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

And I say, they’re both great options! There are pros and cons to both in-ground and raised beds, and it’s all about choosing the garden that fits your landscape, your lifestyle, and offers the benefits you need to reach your garden goals. 

So think: Are you on a budget? Do you have great soil and plenty of yard space? When you think of your garden goals does “homestead” come to mind? Then in-ground gardening might be more your style.

Or, are you short on time? Looking for an aesthetically pleasing way to use your limited yard space? Want an easily-accessible, low-maintenance garden? Raised beds could be the right fit 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.

If you’re still stuck, we can always chat or schedule a consult!

Raised Bed Gardens

・Manageability: Raised beds offer a manageable way to garden a smaller space intensively. If you struggle with low-quality soil, raised beds can be a simple, cost-effective fix as it allows you the opportunity to create a new, fertile healthy soil environment that is ready for immediate use.
・Longer Growing Season: Raised beds warm up more quickly in the spring and drain better, allowing for better growing conditions that will extend your growing season.

・Low Maintenance: Once the soil in a raised bed has stabilized, compaction of the soil is almost nonexistent, so the need for seasonal tilling is minimal. There is also a significant decrease in weed population because you have control over your soil and you aren’t competing with what was already in the ground (like the dreaded Creeping Charlie choking out your veggies!) 

・Better Drainage: A well-prepared raised bed allows the soil to drain better than an in-ground garden. It was this very issue that led us to a hybrid garden of some in-ground and some raised beds. It can take years and increased costs to regenerate poor soil, so raised beds are a quicker and more cost-effective fix. 

・User Customizability: Raised beds offer so much flexibility. If you struggle with not having the right space to garden in, raised beds are for you. They can be built on parking lots and other compacted, difficult-to-garden urban soils. On steep slopes they can act as a form of terracing. These are great for small spaces, and are visually beautiful, adding to your home’s aesthetic.

・Accessibility: Raised beds set up at the proper height can improve access for gardeners in wheelchairs or who have a hard time bending over. With multiple raised beds, you can include pathways between for easy movement throughout your garden.
・Expenses: Depending on how many raised beds you purchase, start-up costs can be steep. Elevated raised beds are even more expensive and require some degree of engineering to support the weight of the soil. Raised beds also need to be filled with soil, which can become expensive and requires a good understanding of soils and soil amending

Time: Once you purchase the beds, they will have to be assembled and placed in your yard. If you are DIY, this will require some physical labor! Raised beds are a long-term investment in your home’s landscaping, which also means they are a long-term commitment. They are more permanent than an in-ground patch and require more planning.

・Limited Growing Space: Creating raised beds can cut down on your overall garden space. In addition, raised beds are not deep enough for plants with large root systems (think fruit trees, or artichokes). Shallow beds are especially harmful to plants with large or elaborate roots. 

If it seems like raised bed gardening just isn’t your thing, check out the pros and cons of traditional in-ground gardening here!