Raised bed garden ideas for easy access to plants

Organise your outside space with these low-maintenance planting projects.

Sprawling plant beds abundant with flowers are a delight. But boy, do they take a lot of looking after, not to mention physical effort, as you crawl on your hands and knees to get to pesky weeds or cut back shrubs.  

Have you been considering scaling back your garden activities? Or are you keen to get a low-maintenance planting project on the go? Perhaps you just want to organise your garden into more distinct sections. Raised beds keep all the things you love to do outside – whether that’s tending a no-dig vegetable garden or attracting insects with your flowers – within easy reach.  

a man watering his plants with a watering can in his garden and the plants are growing in a raised bedCredit: Shutterstock / Daisy Daisy
Raised bed gardens can provide easier access to planting jobs

Raised beds don’t just have to be a standard wooden box construction (though there are many on our list). They can be made with repurposed materials – a win for sustainable living – or with stone or concrete, ideal for people who want minimal fuss but still want their garden to look smart. 

We have 15 raised bed garden ideas that could inspire you to transform your garden, balcony, courtyard, or even the most awkward, tough-to-love space in your backyard, for the better. 

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1. Make your beds multifunctional

Incorporate seating or even a water feature

Your raised beds don’t have to just be planters. Their design can incorporate seating, or even a water feature. Lee Burkhill’s award-winning Fancy a Brew? Take a Pewdesign does just that. (If you love watching how-to gardening videos, check out Burkhill’s YouTube channel Garden Ninja).

A teapot and mug of tea in a garden on a raised bedCredit: Lee Burkhill (gardenninja.co.uk)

Being able to sit comfortably at the raised bed not only provides a mindful moment in the garden, but also makes lighter work of tending the plants within 

Raised beds can add foliage and colour to snug, paved spaces. Adding trellises to either end of a secluded walkway created by a group of planters can create the feel of a secret garden in dappled sunlight. 

2. Create a secret garden

Use pergolas and raised beds together

view of a courtyard garden lined with wooden raised garden beds and trellisesCredit: Ca’ Pietra / Victoria Magrath

In this stunning garden, owned by Victoria Magrath of InTheFrow, the raised beds add perspective and depth, while the planting softens a hard-surfaced canvas. 

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One of the wonders of a raised bed is that it offers free-draining soil. That creates an ideal environment for drought-resistant plants, which benefit from good moisture retention in their foliage and stems. 

3. Fill your raised beds with fuss-free plants

Take low maintenance to the next level

Backyard with plant landscaping, patio, fence and raised bed, drought resistant plantsCredit: Shutterstock / shippee

If you don’t want to worry too much about watering your plants during a summer heatwave, then a bed brimming with fuss-free plants, such as ornamental grasses and outdoor succulents, are ideal.

Keep an eye on them during very heavy rain and cover with tarp or plastic if you find the soil becoming waterlogged during a period of bad weather (particularly if you have compacted ground beneath).

Do plants in a raised bed garden need to be watered differently? 

Raised beds typically drain much more easily. So, you’ll need to keep an eye on watering needs of various plants as they might differ to what you’d expect at ground level. 

Creating deeper beds means roots can get longer and require slightly less watering, as Burkhill explains. 

“Ensure that you use a deep, peat-free compost mulch in any raised bed when planting,” he tells us. “This helps retain moisture, suppresses weeds and gives a long-term feed to your plants. It’s the easiest way to reduce maintenance and watering needs.”

He warns that building a raised bed on compacted ground can lead to ‘wet bed’. If your bed is going on top of grouted flagstones or tarmac, it might be best to break up the surface to create drainage. Un-grouted paving slabs, Burkhill notes, will likely already allow for water to drain away.  

4. Use a planter as an instant raised bed

Cheat your way to the look

The structure of this metal planter means it can also double up as an instant raised bed. It’s ideal for a balcony or small courtyard garden, and easy to install as there’s no building required.

Metal raised garden planter full of flowers on a patioCredit: Shutterstock / Frank Lambert

If you’re able to attach wheels to a similar style of planter, or you have people around that could help you manoeuvre it, this could be moved around a small garden to ensure maximum sun exposure.

5. Include easy-access sections for children

Get the kids involved with gardening

Designed Small Decorative Garden Corner with Plants in Wooden Box and Pebble FloorCredit: Shutterstock / AVN Photo Lab

Add an extra small, raised bed for the tiniest gardeners in your family. This is a nice idea if you have grandchildren, or any other children who might visit your house.

A miniature version of a raised bed will mean they have their own dedicated space within easy reach and can cultivate their own growing projects.  

6. Take a tiered approach

Build your own or buy ready-made

6. Take a tiered approach

If you’re limited on space, but want raised beds that can be home to a range of plants with different root depths, then a tiered option will suit best. This one’s for all the DIY enthusiasts, though there are ready-made designs available.

Tiered raised wooden garden bed with flowers in the corner of a pebbled patioCredit: Forest

Our own Exceptional Homes team can attest to the fact that this style of raised bed can be built easily at home.

Our Editor In Chief Amy built nearidentical beds to this on her patio using Wickes Pine Exterior Joists (£18 each) joined together with 5mm diameter, 60mm-long screws. She filled with a mix of topsoil and compost and topped with wood mulch to suppress weeds and retain moisture.

Shop the look: Forest Caledonian Tiered Raised Bed, £210 from B&Q 

7. Create a raised vegetable patch

Keep veggies organised

Avoid lengthy allotment waiting lists and get your grow on in your back garden. Raised beds are an excellent solution for growing edibles at home.

three tiered raised vegetable garden planter with gloves next to it and a wheelbarrow in the backgroundCredit: B&Q

Even people with balconies can become accomplished kitchen gardeners in no time at all. And as above, a tiered design can be useful for fruit and veggies that need a bit more room for longer root systems, according to plant experts GrowIt, BuildIt. 

Shop the look: Verve 1200mmx1200mm Wood Raised bed kit 1.44m², £92 at B&Q 

8. Group planters together

Great for awkward spaces

You don’t necessarily need to be a DIY buff to create a tiered, raised bed patio from scratch. A similar effect can be achieved using separate, readymade planters that can be placed together.

three wooden planters filled with flowers and shrubs on a patioCredit: Forest

This will also be useful if you have any awkwardly shaped spaces you want to brighten up with foliage. You can play around with different angles and heights of your planter group until your heart’s content.

This is also a great idea if you are renting a property and/or planning a move soon. The individual beds are easy enough to transport separately, and can be reconfigured to suit their next location.

Shop the look: Forest Garden Durham Rectangular Planter (set of three), £158.99 at Robert Dyas

9. Use a stone bed as an architectural feature

Create a more classical landscape

Now, we may not all have shabby chic stone ruins in our garden to make a raised bed statement with. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let your inner architect shine.

Gothic stonework garden with gravel floor and a central stone raised garden planter filled with flowers and shrubsCredit: Redwood Stone – Folly & Garden (redwoodstone.com)

Use stone to make your raised beds – whether that’s natural rock, foraged materials or leftover elements from a building project. This could be placed centre stage to create a focal point for the garden, or take over a corner for a more natural, ‘carved out of the earth’ look. 

10. Go for a grid system

Because plants can be organised, too

If you get a kick of out being neat and tidy and want your garden to reflect your organised home, then how about this grid-style raised bed garden idea? Keeping all your vegetables growing separately could be useful if there’s someone in your household with a particular allergy.

Wooden raised bed divided into sections with wooden planks and filled with different vegetablesCredit: B&Q

It’ll also help keep plants that love to naturally ‘creep’ around patches (such as mint) in their place. Or if you’re tight on space and need to plant edible and non-edible plants together, it’s a good way to split them and be safe.

Did you know, for example, that you should never plant spring onions and daffodils in the same spot? 

Perfect starter plants for raised bed gardens

Pasque flower is a spring-flowering alpine plant that will tolerate any soil and is a good option for beginners just starting their raised bed journey. Most alpines enjoy a sunny dry spot, so raised beds are an ideal home.

Rhododendrons generally like acidic soil and some dwarf varieties are good options for smaller gardens. Raised beds are good for creating soil pH that is unlike the rest of your garden.

The Sneezy varietal is ideal for raised beds, is easy to grow and its dome shape will provide good cover if you don’t want to manage too many different plants in one bed.

Lupins are hardy, herbaceous perennials that enjoy very well-drained soil found in larger raised beds (they sometimes struggle in containers).

The Governor should do well in neutral to acidic soil and will provide contrasting height behind lower lying shrubs you may plant.

“Position them in a space with moist but well-drained soil – they also prefer a slightly acidic or neutral soil,” says David Domoney on his blog. “Due to their height, growing to around 90cm tall, they do best in a sheltered position where they won’t be damaged by strong winds.”

He adds that when planting in summer, it is ideal to add support due to their height. Gardeners should also bear in mind, says Domoney, that younger lupin plants tend to grow best and establish better compared to more mature ones.

Heathers are also hardy and are a good option for raised beds with a balanced soil composition. Planting heathers in raised beds is a good idea if your normal garden soil is heavy/clay as heathers won’t tolerate that.

Springwood White is a pretty, evergreen option that flowers over winter, bringing cute white buds to your raised beds during the coldest months. 

11. Transform a tight space

Fill a shady corner

Standalone raised beds are an excellent way to utilise an unloved corner or awkward space. This works particularly well with a corner-shaped raised bed.

Patio garden with corner raised garden bed made from woodCredit: Forest

Corners can be notoriously tricky to make appealing, with many becoming places to store odds and ends, or merely collecting leaves and debris. No matter if it’s dark or sunny, there will be a plant that can happily thrive in a raised bed in a sheltered corner. You’d never know what it was concealing beneath.  

Shop the look: Forest Linear Corner Wooden Planter (0.8m x 0.8m), £149.99 from B&M Gardens & Buildings 

12. Try a minimalist approach

Keep it chic with rendered beds

Here’s a raised bed garden idea if you love spending time outside entertaining friends and family, but don’t necessarily love fussing over flowers.

Landscaped garden with black tiles, white raised garden beds around the border and a small patch of grassCredit: Tile Mountain

These low-maintenance raised beds are a masterclass in clean lines and simple planting options.

Aside from some occasional trimming and topiary, these raised beds more or less will look after themselves, giving you more time to lavish your guests with attention instead. One way to create them is by rendering breeze blocks.  

13. Repurpose something unexpected

Surprise visitors with a quirky raised bed

All aboard! It’s time to let your wildest ideas set sail. Okay, so you might not have an old rowing boat lying around to reimagine as a raised bed garden with a lick of paint.

Freshly painted, Red dory, boat re-purposed, recycled, into flower and herb garden.Credit: Shutterstock / Tom Clausen

But for gardeners who find it impossible to throw anything away, think creatively about what you can repurpose into a raised bed.

Sustainable actions and zero-waste intentions shine even brighter when they tell a story, and a boat in your backyard will surely be a talking point for anyone that can spot it from their fence or window.   

14. Build a bed with railways sleepers

Choo-choose a classic bed material

Railway sleepers are a wonderful, chunky alternative to timber planks. Their sturdy nature means they automatically double up as a place to perch.

Square raised garden bed made using large wooden railways sleepersCredit: B&Q

There has been some concern over older, repurposed railway sleepers containing a chemical called creosote. Creosote has associated risks with regular skin contact, and its use is now prohibited.

Though new sleepers are treated with other preservatives now, the RHS advises gardeners with raised beds made using older sleepers to wear protective covering and gloves.

Gardeners should always be aware of the risk that wood treatment chemicals used for raised beds could leach into soil containing plants you intend to eat, so it’s worth doing your research to find which treatment is right for your crop.

“Using wood treatment on sleepers will help to prevent rot, insect infestation and mould as well as enhancing their water-resistance capabilities and visual appeal,” says Cindy Tsui, B&Q’s buyer for landscaping.

“For softwood sleepers, the most common treatment method is pressure treatment. A chemical solution is forced deep into the timber fibres, giving lasting protection against decay. Whereas, some tropical hardwoods do not require such treatment as they are naturally more resilient.”

Shop the look: Grange Timber Railway sleeper 125mm x 1.2m £25 each from B&Q 

15. Put raised beds on a roof terrace

Take full advantage of these sunny spots

Though domestic roof terraces aren’t commonplace in the UK, if you have a holiday home overseas, it may well have a sun terrace. 

rooftop garden on urban building with vegetables and flowers growing in a raised bed gardenCredit: Shutterstock / Alison Hancock

Any raised beds installed on a rooftop patio are in prime position to soak up all of that wonderful sunshine for crops that will thrive in that particular climate.

Raised bed gardens are well suited to hard-floor landscaping, so can easily be added alongside seating to create the foundations of a relaxing rooftop oasis.

4 alternative materials to use for raised bed garden ideas

Recycled plastic can be transformed into plastic lumber, which can then be used to construct raised beds, meaning less plastic ends up in landfill. One benefit is that as recycled plastic is chemically inert, there is no leeching of any nasties into the soil.

British Recycled Plastic offer a selection of surprisingly chic, maintenance-free recycled plastic raised beds as handy kits, all with a 25-year guarantee. As they won’t degrade or rot, you won’t need to treat or replace them as you would wooden planks.

Buy now: Recycled Plastic Raised Bed Kits, from £256.90, British Recycled Plastics

Is there anything wooden pallets can’t be used for in the garden?

They can be put on their side for smaller vertical herb or climber plant gardens, or if you receive a large delivery and have become lumbered with a few pallets they can then be combined to make the frame of larger raised beds with a decent height, so there’s almost no bending over. 

If you have bricks or breezeblocks lying around leftover from another DIY or renovation project, they can easily be used to create sturdy raised beds.

If you don’t like their rather industrial finish, they can be rendered and painted to match your style.  

Some people have used corrugated sheets of metal as it’s hardwearing and waterproof. This type of metal also doesn’t need treatment in the same way wood does.

Large metal containers, such as a horse trough, are also useful as a sturdy alternative raised bed garden idea. 

Blue wooden pallets that have been painted and turned on their side to form a large raised bed garden with flowers planted insideCredit: Shutterstock / neko92vl
Repurposed wooden pallets can be brightened up with a lick of paint
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Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

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Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures.

Rosanna loves nothing better than getting under the skin of a topic and is led by an unwavering curiosity to share information and stories that inform and inspire her readers – a mission that has taken her around the world. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

She turned her attention to the Homes sector as a result of an ongoing renovation and improvement project, which takes up a fair amount of her time outside of work. When she’s not comparing carpet samples or debating the pros and cons of induction hobs, you’ll find Rosanna exploring Bristol’s food and drink scene, obsessively watching horror films, or donning some walking boots and heading for the hills.

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