Here’s a question I get asked weekly from clients: should I garden in-ground or purchase raised beds?

Both in-ground gardens and raised beds have their own list of pros and cons. Choosing the right garden for you really depends on your personal preference and what would fit with your lifestyle.

If you have limited space or time, and want an easily accessible, low-maintenance option, raised beds might be your best bet.

If you’ve got space and are envisioning a plot filled with fruits and veggies, and want an easy, low-cost start up, in-ground gardening could be right for you. 

If you’re just not sure, I’ve laid out some pros and cons for both in-ground gardening and raised beds as a little “food for thought”  to help you decide.

Still stuck? We can always chat or schedule a consult!

In-Ground Gardens

PROS CONS

・Low Cost: Because you don’t need anything but the ground, this is typically the cheapest garden plot option. If you have rich, healthy, well-draining soil, there’s no need to go through all the work of building raised beds, as planting directly in the ground is a much easier undertaking. All you need to do is add compost between growing seasons. By using existing soil and not importing soil, money can be saved and used for organic amendments that would be needed to improve even the imported soil.

・Increased Space: In-ground growing offers more gardening space, which is especially helpful when using odd-shaped areas on your property. If you plant in-ground, aside from property boundaries there is no limit to the space you can use for gardening.

・Easy Start-Up: Most soils are perfectly fine for gardening, provided the soil is properly tilled and watered. Once you’ve picked a flat, well-drained area for your garden, it can be prepared easily with a tractor or large rototiller.

・Growing Flexibility: With the extra space of an in-ground garden, it’s easier to grow more to scale and more economically. Growing larger quantities of large plants (think squash, melons, potatoes, cauliflower) can be done much easier in-ground. Large-scale gardeners, commercial growers, and homesteaders usually enjoy in-ground gardening both for the increased harvest, and ability to use machine-operated plows & tractors. It is also much easier to replace plants or move crops to another location.

・Harder on the Body: In-ground gardening can be tough on the back and knees, as it takes a lot of bending over, kneeling, hunching, straining, and leaning. In-ground growing operations can also be quite dirty, so you will need to dedicate some old, unwanted clothes to the task.

・Pests & Diseases: Garden pests, soil-borne diseases, rodents, and grazing animals can be much more of an issue with in-ground gardening, than with raised beds. Keeping pests, diseases, and other foragers out of your in-ground garden can present a tough challenge.

・Increased Water Costs: In-ground gardening requires much more water to properly irrigate your crops, as moisture tends to drain away more quickly in larger spaces.

・Soil Issues: Amending the soil on your property can take ages. If your soil needs to be regenerated or is too compact and lacks drainage, it will be tough to have any amount of success with your garden. Personally, soil issues were the #1 reason we included raised beds in our garden – we have brought in over 100 yards of material to amend our soil and it still isn’t perfect.

Not sure if in-ground gardening is for you? Check out the pros and cons of a raised bed garden here!