The BEST (and worst) Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds

Are you eager to start your raised bed garden but aren’t sure which vegetables to prioritize? Look no further! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best vegetables perfectly suited for raised beds (and which ones to avoid!).

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, discovering the ideal crops for raised beds can improve your plant’s health, maximize their yield, and make gardening an overall rewarding experience.

From vibrant greens to hearty root vegetables, we’ll delve into the top 10 BEST vegetables to grow in raised beds, helping you cultivate a bountiful harvest in your own backyard oasis. Let’s dive in!

Katie working in her raised bed garden

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products (including Amazon). I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you! Regardless, I only link to products that I personally use on our homestead or believe in.

The 10 BEST Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds

The key things to look for when deciding on the best vegetables to grow in raised beds are plant size, growth patterns, temperature needs, root depth, and time to harvest. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry, I’ve done all of the brainstorming for you!

#1: Bush beans

Bush beans are one of my favorites to grow in raised beds! They are compact plants with a fast turnaround time (50-60 days to maturity). That means you can grow a round of bush beans, and then plant something else within the same season! Beans also return nitrogen to the soil, which your future plants will be appreciative of.

A close up view of bush beans growing in a raised bed

#2: Greens

You will pretty much ALWAYS find greens growing in my raised beds – they are perfect for this type of space. This group includes things like spinach, kale, lettuce, baby greens, swiss chard, collard greens, asian greens, mustard greens, you name it! 

I love utilizing greens in raised bed gardens because they are fast-growing and compact, which means that they share with other plants well if you are limited on garden space. They make wonderful companion plants, too! Lastly, I have my raised beds close to the house and my big in-ground garden further away, so it’s nice to be able to step right out of my door to quickly snip off a salad for lunch.

A mixture of different greens growing in a raised bed garden

#3: Carrots

When I think of raised beds, the first vegetable that comes to mind is carrots. Carrots have very long roots with some varieties reaching 9″ long, or more! Because of this, carrots appreciate deep, loose, workable soil, which can sometimes be hard to achieve in in-ground gardens that are riddled with heavy clay and/or rocks.

Raised beds are a great way to build a solid base of loose soil that will help your carrots grow straight and strong. If grown in compact and/or rocky soil, carrots can often end up crooked, wonky, forked, or stubby. 

A photo of Katie pulling carrots out of the ground in her garden

#4: Herbs

Herbs are a lovely addition to any raised bed and since herbs appreciate well-drained soil, raised beds provide a great growing medium for them. I love that some herbs like dill can operate as a beneficial companion plant and improve the overall health of other vegetables nearby. 

Keep in mind that many herbs such as mint, oregano, lemon balm, and thyme are perennials. Therefore, I like to keep these in the corners of my beds to keep the middle open and flexible. Also, mint and oregano are aggressive spreaders and can EASILY take over an entire raised bed, so I recommend planting them inside a pot to keep their roots contained.

Different herbs growing in a raised bed garden

Basil is another common herb in raised beds, but it can bolt (flower) quickly, shortening your harvest window. Learn how to manage basil properly in my article Basil Plant Flowering? Here’s What to Do About It.

#5: Strawberries

Strawberries and raised beds go together like peas and carrots. There are so many benefits to this pairing! Everyone loves strawberries (critters included!) so keeping them elevated can help keep them safe. Second, strawberries tend to spread quickly, which can be hard to manage outside of a confined space like a raised bed.

Lastly, strawberries make a lovely low-growing ground cover for any of your taller plants. They typically bear fruit early (in June), then go dormant as the other vegetables are starting to pick up speed later in the growing season. A great companion plant and way to maximize your garden space!

Strawberries growing in a raised bed garden

#6: Radishes, Turnips & Beets

I’ve had the best luck growing root crops like radishes, turnips, and beets in raised beds. Whenever I switch over to my in-ground garden they don’t seem to do as well. They must appreciate the loose, workable soil that raised beds provide.

Radishes, turnips, and beets are also fast-growing crops, which means that you can rotate them with other vegetables later in the season. They also don’t take up much room so that makes them a great addition to raised beds if you’re short on planting space.

A close up view of fresh picked turnips laying on garden soil

#7: Cucumbers

I’ve grown cucumbers in raised beds nearly every year that I’ve been gardening and they always thrive! The soil temp in raised beds is slightly higher than it is in in-ground gardens, so that helps those cucumber seeds germinate quickly in the spring. A plus if you live in a cold climate like me (zone 4a)!

You can utilize a basic trellis (like mine below), or create an entire hoop that spreads to the next bed over! That really helps maximize the space, and it looks pretty neat, too! I also enjoy that they are up a little higher when in raised beds, which makes them easy to prune and train as they grow. 

Cucumbers growing up a trellis in a garden

If you notice any issues with your cucumbers this summer, be sure to check out my article Cucumber Leaves Turning Yellow? Here’s 5 Reasons & Solutions!

#8: Pole beans

If you already have a trellis set up for cucumbers, add some pole beans to the other side! Pole beans are different than bush beans in that they will produce throughout the whole growing season, which can be a positive or a negative, depending on your plans for that garden space.

Pole beans growing up a trellis in a raised bed

#9: Peppers

Since the soil is slightly warmer in raised beds than in in-ground gardens, peppers are an easy winner here! Peppers thrive in warm weather conditions and quickly decline when exposed to cold, so using raised beds can certainly extend your growing season when growing sensitive plants like peppers.

A close up view of cayenne peppers growing in a garden

If you live in a warm climate, you may want to consider Topping Pepper Plants to improve their yield. However, it’s not a decision to be made lightly, so be sure to read up about it before you go snipping away.

#10: Marigolds

Marigolds are something I’ve been experimenting with over the past few years and now I’m kicking myself for not including them earlier! They have natural pest-repellent properties and the ability to improve soil health. Marigolds emit a strong scent that can help deter pests such as nematodesaphids, and whiteflies, which are common threats to raised bed gardens.

Additionally, marigolds are known for their ability to improve soil health by releasing organic compounds such as thiophenes, terpenes, and flavonoids to suppress harmful soil-borne pathogens and promote beneficial microorganisms. Lastly, the bright and colorful flowers of marigolds can also add aesthetic appeal to the garden and attract pollinators

A row of marigolds growing in a garden

The 3 WORST Vegetables in Raised Beds

Okay, so we’ve covered some AMAZING vegetables to grow in raised beds, but there are still a few out there that are best left out of these elevated spaces.

#1: Corn

Corn technically can be grown in raised beds, but they are most often planted in large in-ground gardens. The reason for this is that you need to plant a large block of corn (minimum of 4 rows) for adequate pollination. Most raised beds aren’t large enough to accommodate this.

#2: Vining plants

If you want to make a complete mess of your raised beds, then look no further than the vining vegetables such as melons, pumpkins, and winter squash. Uff da! These vines can get LONG (20+ feet) and rapidly take over the space. Reserve these large vining plants to large in-ground gardens with lots of available space to sprawl.

Want to give them a try? Make sure to read about the 5 BEST Pumpkin Companion Plants (and 3 to AVOID!)!

#3: Large perennials (asparagus, rhubarb)

Another set of plants to consider leaving out of your raised beds are large perennials like asparagus and rhubarb. They are hardy, prolific growers that are best placed in their own corner somewhere. They’ll quickly take over a small raised bed, making the space unavailable for anything else. 

Check out my list of the 5 BEST Asparagus Companion Plants (and 3 to Avoid!) and the Best and Worst Rhubarb Companion Plants for some great growing tips!

The Benefits of Using Raised Garden Beds

While I LOVE my large in-ground garden, there are definitely a lot of benefits to utilizing raised garden beds. I have several raised beds that I keep close to our home and they are wonderful!

Less weed pressure

This is a HUGE benefit, especially if you are short on time. While you will still have a few weeds to keep up with in raised beds, they hardly compare to the weeds you’ll face in an in-ground garden. The hardest part of in-ground gardens is the ever-encroaching line of weeds coming in through the perimeter.

