What Type of Garden Bed is Best for Me?

What Type of Garden Bed is Best for Me?

What Type of Garden Bed is Best for Me?

Starting a garden is an exciting and fun project that can be completely life changing. It's the simple joy of watering, planting, and caring for plants that keep many avid gardeners motivated, not to mention the excitement of harvesting your very own food. Yet, if you're new to gardening there can be many underlying questions that keep you from taking the first steps into this world. For many, the biggest and first question they have is what type of garden suits them best.

Many people wonder if they need raised beds or if it's fine to plant directly into the ground.  Each of these will require different designs and techniques depending on what you are hoping to achieve.

Raised Bed

In-Ground Bed

Good if native soil is poor, heavily compacted, or unavailable. Easy and straightforward, no construction necessary.
Good for swampy or excessively wet areas. Excellent for those with good to decent native soils.
Can be more comfortable to work in, especially for those with physical impairment. Requires little to no start-up costs.
It may help against rodents and other animal pests.
Easy for those hoping to make large and expansive gardens.


Making an In-Ground Bed

This is the most straightforward way to make a garden bed. It has been done like this for centuries and can be a great option for most people. The biggest reason to avoid this technique is if you live in a very wet and swampy area. In this case, many plants will not do well with the excessive moisture and thus a raised bed with good drainage is preferable. If you have extremely sticky clay soils or soils that are very compact, then you may also face some troubles.


+ Remove the top layer of vegetation (grasses, weeds, etc.) before you begin to see what you are working with.

+ Most soils will require some gentle turning/loosening and to undo compaction. Do this with care using a shovel, pickaxe, and whatever tools you have handy. Mixing soil 50cm in depth is recommended.

+ Keep in mind that we want to disturb the soil as little as possible to ensure its health is maintained.

+ Generously add compost and mix thoroughly with the top 10-15 cm of soil.

+ Add mulch and find ways to clearly define the borders of your bed. Placing sticks, rocks, and other materials around the perimeter is a great way to do this.

    Raised Beds

    Raised beds are great options but do require a bit more planning and materials. These are particularly beneficial in areas with heavy compaction and waterlogged soils. These are also more comfortable to work in and may be more aesthetically pleasing for some homeowners.


    + Tall, raised beds >100cm are great for work because they require less bending over. This is perfect for those with physical ailments.

    + Beds can be constructed in many different ways, and with a wide variety of materials such as using prefabricated garden beds from your local garden centre, large logs, construction timber (such as pine), masonry stones, bricks, and even rocks. If using wood, avoid anything that has been treated with toxic chemicals.

    + Avoid large gaps or holes in your raised bed from which water will drain. Ideally, you want water to drain down and into the ground directly below the bed. If not, this may cause soil to erode during heavy rain events or during watering.

    + If you have animal pests such as rodents, you can add a layer of chicken wire below your bed to prevent them from digging into the bed from below.

    + It is also possible to make a raised bed with no structure. Just add your soil and other materials and make a gentle slope on the sides! Make sure you mulch properly to avoid erosion.

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