How to Choose the Best Plants for Your Raised Garden Bed

How to Choose the Best Plants for Your Raised Garden Bed

Key Takeaways

FactorDescription
ClimateChoose plants that match your temperature, rainfall, and sunlight conditions
SpaceChoose plants that fit your raised bed size and shape and don’t overcrowd them
SoilChoose plants that thrive in your soil type and quality and enrich it with compost and fertilizer
WaterChoose plants that have similar water needs and water them regularly and deeply
PurposeChoose plants that suit your gardening goals, such as food, beauty, or wildlife attraction

Introduction

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If you have a raised garden bed, you might be wondering what plants to grow in it. Raised beds offer many advantages for gardening, such as better drainage, weed control, and soil quality. But they also have some challenges, such as limited space, higher water needs, and temperature fluctuations. That’s why you need to choose the right plants for your raised bed that suit your climate, preferences, and goals. In this article, we will show you how to do that with some tips and examples.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Plants for a Raised Bed

Photo showing plants that match the climate, like drought tolerant plants in a dry climate

Before you start planting your raised bed, you need to consider some factors that will affect your plant choices. These factors are:

Climate

The climate of your area is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing plants for a raised bed. You need to select plants that can tolerate or thrive in your temperature, rainfall, and sunlight conditions. For example, if you live in a hot and dry area, you should choose plants that are drought-tolerant and heat-resistant, such as succulents, cacti, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, mint, etc. If you live in a cold and wet area, you should choose plants that are frost-hardy and moisture-loving, such as kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, celery, leeks, onions, garlic, etc.

You can also use some techniques to modify your microclimate and extend your growing season in your raised bed. For example, you can use mulch to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. You can use row covers or cloches to protect your plants from frost or pests. You can use trellises or stakes to support your plants and increase air circulation. You can use containers or pots to move your plants indoors or outdoors as needed.

Space

The space available in your raised bed is another factor to consider when choosing plants. You need to select plants that fit your raised bed size and shape and don’t overcrowd them. For example, if you have a small raised bed (less than 4 feet by 4 feet), you should choose plants that are compact and low-growing, such as herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, etc.), flowers (marigolds, petunias, pansies, etc.), or vegetables (radishes, carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, etc.). If you have a large raised bed (more than 4 feet by 8 feet), you should choose plants that are tall and sprawling, such as sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, etc.), or vegetables (corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, melons, etc.).

You also need to consider the spacing between your plants and arrange them according to their height and width. You can use square foot gardening or companion planting methods to optimize your space and increase your yield. For example, you can plant one tomato plant per square foot with basil or marigolds around it to repel pests and enhance flavor. You can plant four lettuce plants per square foot with radishes or carrots between them to fill the gaps and harvest them early.

Soil

The soil quality in your raised bed is another factor to consider when choosing plants. You need to select plants that thrive in your soil type and texture and enrich it with compost and fertilizer. 

  • For example, if you have a sandy soil that drains quickly and has low fertility, you should choose plants that are drought-tolerant and nutrient-efficient, such as succulents, cacti, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, mint, etc. You should also add organic matter (such as compost or manure) and slow-release fertilizer (such as blood meal or bone meal) to improve your soil structure and nutrient content.
  • If you have a clay soil that retains water and has high fertility, you should choose plants that are moisture-tolerant and pest-resistant, such as kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, celery, leeks, onions, garlic, etc. You should also add coarse material (such as sand or gravel) and organic matter (such as compost or manure) to improve your soil drainage and aeration.

You can also use some techniques to test and adjust your soil pH and nutrient levels in your raised bed. For example, you can use a soil test kit or a pH meter to measure your soil acidity or alkalinity. You can use lime or sulfur to raise or lower your soil pH respectively. You can use different types of fertilizer (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.) to supplement your soil nutrients according to your plant needs.

Water

The water availability and quality in your raised bed is another factor to consider when choosing plants. You need to select plants that have similar water needs and water them regularly and deeply. For example,

  • if you have a dry climate or a sandy soil that requires frequent watering, you should choose plants that are drought-tolerant and heat-resistant, such as succulents, cacti, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, mint, etc. You should also use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water directly to the plant roots and reduce evaporation.
  • If you have a wet climate or a clay soil that requires infrequent watering, you should choose plants that are moisture-tolerant and pest-resistant, such as kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, celery, leeks, onions, garlic, etc. You should also use raised beds or drainage holes to prevent waterlogging and root rot.
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You can also use some techniques to conserve and improve your water quality in your raised bed. For example, you can use mulch to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. You can use rain barrels or cisterns to collect and store rainwater for later use. You can use filters or purifiers to remove any contaminants or impurities from your water source.

