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8 Ideas for creating raised garden beds

Raised garden beds can be a really great alternative to growing vegetables or flowers direct to ground.

A lot of us, especially in urban settings don’t typically have access to outdoor space with large open soil for planting. And even when we do find open land in community spaces, that soil can sometimes be contaminated from previous buildings, or uses. 

There are a lot of reasons to use raised garden beds for gardening rather than planting straight into the ground.

Creating raised garden beds is a practical way to use your space, but it can also be a really creative way to express your personality through your garden.

There are a lot of different ways to make raised garden beds, and many different materials that can be used.

Something important to consider before building a raised garden bed, is to make sure that it will live in a spot that will get enough sunlight.

Ideally it is a spot that will get 8 hours of unobstructed sunlight (Full Sun). But there are definitely varieties of plants and flowers that will grow with 4-6 hours of sunlight (Partial Sun). 

Here are eight different materials that can be used to help you create a raised gardening surface in your space:

1. Wood Box

A wooden box is the most common type of raised bed most people are familiar with. There are a lot of different options for using wood.

The best wood to use is untreated, and rot resistant. It’s a good idea to check out what type of wood might work for you in your geographic area. Not all wood will work for your budget, outdoor space, or location.

If you want to paint the outside of your boxes, take caution and consult a material safety data sheet, or a local paint shop about what type of paint or coating might off-gas chemicals into the surrounding air, or soil. 

2. Straw bales

Straw bales are such a sustainable way to create a raised bed in your space. This material will break down overtime, and convert into compost that can be used again in the future.

I personally love the idea of straw bales, and if you have the space to lay them out this is a really fun, inexpensive, and low maintenance way to create a gardening space.

The trick is to find a straw bale supplier that can provide you with untreated bales. Straw bales can be used on balconies, in backyards, front yards, community garden spaces, roof top gardens, or terraces.

Straw bales can even be used to create greenhouses, or used as a hot bed house for starter plants early in the season when the weather is still unpredictable, as they are very efficient at providing insulation and trapping heat. 

3. Brick

Brick can be a great alternative to building a raised garden because of its availability. It is an easy building material to come across, and if you, or your neighbours are doing some renovations, it might even be a free material.

Much like other raised bed options, brick allows you to create the shape and height of the bed, and can be fixed in as a permanent structure, or rearranged to suit your needs over time. 

4. Stone or Rock

Rock gardens have been a popular option for raised gardening all through time.

Being able to collect rocks, stone, or slate from the earth, and surrounding area of your garden definitely provides a more affordable option to creating a raised bed, and integrating local natural elements into your overall look.

This might not always be an easy option in an urban setting where finding rocks free for the taking is a bit more challenging. 

If you have a yard, this might be a really great option. However if you are on a balcony, and want to use rocks to accent your garden, and easier solution might be to combine a few different materials to create your raised bed, and use rocks to accent the look of the garden. 

5. Pallets

Pallets are another great inexpensive way to build a raised bed using wood materials. They are fairly easy to come by in an urban setting, and are often free.

One challenge with using pallets is pulling them apart. They often have a lot of nails, and using pallets can be a frustrating endeavour for someone who is looking for a quick option. However, that said, you can also leave pallets completely intact and use them vertically.

An especially good option for balcony growing, the pallet can be anchored to a side wall on the balcony. Small pots can be added in between the slats, or small boxes can be built into the slats to create many different types of pallet garden looks. 

6. Rock Cages or Gabions

Gabions are essentially wire cages filled with stone or rock, typically used as retaining walls, or other construction purposes. But gabions also have a huge potential to create an interesting garden feature.

They can also be used as a raised garden surface for certain types of plants. It’s important to know how you might want to use them in your gardening space. 

While a gabion might make a great herb garden space, it is not going to be an effective space to grow and harvest potatoes, for example.

If your space is small, this could provide a vertical wall option, being able to plant into the rock crevices within the gabions. However, gabions are typically quite heavy, and are probably not the most suitable option for a balcony. Definitely consider your building’s weight limits before going this route. 

7. Cinder blocks

Similar to brick, cinder blocks provide a creative way to make movable, and changing gardening spaces.

Due to their weight, limit use to a space that can handle the weight load. Their weight also makes them a less attractive option in terms of building. But if you know how you want to use them in your space, they can be another affordable option that will last longer than wood bed options.

On small patios, or balconies, using a few cinder blocks stacked can create small planting containers utilizing the inner channels, with enough depth to try root vegetables. 

The fun thing about cinder blocks is the option to fill the inside sections of the blocks with soil in addition to creating a rectangular perimeter, allowing for some separation in the overall look of your planting. Fun designs can be created just by the way the blocks are placed next to each other. 

8. Old Furniture

Using old furniture can be one of the most creative options for creating a raised garden bed. There really is no limit to our imaginations.

Planting the old seat of a chair for a balcony herb garden for example. Or using dresser drawers to create instant wood boxes. Remove the top to use the frame and legs of an old table or desk. Furniture can be converted in many different ways. An old bed frame can become a garden bed, or bed of flowers.

This is also a really fun way to salvage old furniture items that are usually cast out by the road. Next time you score a thrift store find, make it your next raised bed or container gardening space.

Be Creative and Have Fun

Creating a raised garden bed can seem like a daunting project to take on. Especially if you aren’t sure if you will want to make it a permanent fixture to your garden or outdoor space. Make use of different materials to help provide that flexibility, and let your creativity shine through in more ways than one. 

What are your favourite garden bed styles? Let me know in the comments or tag me on instagram @veggie_homestead.