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My first two raised beds were your standard rectangles anchored by 2x4s. My husband and I found the plan online. He surprised me by building them one weekend while I was away. They may have been simple, but they introduced me to all the benefits of gardening in raised beds. When it came time to work on my book Raised Bed Revolution, coming up with the different projects was one of the most fun aspects of the putting the book together. And since then, I’ve come across even more raised bed designs for gardening — if only I had more space!
I’ve talked on this site about things you need to think about before building your raised bed, but next comes the creative part of choosing the design. Start by thinking of which materials you want to use. Pinterest is a great source of information (it’s where I discovered the corrugated steel look) and will likely introduce you to creative gardening writers who have come up with some interesting raised bed designs for gardening that they’ve written about, or even companies who sell kits.
Best placement and size for raised beds
Raised beds can be any shape or size, provided the site where you place them gets six to eight hours of sunlight a day, unless the plants you intend to grow are shade lovers. Those standard rectangular beds are generally three to four feet wide by six to eight feet long. At that size you should be able to reach into the raised bed with ease without having to set foot in it. This keeps the soil nice and loose, rather than compacting it.
One quick tip on raised bed placement: If you’re building or setting up multiple raised beds, be sure to leave adequate space between them to walk, kneel, or even navigate a wheelbarrow between them. You’ll want to add compost or mulch to the beds or in between them over the years, so you want to make sure each raised bed is easy to access.
Now for the fun part. Let’s dig into some inspiration!
Raised bed designs for gardening using wood
If you’re looking to build a raised bed from wood, choose a rot-resistant variety, like cedar. That’s what I use for all of my raised bed projects and is what is most readily available at my local lumber yards. Niki, who is on the East Coast of Canada, sourced hemlock for the raised beds she built when she renovated her vegetable garden a few years ago. The wood you source will depend on where you live and what’s available near you.
Raised bed with benches
Shown as the main image for this article, this beautiful raised bed plan crossed my radar at the right time and I was grateful to get permission to build it and put it in the book. A photo of that original raised bed is what’s on the cover! What’s great about this raised bed design is that it’s high enough to keep the bunnies and groundhogs out, and I can sit and rest on the benches with a cup of tea while I’m out puttering in the yard. You can find the full project plans here. It’s one of my favorite raised bed designs for gardening.
Hexagonal raised beds
As I mentioned, raised beds can be an shape you’d like. I fell in love with these hexagonal raised beds in Pop Brixton, a shipping container village of shops and restaurants in London. These were part of a community garden. The shape of these raised beds was recreated for a chapter I contributed to Gardening Complete.
I had the corrugated steel look on the brain when I was coming up with raised bed project ideas. My builder, Scott McKinnon, helped me build a basic frame where I was able to drill in corrugated sheets that had been sized for me by a local company. Once built, this raised bed was destined for the Toronto Botanical Garden. At the recommendation of the director of horticulture, Paul Zammit, I added locking casters to it so that the garden can easily be rolled into storage—or wherever it needs to go! It was painted orange to stand out in the veggie garden area.
A “mosaic” pattern on a raised bed
My builder, Scott McKinnon, creates interior pieces, like sliding doors, using old pieces of wood with different colour variations. I love how he applied that style to this raised bed. He built a simple raised bed frame, and then cut different pieces of wood to different lengths, attaching them in a pattern on the outside of the frame using finishing nails.
Live edge raised bed
This live edge raised bed was built for my newest book, Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big & Small Spaces. It fits perfectly into a perennial garden in my front yard. The first year of planting, I fit a tomato, pepper, and basil plant in it. I could also fit a small salad garden, featuring lettuces, spinach, kale, etc., or a small crop of root veggies. There are lots of possibilities, even if you have a small space.
Raised bed designs for gardening that require minimal assembly
There seem to be way more kits on the market now than there were a few years ago. I’ve seen them everywhere, from garden centres to Costco. Corners are an amazing invention that allow gardeners who might not have the woodworking skills to design and build a raised bed. These are among the easiest raised bed designs for gardening. I used the ones below from Gardener’s Supply Company to set up a quick an easy raised bed.
Raised bed designs for gardening that involve upcycling
I had SUCH a great time exploring antique markets for ideas and inspiration for the book. And now, whenever I’m out and about, I’m always thinking about how I can transform various objects into raised beds or smaller containers for growing. From old whisky barrels (halved or whole) to washbasins, there are endless ways to divert old junk into your garden where it can live a second life.
* Raised bed with benches photo taken by Donna Griffith for Raised Bed Revolution
Here are a few more articles about raised bed designs for gardening that may be of interest: