herbs are the plants of choice in this photo, but you can grow anything using the spiral design.Continue to 5 of 31 below.
05 of 31
One of the easiest ways to create raised bed gardens is by using animal feeding troughs. No assembly is required, but be sure to drill some drainage holes in the bottom before adding the soil. The metal gives the garden an industrial look and conducts heat, warming the soil in the spring.
You can use new or used troughs, depending on availability and your desired look. Depending on what you choose to grow, the plants may need a bit of extra water during the hottest part of summer.Continue to 6 of 31 below.
06 of 31
Square Foot Raised Beds
Square foot gardening involves dividing the growing area into small square sections, typically 1 foot per square. The aim is to produce an intensively planted vegetable garden or a highly productive kitchen garden. This can be measured and divided with various materials, including netting.
Using a raised bed for growing vegetables allows you to control the soil quality and prevent it from becoming compacted. Vegetable roots can grow unimpeded. The beds do not have to be very high off the ground to benefit from being in a raised bed. Even 6 to 8 inches can be enough.Continue to 7 of 31 below.
07 of 31
Flower Boxes as Raised Beds
Raised beds have very few limits. If you have a sturdy fence, you can attach wooden boxes as small raised beds, like window boxes, on your fence. These can look good all year long, with annuals filling in as perennials stop blooming. During the winter holidays, you can also decorate these areas with seasonal greens and decorations as a unique decor idea.Continue to 8 of 31 below.
08 of 31
Cinderblock Raised Beds
There are many ways to build raised beds out of recycled materials. Concrete blocks or cinderblocks are one of the most popular. Some older cinder blocks may contain fly ash, the "cinders" that remain from burning coal. It is still debated whether this is safe to use around edible plants. You can avoid the ash issue if you get new blocks made out of concrete. The new blocks are substantially heavier than older cinder blocks but are OK for a vegetable garden.
Be careful, though—concrete blocks leech lime. Lime can raise the soil's pH. To be safe, use plants that thrive in alkaline soil. These sturdy succulents and sedums are hardy and not too fussy about soil, so they're a good choice for these planters.Continue to 9 of 31 below.
09 of 31
Hoop House Raised Bed
With a little pre-planning, you can create a multi-season vegetable garden. Raised beds give you more flexibility to control the growing conditions in your garden and make it harder for animals to get at your vegetables. If you build a hoop house on top of a raised bed, you can be prepared for any weather, handle frost, and give yourself a headstart in the spring. This lightweight netting is sturdy enough to hold a cloth covering in case of frost.Continue to 10 of 31 below.
10 of 31
Raised Bed Border
Raised beds are a terrific option for yards with steep slopes. By building up the beds at their lowest sections, you can create the illusion of a level garden. Make your beds wide enough so you can still have a layered flower garden with a border of shrubs framing the back of the garden and plenty of room for perennials that will provide colors, textures, and edge-softening drapes. This garden in Italy features a succession of raised beds edged with rocks to make the most of a steep slope location.Continue to 11 of 31 below.
11 of 31
Space Saving Design ideas
Gardeners with limited space can often use raised beds designs creatively to make the most of what they have. This clever design puts a wooden raised bed flower box (made of reclaimed materials) on top of the trash bin storage area: sprucing up what's usually a drab spot and bringing beauty to a utilitarian functional area. The string lights and decorations add a personal touch.Continue to 12 of 31 below.
12 of 31
Raised Bed Arbor
Vertical gardening allows you to grow more plants without taking up more space. Using a trellis or arbor with a raised bed makes it even easier to harvest vegetables and keeps them neater than sprawling on the ground. This raised bed with zucchini plants shows that your design can be as simple as creating a basic frame by tying two dowels (or bamboo poles) together and tethering them. Other crops may benefit from stretching garden netting across the trellis structure.Continue to 13 of 31 below.
