15 Raised Bed Garden Design Ideas

raised bed garden

The Spruce / Autumn Wood 

Raised beds can be as humble or creative as you like. A raised bed planter can be a permanent fixture for perennial plants to settle in and mature. The initial cost of getting your raised bed set up will depend on how elaborate you make it, but once in place, raised beds are no more expensive to maintain than traditional gardens. They offer a lot of benefits. 

What Is a Raised Garden Bed?

Raised bed gardening involves growing plants in soil that is higher than the ground. Most commonly, you can do this with some type of enclosure or frame made of wood, stone, bales of hay, or even repurposed material like old dressers.

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    Custom-Designed Raised Beds

    Wooden beds in different shapes including hexagons in a large garden

    devonandearth / Instagram

    Raised bed gardens can be fit just about any space. With a little 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 take on a natural, rustic appearance.

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    Built-In Raised Beds

    Brick fireplace and planter with shrubs and plants in backyard with wood raised beds in background

    _maple_house / Instagram

    When making a raised bed, instead of going in-ground, you can place it where the sun or shade is the best for the plants you want to cultivate. You can also prevent tunneling pests from decimating your plants. Plants can be healthier and more productive in a raised bed because you can control the quality of the soil and water drainage. If you build the sides wide enough to make a bench, you can even sit and garden. For those with back problems, the positioning can make it easier to tend the plants. Raised beds of brick or wood, as pictured, can also enhance the design of your homestead or backyard.

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    Grow Bag Raised Beds

    Black fabric grow bags with soil and plants in garden with wooden fence

    theurbangardenher / Instagram

    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 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!

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    Herb Spiral Garden

    Spiral stone arrangement with herb plantings

    OK-Photography / Getty Images

    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, 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. 

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    Trough Gardens

    Shiny metal animal troughs used as raised bed planters next to a weathered wood house

    lynnelambourne / Instagram

    One of the easiest ways to create raised bed gardens is by using animal feeding troughs. There is no assembly required, but be sure to drill some drainage holes in the bottom before you add 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 chose to grow, the plants may need a bit of extra water during the hottest part of summer.

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    Square Foot Raised Beds

    Raised bed with wooden sides and posts and netting dividing into square sections

    hollyhillflowers / Instagram

    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 measures 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 get the benefits from being in a raised bed. Even 6 to 8 inches can be enough.

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    Flower Boxes as Raised Beds

    Colorful wooden window boxes painted blue and red with flowers on a light blue fence

    Konoplytska / Getty Images

    Raised beds have very few limits. If you have a sturdy fence you can attach wooden boxes as small raised beds; like window boxes, but 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.

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    Cinderblock Raised Beds

    Cinderblock raised beds with sedums and succulents

    mountaincrestgardens / Instagram

    There are many ways to build raised beds out of recycled materials. Concrete blocks or cinderblocks are one of the most popular. Note that some older cinder blocks may contain fly ash, which is the "cinders" that remain from burning coal. It is still being debated whether this is safe to use around edible plants. If you get new blocks that are made out of concrete, you can avoid the ash issue. The new blocks are substantially heavier than older cinder blocks but are OK to use for a vegetable garden. Be careful though—concrete blocks leech lime. Lime can raise the soil's pH. To be on the safe side, 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.

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    Hoop House Raised Bed

    Hoop house raised bed garden made with wood and netting

    hamaksatcher_garden / Instagram

    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.

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    Raised Bed Border

    Slope garden planted in successive beds with colorful flowers

    mkistryn / Getty Images

    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 that 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.

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    Space Saving Design ideas

    Bin storage area with wooden box raised beds situated on top

    ransomebuilds_diy / Instagram

    Gardeners with limited space can often use raised beds designs in a creative way 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 normally a drab spot and bringing beauty to a utilitarian functional area. The string lights and decorations add a personal touch.

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    Raised Bed Arbor

    Wooden dowel trellis in wooden raised bed garden bed with zucchini plants

    BethAmber / Getty Images

    Using a trellis or arbor with a raised bed makes it even easier to harvest vegetables and keeps them neater than if they were sprawling on the ground. Vertical gardening allows you to grow more plants without taking up more space. 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.

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    Lasagna Garden Raised Beds

    Wooden raised beds filled with wood for lasagna garden layering

    nanceband / Instagram

    Lasagna gardens are essentially 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 top soil added. This cuts down on the heavy weight and expense of using soil all the way down, if your plantings don't produce a deep root system.

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    Milk Crate Garden

    Milk crates with planted vegetables on a patio

    yorbaplants / Instagram

    Repurpose milk crates and make your raised bed portable. This milk crate raised bed is easy to set up, and you can configure into any shape you like. If you need your plants closer to your kitchen, or you want to place it in a shadier spot, just pick up the crate and go. These containers already come with drainage holes. And, when you need to change the soil, you can just lift the crate and dump the contents in the compost pile and start again.

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    Raised Bed and Container Design

    Brick raised bed with many containers full of colorful flowers in backyard garden

    Rosemary Calvert / Getty Images

    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 out your planting so that you provide four seasons of visual interest. Containers can also be moved to change up the design any time you want.

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.