Incorporating raised beds into your garden is one way to keep things neat and tidy. It’s also a great way to improve access and make a design statement. That may be part of the reason that so many gardeners love raised beds: they bring a sense of harmony and order to your landscaping.
After combing sources from the USA to Australia, we came up with a collection of inspiring designs for smaller spaces, made by professionals and DIYers alike. Each one addresses a particular challenge or goal, but the ultimate result is a thriving garden.
Beautiful raised gardens to inspire
1. Rooftop gardening in Boston
Food production in the city is within reach, especially if you follow the example of Ben Barkan of Home Harvest. The project’s goal was to help the owners grow veggies in a small area while maximizing both production and beauty. Because the garden is located on a rooftop, all the materials had to go up an elevator, down a hallway, and through the kitchen. That limited access didn’t stop them from succeeding, however.
Fashioning several L-shaped planters from cedar, Ben Barkan of Home Harvest, created beds with enough depth to support tomatoes, kale, lettuce, herbs, peppers, and arugula. The combination provides beauty, color and flavor for as much of the year as possible in this colder location. The planters are stained and lined to protect both the wood and the rooftop surface.
2. Formal beauty in Philadelphia
Richard D’Angelo’s garden is the kind that reveals something new and exciting around every corner. Located in a heritage neighbourhood where the backyard is more of a land strip beside his house, it unfolds through a series of garden ‘rooms’ with different focal points, both organic and architectural.
The raised beds, arranged formally in symmetrical fashion, serve as D’Angelo’s kitchen garden. Tucked in between his 1812 house and garden shed, they offer easy access to tomato plants, peppers, eggplants, and herbs. In the past, he’s also used the beds for carrots, radishes, leafy greens, garlic, and beans.
The small, urban yard has varying sun conditions, plus a lot of shade. His goal for the backyard included incorporating the kitchen garden, along with a perennial border, a formal courtyard with a triangular-shaped boxwood border, and a woodland garden—each tailored to the different light conditions.
3. Sloping yard in Pottsville
If you plan to grow fruit trees along a fence and want to streamline your design for irrigation and space considerations, this garden has the answer. Rebecca Peiris of Pottsville, New South Wales, had clay soil. She also had a strip of stumps that once belonged to a row of golden palm trees. Since the stumps were hard to remove, she came up with the idea of installing raised garden beds on top. This compromise meant her new fruit trees could have access to the best soil. She could also control the growing medium to best suit their needs.
Choosing a series of galvanized metal beds, Peiris installed them several feet apart. Since much of her yard slopes in varying directions, she had the added challenge of fixing her beds to hills. This meant digging in corners and levelling up as much as possible. In the end, everything found a home. Now she grows not only fruit, but an extensive garden of vegetables as well.
4. Repurposed brick in Ponte Vedra
Weathered brick has a charm all its own, particularly when it’s red. Add that charm to a circular design and you have a winning combination. In this project, the homeowner had a vision for her dream kitchen garden and worked alongside Denneen Custom Homes and a subcontracted mason to see it become reality.
Made from repurposed brick, the beds form a focal point in the yard while offering the perfect place to plant veggies. Waist high and stunning, they feature a rotating array of seasonal vegetables that range from lettuce, herbs, carrots and kale in the fall and winter to warm-weather veggies and flowers during the summer. The central obelisk adds a sculptural element. The design’s success demonstrates what’s possible when colour, shape, and size are all carefully considered.
5. Backyard transformation in Walkerville
The goal for this garden was to transform a patch of grass behind the garage into a productive vegetable garden. To maximize space, designer Brandi Bechard chose a U-shaped bed to hug the area’s perimeter. A second, rectangular bed fit inside.
Built from natural cedar, the beds are two feet high to prevent any creatures of the four-legged variety from climbing into the soil. This included the owners’ very active puppy. The height also makes working in the beds ergonomic and easy.
Since the beds are longer than standard, they required lots of support and bracing throughout in order to carry the load of soil and snow. As the soil settled, more supports were added to take care of bowing at the joints. The overall effect is one of unity and abundance—not to mention ease. How’s that for transformation?
6. Fenceline garden in Hampshire
The main goal for this garden was maximizing a small space for growing organic vegetables, flowers and fruit. The design consists of a tall bed at the back that’s a whopping 30 feet (9 meters) long and a series of lower raised beds in the front added over time. The tiered design provides easy access, adds visual interest and makes great use of a narrow space along a fence. The size came with its challenges, however. The tall bed was so heavy, it had to be built in three sections and moved into place.
In keeping with a desire for sustainability, the garden’s owner, Emma of Ems Allotment Garden, used wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council treated with an environmentally safe preservative (approved for use with organic growing). The stain is a low-VOC, water-based stain that was applied and left to dry before the beds were filled.
The beds incorporate a metal garden arch for trellising squash. This prevents the plants from hanging into the lower beds and provides added air circulation to stave off pests and diseases. In the tall bed Emma planted beans, onions, potatoes, corn, and more. At the bottom she planted carrots, dwarf french beans, and beets. Like most gardens, the mix is always evolving.
Raised garden design: a few good rules
No matter what the size of your yard, there are some design principles that are worth considering before installing your beds.
Keep your beds proportionate to your overall space.
While you may decide to fill your entire backyard with raised gardens, it’s more pleasing to the eye to ensure the number of beds and the size of each doesn’t dwarf your landscaping. While 4’ by 8’ raised beds may be the most popular choice, consider your yard’s unique dimensions and adjust the size accordingly.
Keep paths larger than 30 inches wide.
Paths provide access to your beds. While it’s crucial to have enough space for one person walking alone with a wheelbarrow (about 30 inches in width), it’s even better to have up to four feet of width to make maneuvering through your garden easier.
Don’t stop at rectangles.
A rectangular raised bed is practical and easy to use, but your space is unique and may demand something different. From L-shapes to U-shapes to stars, raised beds can make a design statement of their own. Just remember that the average person can reach about two feet into the center of a bed. Unless there’s another access point, make sure your beds aren’t wider than that at any given point.
Consider formal and informal gardens.
Raised beds lend an air of formality to gardens because of their geometric shapes and modular style. But softening straight lines is easy with plantings if you want the informal look. Choosing natural bed materials is another way to keep things casual.
Soil is key.
No matter what shape of garden you choose, your soil is still the most important part of the bed. If you can spend anywhere, fill your beds with the best soil you can buy or make. They’ll produce for you all season long. Our article on soil mixes for raised garden beds is a great place to start. You can also purchase a pre-mixed variety known as ‘triple mix’ and add your own compost and complete organic fertilizer.
Raised garden beds in your own backyard
Adding raised beds to your garden will bring a sense of harmony and order to your overall design. If you’re ready to take the leap into raised bed gardening, check out our selection of garden beds and planters.