Purpose

The purpose of your gardening in your raised bed is another factor to consider when choosing plants. You need to select plants that suit your gardening goals, such as food production, beauty enhancement, or wildlife attraction. For example,

  • If you want to grow food in your raised bed, you should choose plants that are edible and nutritious, such as vegetables (see above list of annuals and perennials), fruits (see above list of perennials), or herbs (see above list of annuals and perennials). You should also consider the seasonality, compatibility, and diversity of your crops.
  • If you want to enhance the beauty of your raised bed, you should choose plants that are ornamental and colorful, such as flowers (see above list of annuals and perennials), foliage (such as coleus, caladium, hosta, fern, etc.), or grasses (such as fountain grass, blue fescue, purple millet, etc.). You should also consider the height, shape, and texture of your plants.
  • If you want to attract wildlife to your raised bed, you should choose plants that are beneficial and attractive to birds, bees, butterflies, and other animals. For example,
AnimalPlant
BirdsSunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, marigolds, petunias, pansies, etc. (for seeds)
Berries (such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.) (for fruits)
Coneflowers, black-eyed susans, salvias, penstemons, etc. (for nectar)
BeesLavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, oregano, chives, basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, etc. (for nectar and pollen)
Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, melons, etc. (for pollination)
ButterfliesMilkweed, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, lantana, phlox, verbena, etc. (for nectar and host)
Parsley, dill, fennel, carrots, celery, etc. (for caterpillars)

Types of Plants for a Raised Bed

Photo collage showing raised beds for food, beauty, and wildlife

Now that you have considered the factors that affect your plant choices, you can explore the different types of plants that can be grown in a raised bed. These types are:

Perennials

Perennials are plants that live for more than two years and usually bloom every year. They are a good choice for a raised bed if you want to have low maintenance, long-lasting, and diverse plants. Some of the pros and cons of growing perennials in a raised bed are:

ProsCons
Low maintenance: once established, they require little care and attentionSlow growth: they may take a long time to establish and bloom
Long-lasting: they can survive for many years and seasonsLimited variety: they may not offer as much variety as annuals
Diverse: they can offer a range of colors, shapes, sizes, and functionsPotential invasiveness: they may spread or take over your raised bed

Some examples of perennials that are suitable for a raised bed are:

  • Herbs: lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, oregano, chives, etc.
  • Fruits: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb, asparagus, artichokes, etc.
  • Flowers: roses, lilies, daisies, marigolds, etc.

Annuals

Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle in one year or less and need to be replanted every season. They are a good choice for a raised bed if you want to have fast growth, wide variety, and seasonal interest. Some of the pros and cons of growing annuals in a raised bed are:

ProsCons
Fast growth: they can germinate and bloom quicklyHigh maintenance: they require regular care and attention
Wide variety: they can offer a range of colors, shapes, sizes, and functionsShort-lived: they die after one season and need to be replaced
Seasonal interest: they can change with the seasons and create different effectsWasteful: they may produce a lot of waste and debris

Some examples of annuals that are suitable for a raised bed are:

  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, etc.
  • Vegetables: lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, radishes, carrots, beets, peas, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, melons, etc.
  • Flowers: sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, petunias, pansies, etc.

Vegetables

Vegetables are edible parts of plants that are usually consumed as food, such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, or seeds. They are a good choice for a raised bed if you want to grow your own food that is nutritious, delicious, and rewarding. Some of the pros and cons of growing vegetables in a raised bed are:

ProsCons
Nutritious: they can provide you with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiberLabor-intensive: they may require a lot of work and effort
Delicious: they can taste better than store-bought or processed foodPest-prone: they may attract insects, animals, or diseases
Rewarding: they can give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfactionSpace-consuming: they may take up a lot of space in your raised bed

Some examples of vegetables that are suitable for a raised bed are:

  • See above list of annuals and perennials

Fruits

Fruits are the fleshy or dry ripened ovaries of flowering plants that contain seeds and are usually eaten as food or used for making beverages. They are a good choice for a raised bed if you want to grow your own food that is sweet, juicy, and versatile. Some of the pros and cons of growing fruits in a raised bed are:

ProsCons
Sweet: they can satisfy your sweet tooth and cravingsDemanding: they may require a lot of water and nutrients
Juicy: they can hydrate you and quench your thirstDisease-susceptible: they may suffer from fungal or bacterial infections
Versatile: they can be used for making jams, pies, smoothies, wines, etc.Messy: they may drop or rot on the ground
  • Some examples of fruits that are suitable for a raised bed are:
    • See above list of perennials
    • Apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, grapes, kiwis, figs, etc. (Note: these fruits may require dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties, pruning, and trellising to fit in a raised bed)

Herbs

Herbs are plants that have aromatic or medicinal properties and are used for flavoring, cooking, or healing purposes. They are a good choice for a raised bed if you want to grow your own food that is fragrant, useful, and easy. Some of the pros and cons of growing herbs in a raised bed are:

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ProsCons
Fragrant: they can fill your garden with pleasant smells and aromasBland: they may not have much visual appeal or color
Useful: they can enhance your food, drinks, or health with their flavors and benefitsRepetitive: they may not offer much variety or change
Easy: they can grow well in most conditions and require little careBoring: they may not challenge or excite you as a gardener

Some examples of herbs that are suitable for a raised bed are:

  • See above list of annuals and perennials

Flowers

Flowers are the colorful or fragrant reproductive structures of flowering plants that attract pollinators and produce seeds. They are a good choice for a raised bed if you want to enhance the beauty of your garden with their colors, shapes, and scents. Some of the pros and cons of growing flowers in a raised bed are:

ProsCons
Beautiful: they can brighten up your garden with their hues and patternsSuperficial: they may not have much practical use or value
Cheerful: they can lift your mood and spirit with their charm and graceAllergic: they may cause allergic reactions or irritations to some people
Beneficial: they can attract beneficial insects and animals to your gardenHarmful: they may attract harmful insects and animals to your garden

Some examples of flowers that are suitable for a raised bed are:

  • See above list of annuals and perennials

Tips and Tricks for Growing Plants in a Raised Bed

Photo of mixing soil, compost, fertilizer to fill a raised bed

After you have chosen the types of plants that you want to grow in your raised bed, you need to follow some best practices and techniques for growing them successfully. These tips and tricks are:

How to Build a Raised Bed

To build a raised bed, you need to have the right materials, dimensions, and location. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the material for your raised bed frame. You can use wood, metal, stone, brick, plastic, or any other durable material that can hold the soil. Make sure the material is safe, sturdy, and rot-resistant.
  • Choose the dimensions for your raised bed frame. You can make it any size or shape that suits your space and needs. However, a common size is 4 feet by 8 feet by 12 inches. This size allows you to reach the center of the bed from either side without stepping on the soil. It also provides enough depth for most plants to grow their roots.
  • Choose the location for your raised bed frame. You can place it anywhere in your garden that has good drainage, sunlight, and access. Make sure the location is level, stable, and weed-free.
  • Assemble your raised bed frame. You can use nails, screws, brackets, or any other fasteners to join the pieces of your material together. You can also use corner posts or stakes to reinforce the structure and prevent it from collapsing.
  • Line your raised bed frame with landscape fabric or cardboard. This will prevent weeds from growing up from below and soil from leaking out from below.
  • Fill your raised bed frame with soil mix. You can use any type of soil mix that suits your plants and preferences. However, a good soil mix for a raised bed consists of one-third topsoil, one-third compost, and one-third coarse material (such as sand or gravel). This mix provides a balance of nutrients, organic matter, drainage, and aeration for your plants.
  • Level your soil mix in your raised bed frame. You can use a rake or a shovel to spread and smooth the soil evenly. You can also use a board or a roller to compact the soil slightly and remove any air pockets.

How to Fill a Raised Bed

To fill a raised bed, you need to have the right soil mix, compost, and fertilizer. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the soil mix for your raised bed. You can use any type of soil mix that suits your plants and preferences. However, a good soil mix for a raised bed consists of one-third topsoil, one-third compost, and one-third coarse material (such as sand or gravel). This mix provides a balance of nutrients, organic matter, drainage, and aeration for your plants.
  • Choose the compost for your raised bed. You can use any type of compost that is rich in organic matter and nutrients. You can make your own compost from kitchen scraps, yard waste, or animal manure. Or you can buy ready-made compost from a garden center or online. Compost helps improve your soil structure, fertility, and water retention.
  • Choose the fertilizer for your raised bed. You can use any type of fertilizer that is suitable for your plants and soil. You can use organic fertilizer (such as blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion, etc.) or synthetic fertilizer (such as 10-10-10, 20-20-20, etc.). Fertilizer helps supplement your soil nutrients and boost your plant growth and yield.
  • Mix your soil mix, compost, and fertilizer in your raised bed. You can use a wheelbarrow, a bucket, or a tarp to mix them together. You can also use a hoe or a fork to blend them in your raised bed. You should aim for a ratio of 50% soil mix, 25% compost, and 25% fertilizer for optimal results.

