Raised Beds: Benefits and Maintenance - Gardening Solutions (2024)

Raised Beds: Benefits and Maintenance - Gardening Solutions (1) Vegetable gardening is a great way to grow your own food and live a more sustainable lifestyle. Unfortunately, Florida's soils don't always lend themselves to growing vegetables. If this is true of your landscape, try gardening in raised beds instead! This gardening technique raise yields and reduce maintenance in your vegetable garden.

What are raised beds?

Raised beds are freestanding garden beds constructed above ground level. "Raised" means that the soil level in the bed is higher than the surrounding soil. The word "bed" implies a size small enough to work in without actually stepping onto planting area. Often raised beds are enclosed with box-like frames to provide structural support and prevent erosion.

Frames for raised beds can be constructed using a variety of materials, including brick, rot-resistant lumber, landscape timbers, or concrete blocks. Beds can also be elevated for gardeners who want to avoid bending to the ground while working.


Besides being aesthetically pleasing, raised vegetable beds offer many benefits to gardeners. Here are a few:

Improved Soil Conditions — Florida soils tend to be sandy and low in organic materials. By adding garden soil, compost, and soilless media to your raised bed, you can keep the soil full of the nutrients plants need. Since you don't walk in raised beds, soil compaction is also reduced. This allows water and air to move more freely through the soil.

Higher Yields — Raised-bed vegetables can be planted at higher densities, just far enough apart to avoid crowding but close enough to shade out weeds. The result is more produce per square foot. If your raised bed is elevated above the ground, you'll also have fewer problems with nematodes. These microscopic worms wreak havoc on a plant's roots and reduce yields.

Enhanced Accessibility — Raised beds offer options to gardeners with decreased mobility. Because the soil level is higher, you stoop less to weed, water, and do other garden chores. Elevating the raised beds one to three feet high makes gardening possible for people with limited mobility. Make sure you have wide, hard-surfaced paths in between beds to provide safe access for walkers and wheelchairs.

Decreased Maintenance — Since vegetables are planted much closer together than they would be in a traditional bed, they can shade out much of the weed growth. Pest control is also easier with raised beds. If burrowing rodents like moles are a problem, the bottom of the bed can be lined with poultry wire or hardware cloth. You can even cover beds with bird netting. The narrow dimensions of the beds make it easy to add an overhead frame. The frame can also be used to support covers for frost or freeze protection.

Water Conservation — Raised beds can be irrigated using canvas soaker hoses, perforated plastic sprinkle hoses, or low-volume drip tubing. These irrigation methods work well for dispersing water in the long, narrow beds. They also reduce disease by directing water to the soil instead of wetting leaf surfaces with overhead irrigation.

There is one caution to building raised beds, however. Products and building materials used for ornamental plants may not be suitable for edibles. Be cautious of recycled lumber as a building material. Please also remember that not all pesticides are safe for vegetable gardens. Many of the products you would normally use in ornamental beds can be dangerous when used on edible crops. Always read and follow the instructions on the label; it's the law.

What to Plant in Raised Beds

Most garden vegetables will grow well in raised beds. Try growing lettuce, greens, radishes, and strawberries. Bush type vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans also do well in raised beds. You can install trellises for vegetables that need support, like some tomatoes and beans. Certain crops, like squash, melons, and sweet corn, usually do better in the ground because they require more space than other vegetables.

If you're interested in adding raised beds to your yard, we have more information for you. For construction tips and steps, please read our article, Building Raised Beds. You will also find the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide helpful. This guide includes vegetable varieties, planting dates in Florida, and other valuable information on edible gardening.

Maintaining Your Raised Beds

One of the benefits of gardening in raised beds is the easier maintenance. If you use quality materials and construct them well, raised beds can last for decades with very little structural maintenance. There are a few standard maintenance practices that you will need to keep up with, though, for your crops' sake.

Water Regularly

Raised Beds: Benefits and Maintenance - Gardening Solutions (2)

Soil in raised beds warms faster and dries out more quickly than soil at ground level. Remember to water your raised beds on a consistent basis, especially during dry periods. The goal is to keep the soil underneath the surface lightly moist, even when the top inch dries in the sun.

Place soaker hoses or drip irrigation directly on the bed if you plan to use them. Overhead sprinklers can also be used, but because they get the plant foliage wet, they are more likely to spread disease. And of course, watering cans are still an effective way for gardeners to get regular exercise.

Use Mulch

Mulch helps to suppress weed growth and keeps the soil moist. Soil temperatures are also much lower under organic mulches. You can use organic mulches, such as straw (hay) or wood chips placed on landscape fabric. Be cautious when using pine straw or bark as these may acidify the soil.

