Written By
Published Jun. 8, 2021

It’s no secret that gardening made a serious comeback in 2020. In a year unlike any other, where we spent the majority of our time close to (if not almost constantly in) home, gardening presented the perfect, practical excuse to get outside—even if it was only to the backyard. We grew veggies, nurtured green thumbs, and experienced the catharsis that comes with getting our hands dirty. And now, one year later, we’re returning to the soil for planting season to start the process all over again. Whether or not you’ve already joined in on the grand tradition of gardening, there’s no time like the present to start. Buying produce at the grocery store is all well and good, but if you’ve had the chance to grow your own, you know there’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh, well-cared-for veggies. It doesn’t get much more farm-to-table than that. Now, with a little time, elbow grease, and some garden tools, here’s how to create the best raised garden beds of your own.

American food culture is very much devoted to its meat and dairy consumption, but for the past decade or so, the farm-to-table food movement has made major strides in putting vegetables back in the spotlight. And in spring 2020, when some food items became scarce and folks were suddenly spending a lot more time at home, fresh produce—including those from backyard vegetable gardens—became that much more important. 

While the majority of Americans didn’t have the capacity or expertise to become fully self-sufficient, building raised garden beds was within reach for most. Thus, one of the most accessible and rewarding hobbies of 2020 (and 2021) was also one of the most popular and ultimately enabled people in all parts of the county to grow their own food, nurture new life, and spend more time outside feeling productive and purposeful. This is the true gift of gardening: Even if you only harvest a few carrots, or your flowers don’t all bloom, you still get to witness and partake in the most literal—and rewarding—version of reaping what you sow. So whether you’re a novice gardener or an old farm hand looking to learn some new tricks, we’ve compiled this elevated garden bed guide to help you grow your skillset—along with a tasty bounty.

If you want wood garden beds, search for cedar

Wood garden beds are probably the most classic style you can buy, and they’ve stood the test of time for good reason: They look great, they blend in with the natural environment, and you can trust that they won’t poison or otherwise damage your crops. It’s important, however, to choose the right kind of wood when building a garden bed, because wood is, obviously, vulnerable to rot. While pine is one of the cheapest options available, depending on where you live it won’t last you more than a handful of years before starting to crumble. A cedar raised garden bed, then, is the best, albeit most expensive, option for a wood garden bed.

Best wood garden bed: Boldly Growing Cedar Raised Garden Bed Kit

Stylish, Organic Design

This wood garden bed will blend in beautifully with the natural environment and, because it’s made of cedar, you can almost guarantee it’s built to last. Boldly Growing

Check Price

This cedar raised garden bed kit has everything you need to kick start your vegetable garden and no tools are required. Get ready for raw, premium cedar, zero splinters, an easy assembly, and, most importantly, year after year of bountiful veggies.

Plastic is a great nonpermanent option

If wood is the most permanent option for raised garden beds, plastic is the most temporary. For folks who are renting, moving soon, or just generally indecisive about where to plant their gardens, plastic wins: It’s lightweight, easy to move around, and super affordable, especially compared to wood.

Plastic has its downsides, of course. It won’t keep its shape as well as wood and might bend or snap under pressure. But it’s cheap to replace broken boxes, and if you have hesitations about where or when to move your garden beds, plastic may be the right material for your elevated garden bed.

Best plastic garden bed: The Lakeside Collection Raised Garden Bed Set

Affordable and Lightweight

This incredibly easy to assemble garden bed comes with plastic panels that simply lock into place for a setup that takes mere minutes. The Lakeside Collection

Check Price

Convenience is king with this plastic garden bed, and you can put it almost anywhere you want. Separate plastic panels make for easy storage (the whole set is collapsable) and enable a variety of different shapes and designs.

Durability is key

Metal garden boxes are by far the most durable: They’re nearly unbreakable, unlike plastic, and they won’t rot, unlike wood. It’s not a flawless material, though; metal can obviously rust, and it’s both heavy and fairly expensive. That said, if you live in a place that requires extra protection from the elements, or prefer an extra-sturdy material, metal is a great option for your raised garden bed.

Best metal garden bed: Galvanized Raised Garden Beds

Rust-Resistant Steel

This galvanized steel garden bed is finished with an anti-rust coating that will protect the metal for long-term use. FOYUEE

Check Price

When it comes to garden beds, using a material that’s eco-friendly is key, otherwise you risk damaging your plants. Luckily, this galvanized garden bed fits the bill, and it will protect your plants season after season, without poisoning your crop.

Raised garden beds come in all shapes and sizes

If you don’t have much in the way of outdoor space, building a raised garden bed is a great alternative. Garden boxes come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no harm in keeping things small. Maybe you don’t have a backyard, per se, but do you have a balcony, fire escape, front porch, windowsill, or rooftop? Take a look around and search for a creative substitute space. Then, simply find a garden bed that works with what you’ve got. A little ingenuity can go a long way.

Best small garden bed: Raised Metal Garden Planter Box

Mini Yet Mighty

With a tiny footprint and a sizable container, this planter box is the perfect solution for an aspiring gardener with little space available. Progard

Check Price

Galvanized, rust-resistant steel puts this planter box on par with our previous choice of raised metal garden bed, but with a twist: it’s tiny enough to fit in a limited space. With a built-in drainage system and weather-resistant steel, this bed could easily be home to a thriving bunch of herbs, veggies, or flowers.

Three cheers for tiers

This one’s for the folks who can’t resist doing things just a little bit differently. If you have the space—and a love of smart design—consider veering off course and opting for a tiered garden bed. Unlike the classic one-level beds, these babies can house two or three times the amount of vegetables without expanding their footprint, and they are often easy to separate in case you do end up wanting individual beds instead. It should come as no surprise that they cost more, but if you’re an ambitious gardener with a long veggie wish list, it might be worth the investment.

Best tiered garden bed: YAHEETECH Three-tier Raised Garden Bed

Customizable Design

Because of its modular design, this garden bed delivers the best of both worlds. YAHEETECH

Check Price

Ready to launch your micro-farm? Simply connect each garden bed tier using the built-in plugs, and you’re ready to go. Added bonus: Each bed is made of 100-percent fir planks, ensuring its durability and quality. And while you can stack the beds for a tiered setup, you can easily separate them and have three stand-alone beds instead.

Fabric is super affordable

Starting any project can be intimidating when you look at your budget and realize that it’s, well, small. But not to worry: Vegetables don’t discriminate, and there’s no problem with DIY setups or alternative materials that won’t break the bank. Consider, for example, fabric garden beds. Fabric might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re hunting for a durable, long-lasting garden box. But, contrary to popular belief, certain types of fabric are plenty sturdy to protect your plants and thus serve as adequate garden beds. Obviously, you’re not going to get the years-long guarantee that you might get from some other materials, but what this option lacks in longevity, it certainly makes up for in price.

Best garden bed under $15: Apipi Two-pack Raised Garden Planter Fabric Bed

Waterproof and Weather Resistant

This plastic fabric is both heat- and cold-resistant, so it can protect your seedlings when bad weather strikes. Apipi

Check Price

The award for most lightweight and most affordable garden bed clearly goes to those made of fabric. All you need to do with this two-pack is unfold each foursome, fill each square with dirt, and start planting. Easy as pie. 

FAQs

Q: How deep should an elevated garden bed be?

The most important factor to consider when asking this question is the ground underneath your garden bed. Is it soil or grass, where roots can take hold? Or is it less hospitable to growth? The former doesn’t require much more than tilling and fresh soil, but the latter likely needs around three feet of depth in order to give your plants enough room to fully grow. 

Q: How to choose a raised garden bed?

Choosing the right raised garden bed for you means considering a number of factors: for example, the environment in which you live, the money you’re willing to spend, and how many seasons you expect to use the garden box once it’s built. You might find it helpful to start by deciding which material you prefer and go from there.

Q: What is the best size for a raised vegetable bed?

There’s a simple correlation between size and harvest here: The bigger the vegetable garden, the more vegetables you can grow. Before you build your garden bed, start with your wishlist of veggies. Then, research how much space each type needs, and size your beds accordingly so that everything has plenty of room to grow. 

Related: Got a garden hose? Then get an outdoor misting fan and stay cool while gardening.

The final word on building the best raised garden bed

Nurturing new life in a vegetable garden or flower box is a true delight. Reconnect with the great outdoors, discover a newfound appreciation for food and flowers, and get your hands dirty with the best raised garden beds. You might surprise yourself—and your tastebuds, too.

MORE TO READ