How to Plant a Raised Bed

To plant a raised bed, you need to have the right spacing, arrangement, and timing. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the spacing for your plants in your raised bed. You can use the instructions on the seed packets or plant labels to determine the recommended spacing for each plant. You can also use square foot gardening or companion planting methods to optimize your space and increase your yield.
  • Choose the arrangement for your plants in your raised bed. You can use any pattern or design that suits your style and taste. However, a common arrangement for your plants in your raised bed is to place the tallest plants (such as sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, etc.) at the north end of the bed, the medium-sized plants (such as peppers, cucumbers, zinnias, etc.) in the middle of the bed, and the shortest plants (such as lettuce, radishes, marigolds, etc.) at the south end of the bed. This arrangement helps avoid shading and crowding of your plants.
  • Choose the timing for your plants in your raised bed. You can use the information on the seed packets or plant labels to determine the best time to sow or transplant your plants. You can also use a planting calendar or a frost date calculator to find out the optimal dates for your area. You should aim to plant your plants according to their seasonality and hardiness. For example, you can plant cool-season crops (such as lettuce, spinach, peas, etc.) in early spring or fall, and warm-season crops (such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, etc.) in late spring or summer.
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How to Water a Raised Bed

To water a raised bed, you need to have the right frequency, amount, and method. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the frequency for watering your plants in your raised bed. You can use a soil moisture meter or your finger to check the moisture level of your soil. You can also observe the signs of your plants, such as wilting, drooping, or yellowing. You should water your plants when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch or when your plants show signs of stress.
  • Choose the amount for watering your plants in your raised bed. You can use a measuring cup or a rain gauge to measure the amount of water you apply to your soil. You can also use a timer or a stopwatch to track the duration of your watering. You should water your plants deeply and thoroughly until water drains out from the bottom of your raised bed. A general rule of thumb is to water your plants with 1 inch of water per week.
  • Choose the method for watering your plants in your raised bed. You can use any type of watering device that suits your preference and budget. However, a good method for watering your plants in your raised bed is to use drip irrigation or soaker hoses. These devices deliver water directly to the plant roots and reduce evaporation, runoff, and splashing. They also save time, water, and money.

How to Mulch a Raised Bed

To mulch a raised bed, you need to have the right material, thickness, and purpose. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the material for mulching your raised bed. You can use any type of organic or inorganic material that can cover the soil surface and prevent weed growth. Some examples of organic mulch are straw, hay, grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, bark, etc. Some examples of inorganic mulch are gravel, pebbles, rocks, plastic, fabric, etc.
  • Choose the thickness for mulching your raised bed. You can use a ruler or a tape measure to measure the depth of your mulch layer. You can also use your hand or eye to estimate the thickness. You should apply enough mulch to cover the soil completely and block out any light. A general rule of thumb is to apply 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch or 1 to 2 inches of inorganic mulch.
  • Choose the purpose for mulching your raised bed. You can use mulch for various purposes, such as:
    • Retaining moisture: mulch helps reduce water evaporation and keep the soil moist
    • Regulating temperature: mulch helps insulate the soil and protect it from extreme heat or cold
    • Suppressing weeds: mulch helps prevent weed seeds from germinating and competing with your plants
    • Enhancing fertility: organic mulch helps decompose and release nutrients into the soil
    • Improving appearance: mulch helps create a neat and tidy look for your raised bed

How to Prune a Raised Bed

To prune a raised bed, you need to have the right tools, technique, and goal. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the tools for pruning your raised bed. You can use any type of cutting device that is sharp, clean, and comfortable. Some examples of pruning tools are scissors, shears, knives, saws, etc.
  • Choose the technique for pruning your raised bed. You can use different techniques depending on the type and condition of your plants. Some examples of pruning techniques are:
    • Pinching: removing the tips of young shoots or buds with your fingers or nails
    • Thinning: removing entire branches or stems at their base or origin
    • Heading: removing part of a branch or stem at a node or bud
    • Deadheading: removing faded or spent flowers or seed heads
    • Deadwooding: removing dead or diseased branches or stems
  • Choose the goal for pruning your raised bed. You can prune your plants for various goals, such as:
    • Shaping: pruning helps create a desired form or structure for your plants
    • Stimulating: pruning helps encourage new growth or flowering for your plants
    • Controlling: pruning helps limit the size or spread of your plants
    • Improving: pruning helps enhance the health or quality of your plants

