A group of people gardening together around a raised bed
When you garden in a raised bed, the soil and planting area is higher and closer to you. Find advice to decide if raised beds are right for you and your garden.
  • For some people, gardening in raised beds is easier. Plants become closer, allowing you to enjoy nature and gardening
  • Raised beds are extremely versatile. You can try growing a wide variety of flowers and vegetables, learning as you go
  • More than one person at a time can work around large raised beds. This allows them to become a shared, social project
A row of square wooden raised beds filled with food produce
A row of square wooden raised beds filled with food produce

Essentially, a raised bed is a container of any size that brings the area you plant in up from the ground. That could be by 10cm or over a metre.

We changed most of our planting areas to raised beds, and installed two raised ponds, which we love.

Fred, gardener with dwarfism

There are many reasons why people choose or prefer to garden in raised beds:

  • Comfort. Because you can choose the height of your raised bed, it can make gardening more comfortable to do. This is particularly true if you have difficulties with bending and mobility.
  • Support. Raised beds have sturdy sides. In some cases, you can even perch on the side. This can make them helpful for anyone with balance issues.
  • Soil control. It is quite difficult to change the soil in your beds and borders. You can work hard to make the quality as good as possible but can’t really mess with nature. If you live in an area with chalk soil, your border soil will always be a bit chalky! The type of soil you have makes a difference to which plants do best. When gardening in a raised bed, there is much greater control as you fill them with fresh soil.
  • Appearance. Raised beds can make an attractive addition to the garden. They add shape, form and focus points. By raising the plants up, they become more visible. This can also make them handy for hiding unsightly areas of the garden, like compost bins.
Woman on raised bed pruning a plant
A woman sitting on the edge of a raised bed

Raised beds have their benefits and we certainly use them at Thrive. But, there are also some difficulties to be aware of before you install one:

  • They dry out quicker than the soil in the ground. This means they need watering more often, especially during the hot summer months.
  • A straight-sided raised bed might be difficult to work at if you are in a wheelchair or sit to garden. This is because you need to lean forward and twist slightly to get to it. An alternative is an elevated planter. This is basically a raised bed on legs. With some, the design allows you to comfortably bring your chair up against the planter. This reduces the need to lean and twist.
  • Raised beds can be difficult to remove. Ideally, make sure you don’t need to! Check it really is what you need, that it fits your garden layout and is in the right position for what you want to grow. Then, go ahead and put in place.

Top tip

Do you love beds and borders? If so, don’t feel you have to stop gardening in them because of a change of physical circumstance.

There are plenty of lightweight, long-handled and adapted tools available. With these you can comfortably reach the ground from a seated position, or with minimal bending.

Raised beds with wooden sides
A raised bed with wooden sides

Raised beds are pretty versatile when it comes to what you can grow in them. Generally, any plant you can grow in a container can be grown in a raised bed. You can always check the plant label before buying to make sure.

What you choose to grow is partly a question of taste. Do you prefer growing flowers, vegetables, or would you like a mixture of both?

Where you place your raised bed (see below) will also affect what will grow well. Most vegetables, for example, need plenty of sunshine.

This is a small selection of some popular plants you could grow in your raised bed:

  • Bedding plants (e.g. pansies, marigolds, geraniums)
  • Food crops (e.g. lettuces, radishes, carrots, chives, parsley)
  • Small shrubs (e.g. hebe, lavender, dwarf conifers)
  • Bulbs (e.g. snowdrops, daffodils and tulips)
A raised bed filled with tasty lettuces and flowering chives
A raised bed used for growing vegetables and herbs

These are a few things to think about when deciding where to position your raised bed.

Sun level

Try and choose a reasonably sunny spot. Ideally, it will also get a little bit of shade throughout the day. If you put your raised bed somewhere very shady, there are still some plants you can grow. Your options will be a bit limited, though.

You may want to avoid having your raised bed too near to big trees. They can create a lot of shade and drop leaves and seeds on your raised bed.


Try not to place your raised bed in any very windy parts of your garden. You want your plants to be able to get plenty of air, but not get battered.


Think about how you will get to and around your raised bed. Any paths leading to it should have a level, firm, non-slip surface.

If you use a wheelchair, avoid having paths with loose material like gravel or wood chip. Ensure any path is wide enough, with space for turning. Find detailed advice in our guide to wheelchair friendly garden design.

Ease of watering

If your raised bed is close to a garden tap or source of water, then watering will take less effort.

What’s below

You can position a raised bed on a soft or hard surface in your garden. This could be on the grass, on hard soil or onto concrete / patio areas.

Whatever you place your raised bed on, the surface should be firm and level.

What's below your raised bed will affect drainage. On grass, water can drain into the soil below. On concrete, you will need to make sure water can drain away, for example through holes in the side of the raised bed.

Wooden and concrete raised beds filled with herbs and plants
Wooden and concrete raised bed designs

Raised bed design decisions include size, materials and any special features.


The maximum distance a person can comfortably reach is generally 50cm. So, if you can get around all sides of your raised bed, it could be up to 1m wide. If you can only reach across it from one side, the maximum width should be 50cm.

The height depends on what’s best for you. These are some suggested heights based on how you will use it:

  • Standing up (without bending): 90cm-1m height
  • Sitting on the edge: 69-76cm height
  • Wheelchair user: 62cm height

Leg space

If you garden from a seated position, you could include foot / leg / chair space in the design of your raised bed. This allows you to work at it facing forwards. You could also choose an elevated planter.

Raised beds designed with cut our areas can cost more to build but are worth it if it’s best for your comfort.


The most popular choices of material for a raised bed are timber, plastic, stone or brick.

Timber is easily available and can be cut to size. Some people like to use very thick planks so they can sit on the edge when working.

Plastic is sometimes used for ready-made beds. It’s low cost, long-lasting and easy to install. There is, of course, the debate around the environmental issue of using too much plastic.

Stone or brick can look great and be extremely durable. They are the most expensive materials, though, and hardest to build with. It's a good idea to get professional help to construct a stone or brick raised bed (see below).

Depending how keen you are on DIY, there are different options for your raised beds.

There are companies who custom make and install raised beds. This will likely cost more but means you can get what you want without physical effort.

Raised beds can be purchased in ‘kit’ form. A little work is needed to assemble at home, but this is generally achievable with a low level of DIY experience. Or, you could ask for some help!

If you are keen on constructing things, you could build your own. Read our leaflet on how to build raised beds for help and guidance.

Top tip

Unless you are an experienced builder, it’s best to get help if planning a raised beds made of stone or brick.

Raised beds need to be able to hold a large weight of soil so are often heavy - safety is so important!

A young boy helps water plants in a wooden raised bed
Watering plants in a wooden raised bed

Once your raised bed is in place, you need to fill it with compost before planting. Choose good quality compost, so your plants can get the moisture and nutrients they need to survive.

Place a layer of clean stone or rubble at the bottom of your raised bed (around 5cm thick). This will help improve drainage.

Top tip

You will notice the level of compost in your raised bed drops down over time. This is normal and happens as the soil settles. Just top up with more compost so it’s back to the top again.

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