Basil plants with organic straw mulching around them

If you’re struggling with a lot of weeds, I highly recommend adding some mulch! I fell in love with organic straw last year after I had an epic battle with weeds after creating my new garden space. It was a total game changer and I’ll forever use it now!

Improved soil quality

While I’m a huge advocate of using a little elbow grease and working with what you have, sometimes you just have to wave the white flag and go to plan B. Raised beds allow you to start with a well-balanced, loose, and workable soil mix from the get-go. 

Better drainage

This is really helpful if you live in a wet, humid environment or if you have heavy clay soil that doesn’t drain very well. Plants like even, regular watering, but they don’t like soggy conditions either. This can ultimately lead to root rot, fungal disease, damping-off, and ultimately, plant death. 

Warmer soil

Since raised beds are raised up away from the earth, that means that they warm up faster in the spring (further away from that frozen ground!). This can be a huge plus if you live in a cold climate like me! However, if you live in a warm climate, this tendency toward warmer and drier soil might end up frying your plants.

Easier to work in

If you have mobility issues, painful knees, or just simply don’t enjoy crawling around on your hands and knees, raised beds are an excellent option! Raised beds come in a lot of different heights that you can choose from to find the perfect match for your needs. Vertical gardens are a great option, too!

A woman working in a tall raised garden bed

FAQ About Growing in Raised Beds

Are raised beds better than in-ground gardens?

There’s no right answer to this question because it’s highly individualized. Ultimately, the decision between raised beds and in-ground gardens comes down to your specific gardening needs, preferences, and constraints. Consider factors such as soil quality, drainage, growing zone, accessibility, cost, and aesthetic preferences to determine which option is the best fit for your garden.

Additionally, you may choose to incorporate a combination of raised beds and in-ground gardens to enjoy the benefits of both approaches. That’s what I do! I like to keep a few raised beds close to the house for easy things to grab (herbs, greens) and then I have a large in-ground garden for everything else further back.

What should I fill my raised beds with?

A raised bed should be filled with a well-balanced, nutrient-rich soil mixture that allows for drainage and promotes healthy plant growth. Here’s a basic recipe for filling a raised bed:

  1. Topsoil: Start with a base layer of quality topsoil, which provides essential minerals and a foundation for plant roots to establish themselves. Topsoil helps retain moisture and nutrients.
  2. Compost: Incorporate compost into the soil mixture to improve its fertility and texture. Compost adds organic matter, beneficial microorganisms, and nutrients, enhancing soil structure and promoting better drainage and aeration.
  3. Peat Moss or Coco Coir: These improve moisture retention and soil structure. These materials help prevent soil compaction while maintaining optimal moisture levels for plant roots.
  4. Sand, Perlite or Vermiculite: Consider adding sand, perlite or vermiculite to the soil mix to improve drainage and aeration. These lightweight materials help prevent soil compaction and facilitate root growth.
  5. Optional Amendments: Depending on your specific needs and soil conditions, you may also incorporate other amendments. ALWAYS test your soil before making adjustments.

Ensure thorough mixing of the soil components to create a homogeneous mixture. Pro tip: Save some of the mixture to top it off later because the soil level will drop as it compresses over time. Aim for a loose, crumbly texture that allows for good drainage and root penetration. 

How deep should a raised garden bed be?

The ideal depth for a raised garden bed depends on the types of plants you intend to grow, the quality of your soil, and your climate. However, a common recommendation is a depth of at least 6-12 inches. This depth allows for adequate root development and soil volume for healthy plant growth.

If you’re growing plants with particularly deep root systems or if your soil is of poor quality, you might consider constructing raised beds that are even deeper. However, this can get expensive since more soil is required to fill the bed, plus more materials to build a taller raised bed. Balance is key!

Other Gardening Articles You’ll Love:

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re seeking to maximize limited space, enhance accessibility, or simply enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own food, the carefully curated selection of vegetables highlighted in this guide provides a solid foundation for your gardening endeavors. So, roll up your sleeves, dig into the soil, and enjoy the process!

With a bit of patience, care, and enthusiasm, your raised beds will soon become a thriving space, offering sustenance for both body and soul. Happy gardening!

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2 thoughts on “The BEST (and worst) Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds”

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