How to Harvest a Raised Bed

To harvest a raised bed, you need to have the right timing, method, and use. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the timing for harvesting your plants in your raised bed. You can use the information on the seed packets or plant labels to determine the maturity or ripeness of your plants. You can also use your senses (such as sight, touch, smell, taste, etc.) to judge when your plants are ready to harvest. You should harvest your plants when they are at their peak of flavor, color, size, or quality.
  • Choose the method for harvesting your plants in your raised bed. You can use any type of harvesting device that is sharp, clean, and gentle. Some examples of harvesting tools are scissors, shears, knives, forks, spoons, etc. You can also use your hands or fingers to pluck, pull, twist, or snap off your plants. You should harvest your plants carefully and avoid damaging them or their neighbors.
  • Choose the use for harvesting your plants in your raised bed. You can use your harvested plants for various purposes, such as:
    • Eating: you can eat your harvested plants fresh, cooked, or preserved
    • Storing: you can store your harvested plants in a cool, dry, or dark place
    • Sharing: you can share your harvested plants with your family, friends, or neighbors
    • Donating: you can donate your harvested plants to a food bank, shelter, or charity

How to Protect a Raised Bed

To protect a raised bed, you need to have the right measures, devices, and strategies. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Choose the measures for protecting your plants in your raised bed. You can use various measures to prevent or reduce the damage or loss of your plants. Some examples of protective measures are:
    • Mulching: mulching helps retain moisture and regulate temperature
    • Watering: watering helps hydrate and cool your plants
    • Fertilizing: fertilizing helps nourish and strengthen your plants
    • Pruning: pruning helps remove dead or diseased parts and improve air circulation
    • Weeding: weeding helps eliminate competition and interference from unwanted plants
  • Choose the devices for protecting your plants in your raised bed. You can use various devices to shield or support your plants from external threats. Some examples of protective devices are:
    • Row covers: row covers are lightweight fabrics that cover your plants and protect them from frost, pests, or diseases
    • Cloches: cloches are bell-shaped glass or plastic domes that cover individual plants and protect them from frost, pests, or diseases
    • Trellises: trellises are frames or structures that support climbing or vining plants and protect them from pests, diseases, or weeds
    • Stakes: stakes are poles or sticks that support tall or heavy plants and protect them from wind, rain, or snow
    • Cages: cages are wire or mesh enclosures that surround your plants and protect them from animals, birds, or insects
  • Choose the strategies for protecting your plants in your raised bed. You can use various strategies to deter or repel potential invaders or predators of your plants. Some examples of protective strategies are:
    • Companion planting: companion planting is planting different types of plants together that benefit each other in some way, such as attracting beneficial insects, repelling pests, or enhancing growth
    • Crop rotation: crop rotation is changing the location or type of plants you grow in your raised bed every season or year, to prevent the buildup of pests, diseases, or soil problems
    • Intercropping: intercropping is planting different types of plants together that have different growth rates, heights, or harvest times, to maximize the use of space, resources, or time
    • Trap cropping: trap cropping is planting a type of plant that attracts pests away from your main crop, to reduce the damage or infestation of your main crop

Conclusion

How to Choose the Best Plants for Your Raised Garden Bed

In conclusion, growing plants in a raised bed can be a fun and rewarding experience for any gardener. You can choose from a variety of plants that suit your climate, space, soil, water, and purpose. You can also follow some tips and tricks for building, filling, planting, watering, mulching, pruning, harvesting, and protecting your raised bed. By doing so, you can enjoy the benefits and joys of having a beautiful, productive, and healthy raised bed.

We hope this article has helped you learn how to choose the best plants for your raised bed. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you and see your results.

Thank you for reading and happy gardening!

About The Author

Samantha
Samantha

I'm Samantha, a plant enthusiast who has been growing plants for years. I believe that plants can make our lives better, both physically and mentally. I started growit.wiki to share my knowledge about how to grow plants. I want to help others enjoy the beauty and benefits of plants.

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