13 of 31
Lasagna Garden Raised Beds
Lasagna gardens are layered gardens that don't require digging, but the term has come to mean using materials other than soil beneath the topsoil layer. In this case, wooden raised beds are constructed, filled with cut wood and grass clippings, then have a layer of topsoil added. This reduces soil's heavy weight and expense if your plantings don't produce a deep root system.Continue to 14 of 31 below.
14 of 31
Milk Crate Garden
Repurpose milk crates and make your raised bed portable. This milk crate-raised bed is easy to set up, and you can configure it into any shape you like. If you need your plants closer to your kitchen or you want to place them in a shadier spot, pick up the crate and go. These containers already come with drainage holes. And, when you need to change the soil, you can lift the crate, dump the contents in the compost pile, and start again.Continue to 15 of 31 below.
15 of 31
Raised Bed and Container Design
Maybe you have brick raised beds and want to make them feel fuller and more decorative. Placing containers below the level of the brick wall allows you to play with different levels that draw the eyes up and down and allow for an almost unlimited variety of sizes and shapes. You can even plan your planting to provide four seasons of visual interest. Containers can also be moved to change the design any time you want.Continue to 16 of 31 below.
16 of 31
You can make a living wall filled with plants from an upcycled packing pallet, or lay a pallet flat on the ground for a raised bed with natural partitions between the slats to keep your plant growing orderly. Pallets can often be sourced free from businesses that get shipments and don't have a carting service to take them away.Continue to 17 of 31 below.
17 of 31
Repurpose an Old Table
Styles change, or sometimes you want to give your room a makeover. Perhaps an old wooden kitchen table or coffee table is destined for the garbage heap. Think again about tossing it out. Turn the table legs or the entire table into your next raised bed. Grow some simple herbs, which are perfect for picking at table height. Wooden materials will degrade over time, but you can eke out a few more years before rot sets in.Continue to 18 of 31 below.
18 of 31
Brick and Cobblestone Rows
Wall blocks and cobblestones were good enough for the ancient Egyptians and Romans and have lasted for millennia, so think about dry-stacking stacking rows of retaining wall bricks, red bricks, or cobblestones to build a sturdy raised bed that can stand the test of time.
You don't need mortar, but you can make the structure last longer if you use masonry adhesive to hold them together if stacking taller than four bricks (or levels) high. For more stability, build a wall with an inner and outer layer, with a thickness of two bricks or stones all the way around.Continue to 19 of 31 below.
19 of 31
Tables seem made for holding a raised box that you fill with dirt. But less obvious choices are old furniture pieces like dressers, a chest of drawers, media centers, beds and cribs, and bathtubs destined for the dump. Old drawers are perfect as planters for different plant species.Continue to 20 of 31 below.
20 of 31
Make It a Destination
Cottage gardens and well-thought-out landscaping often incorporate bench seating in select, picturesque spots. Consider integrating seating into your design when designing a raised box from scratch.
Seating is lovely for enjoying the garden, but it also has a practical use. If you're constructing a raised bed garden box from wood, several feet tall, seating will make weeding, pruning, and other maintenance issues easier to handle.Continue to 21 of 31 below.
21 of 31
Enclosed Raised Beds
Deer, rabbits, and burrowing, foraging creatures can make a mess of your garden in minutes. If you're in a spot where the animal activity will destroy your garden hopes, plan to enclose your raised beds. You can start simple with 3-foot tall corner posts wrapped in chicken wire all the way around, or you can frame a proper enclosure with a door. The key is to keep the top open so birds can have a chance to forage for seeds and, in the case of hummingbirds, get nectar.Continue to 22 of 31 below.
22 of 31
Straw Bale Garden
In rural parts of the country where straw and hale bales are everywhere, resourceful gardeners have found they serve as an excellent growing medium. Herbs and flowers do well when grown in bales. Straw lasts twice as long as hay, which decomposes within a year, versus straw, which can endure for two. Straw is also lighter and less expensive, and less likely to have herbicides.