Fertilize Appropriately

Fertilization of plants grown in raised beds is similar to that of plants grown conventionally. We usually suggest that you select something with 2% phosphorus or less, in accordance with Florida State Law, but edibles are the exception. Still, you may not need extra phosphorus in your vegetable garden; a soil test can help you determine which nutrients you truly need. You can learn more in our article about fertilizing vegetable gardens.

Till at the End of the Season

At the end of the growing season, you can till your vegetable plants back into the beds. This adds organic matter to the soil. You can also add additional compost for more nutrients. Over time, the soil may become so improved that you won't have to till under.

For all of your raised bed questions, we're here for you. Contact your county Extension office for expert garden and landscape assistance.

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Applying Fertilizer to Vegetables
  • Organic Matter
  • Square Foot Gardening
  • Vegetable Gardening in Florida

UF/IFAS Publications

  • Fertilizing the Garden
  • Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide
  • Soil pH and the Home Landscape or Garden
Raised Beds: Benefits and Maintenance - Gardening Solutions (2024)


Raised Beds: Benefits and Maintenance - Gardening Solutions? ›

Overall, raised beds offer numerous advantages, including improved soil quality, enhanced drainage, weed control, easy accessibility, extended growing season, versatile placement options, aesthetic appeal, and effective pest and disease management.

What are the benefits of raised garden beds? ›

Overall, raised beds offer numerous advantages, including improved soil quality, enhanced drainage, weed control, easy accessibility, extended growing season, versatile placement options, aesthetic appeal, and effective pest and disease management.

How do I protect my raised bed plants? ›

You'll also be ensuring your plants have the entire depth of the raised bed to stretch down their roots. Before you shovel your new soil in, add some weed barrier cloth or burlap to the bottom of your bed to keep weeds out and to prevent your soil from washing out of your bed with the first heavy rain.

What do you treat raised beds with? ›

I recommend at the very least coating your lumber in linseed oil or beeswax to preserve them for the long haul. Some gardeners use lining between the interior of their raised bed and soil to protect the wood. Even with the lining, you'll get seepage of water that will penetrate that wood and linger.

Do raised beds need to be treated? ›

The key to longevity is treating these wooden raised beds properly in the first place. There are some great products on the market and you should try to use one of these before you fill in the space with soil. You can do it after but you'll have a much easier time if you do it before!

What are the two cons of raised beds? ›

Water Usage and Seasonal Considerations - Due to a raised garden's superior drainage, they tend to dry out faster in the warmer months. This requires more frequent watering to keep your plants hydrated. Due to the increased air circulation, raised beds can become colder sooner than natural soil.

Are raised beds better for plants? ›

Raised beds are often more productive than beds in the ground because the soil is less compacted, has better drainage, and warms earlier in the spring, meaning that plants will start to grow earlier in the season.

Do raised beds need mulch? ›

Simply put, mulching is when you apply a layer of either organic or inorganic material to the surface of the soil. While raised garden beds already offer a variety of benefits that do not require the use of mulch, some gardeners chose to add it to give their plants an additional boost.

How can I protect my vegetable garden? ›

One of the easiest and most effective ways to deter wildlife from eating your garden or wandering into your home is by using barriers. Plant covers, chicken wire and netting work well to protect edible plants and ripening fruit like berries. Fences are the ultimate barrier and are even protected by your home insurance.

Do raised garden beds keep pests out? ›

There are many reasons that raised bed gardens maximize harvest. In addition to controlling the soil, weeds, and pests, it is also easier to add accessories for protection and pest prevention.

How do I protect my raised garden bed from animals? ›

Livestock panels are inexpensive, and I can easily cut them to the shape of my raised bed surfaces (or suspend them an inch or two above the surface). Once I've placed them on the beds, I can use them to space my plants too. The plants grow through the panel, but the cats can't scratch around it to the surface.

Do raised beds need new soil every year? ›

“But even the best of gardeners will need to refresh the raised bed eventually. Settling soil is simply a fact of raised bed gardening.” Annually, topdressing with a few inches of compost or high-quality topsoil into raised beds should be enough to keep up with the settling soil level, Enroth says.

Does soil in raised beds need to be replaced? ›

However, if you notice signs of soil depletion such as poor plant growth or nutrient deficiencies, it may be time to replace your soil or make significant amendments to improve its health. The soil in a raised bed can remain viable for many years with proper maintenance and care.

Do raised beds need compost every year? ›

If your soil has high levels of phosphorus, take a break from applying compost for a few years. But if your soil test indicates that your soil phosphorus levels are not excessive, then go ahead and add compost. We typically recommend about an inch or less of compost over your garden beds each year.

How often do you water a raised bed? ›

To avoid overwatering and root rot, check the soil daily and water when it is dry two inches down. Watering every other day is typically sufficient for raised beds. Proper watering techniques and companion planting can help address the need for more frequent watering.

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