A bale can hold 3 to 5 gallons of water. Anything beyond that amount will drain away. You don't even need soil in most cases unless you plant tiny seeds.
Continue to 23 of 31 below.
23 of 31
Planting Boxes on Wheels
Raised planting boxes can be constructed to make your gardening life much easier. Design them with wheels, so you can move your plants to accommodate different light needs or move the plants closer to you. Or, if you need storage for some of your gardening supplies, build a raised bed planting box with shelves to hold your planting containers and gardening tools. You can even repurpose a wheelbarrow.Continue to 24 of 31 below.
24 of 31
Reuse Culvert Pipes
Culvert pipes are usually used for drainage ditches or moving stormwater. They come in 6-inch to 8-foot diameters, made of metal or plastic. Now, reimagine them as potential raised bed building materials. At the minimum, they are about 10 feet long. You can cut them to any length to make multiple rings for circular raised beds.
Continue to 25 of 31 below.
25 of 31
Make a Terracotta or PVC Pipe Garden
Terracotta is porous and great for succulents and plants that prefer drier soils. One-foot lengths of terracotta or PVC pipes can be turned on their side vertically to fence in soil for a large raised bed. The interior of each pipe can also serve as a mini container for herbs or smaller border plants. Alternatively, PVC pipes also work well since they will not rot or rust but are non-porous and retain more water than terracotta.Continue to 26 of 31 below.
26 of 31
Get More Out of Old Tire Retirement
They may not look pretty, but old used tires can be another cool option for raised bed containers. Some people have found beautiful ways to doll them up, such as painting the exterior or stacking them into columns.
There is some debate about whether old tires are safe for growing food since they can leach toxic substances over time. The simple response is only to use them for non-edible plants to avoid any potential issues over the long haul.Continue to 27 of 31 below.
27 of 31
Make Use of Logs and Sticks
A beautiful, natural option for a raised planting bed is a box made from recently chopped tree logs with their bark intact. Sticks and twigs can also be woven into sheets to form one of the four sides of square or rectangular boxes, or they can be arranged in vertical groupings or stands, going all around the perimeter, to make a container.Continue to 28 of 31 below.
28 of 31
Tree Stump Planter
When a tree dies, most people cut it down or uproot it and remove it. Some decide to cut most of the tree and leave the stump to decompose naturally over time. It can take many years for the decay to occur; in the meantime, beautify the stump by hollowing out the center and making it a raised planter. Add some gravel and compost-enriched soil, and plant flowers or anything you want to give it renewed life.Continue to 29 of 31 below.
29 of 31
Corrugated Metal Raised Bed
Corrugated metal, commonly used for roofing panels, can be framed by wood to make an industrial-looking raised bed look modern and fresh. The sheets are made of steel and are safe to use in edible gardens. They are not known to leach any harmful substances. The metal is also considered reflective, so it doesn't absorb more heat or sun, keeping the temperature of the soil cooler than many other types of raised container materials.Continue to 30 of 31 below.
30 of 31
Plastic Storage Containers Can Grow Too
Plastic storage containers can be transformed into growing boxes like the "Earthbox." They don't look so classy, but they get the job done. The Earthbox is a plastic self-watering growing container that brilliantly controls watering, fertilizing, and all the factors that need close monitoring to produce happy plants.Continue to 31 of 31 below.
31 of 31
Natural Slab Stone Means Longevity
Stone doesn't degrade like wood or other materials that will eventually decompose. You don't have to be concerned with winter or rainstorms, blisteringly hot summers, or floods destroying your stone-walled raised beds. Stone adds natural beauty and lasts longer than a lifetime. It's also environmentally friendly and food-safe for growing edible plants.
This is just a handful of ideas for creative ways of making raised beds in your garden. Repurposing materials into something useful is a great feeling, and gardeners are nothing if not resourceful. Raised beds can help you make better use of your space and find new and often eye-catching ways of growing food and flowers.
There are better options than using tires in the garden. NC Cooperative Extension.