Raised-bed gardens are a popular option for starting a garden. Correct raised-bed garden design helps maximize the productivity of the available space. A well-designed raised-bed garden also adds beauty to your yard.

10 Tips for Designing a Raised-Bed Garden Layout

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Gardening with raised beds has several advantages: 

  • The soil mix you fill the beds with ensures the best growing conditions for gardening from the beginning, rather than having to deal with existing soil issues such as rocky or compacted soil. 
  • Drainage issues improve because the growing surface is above the ground level and water drains out easily. 
  • Raised beds warm-up earlier in the spring, allowing you to get a jump on planting

10 tips for a successful rasied-bed garden design

Once you’ve decided to add raised beds to your space, follow these 10 tips for designing a raised-bed garden to have the best layout for your garden.

1. Pick the best spot in your yard for your raised-bed garden

Look for an area of your yard that gets morning sun; it’s less intense than late afternoon sun. Ideally, the location for your raised-bed garden receives at least 8 hours of sun (you can provide shade if it needs it, but you can’t add sun). 

Other considerations are level ground, good drainage, and access to water. 

Choose your location carefully. Once you have an idea of the dimensions of the garden area, you’re ready to move to the next step. 

How to Kill Bermuda Grass Without Chemicals Before Planting a Garden
This area gets morning sun and full sun until late afternoon, it will be a great spot for raised beds

2. Maximize available space when designing a raised-bed garden layout

Decide how many and what size beds you have room for within the available space. As you choose the size of beds to install, here are a few principles to consider:

  • The beds should be no wider than 4 feet across so you can reach into the center. Beds against walls or fences should be 2 feet across or less. Keeping beds to this size eliminates the need to step in the beds, which causes soil compaction. 
  • The length of a bed doesn’t matter – keep in mind you will need to walk around the bed to get to the other side.
  • Ideally, the depth of the bed is from 12-24 inches deep. Almost all crops can be grown in this depth of raised bed. Most of my beds are 15 inches deep. 

3. Allow enough space between beds in your raised-bed garden design

 It’s tempting to fill the entire space with raised-beds, but paths around the outside of your beds will make planting, maintaining, and harvesting your beds easier. The distance between raised beds should be at least 3 feet wide (4 feet is even better). 

Allowing as much room as possible gives plants room to grow, and also gives you room to get by. Think about if you will need access for a wheelbarrow and plan accordingly. Plants grow quickly, and many plants will overflow and fill in the open space between the beds.

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4. Add vertical elements to your garden design

Training plants up a trellis gives you more space to garden, and being off the ground is better for vining plants.

To maximize sunlight, position trellises on the north edge of your garden bed or next to a fence or wall. Alternatively, shade sun-sensitive plants in hotter regions by having a trellis on the south side, filtering the sunlight for plants that need relief from the sun.

Raised-bed garden design tips

5. Take time planning your raised-bed garden design layout

When I was planning my new garden area, the first plan I sketched out seemed alright. However, when I spent time in the space and tried to visualize my plan, I realized it was too crowded and didn’t allow enough space between beds. 

How to Kill Bermuda Grass Without Chemicals Before Planting a Garden
  • Make a scaled version of your beds and move them around graph paper.
  • Use an online planning tool to get ideas of the design.
  • Use weed cloth (pictured above) cut to the size of the raised beds to help visualize your design. 
  • It is much easier to move the raised-bed garden layout design around using any of these methods, rather than moving the beds once they are in place. The axiom of “measure twice, cut once” certainly applies here. 
Raised bed garden design tips

6. Choose the best type of material for your beds

Research different types of beds and building materials to understand your options. Always use untreated wood. Beds made with redwood or cedar will last much longer than those made with pine. Rebuilding or replacing your beds every few years is not ideal.

Several factors go into choosing which type of material to use for your raised bed, and cost is certainly a factor. My advice is to buy the best type of beds you can afford. If you have a garden plan in place, start small and add beds as finances permit.

10 Tips for Designing a Raised-Bed Garden Layout

I added deep-root cedar raised beds from Gardener’s Supply to my garden. Some of the things I love about these beds: 

  • Made from rot-resistant cedar
  • Extra deep to promote healthy roots
  • Simple to put together – slide boards into the corners and screw into place
  • The aluminum corners keep the beds sturdy and help the beds last a long time –  the corners are often the most vulnerable to rot and decay 
10 Tips for Designing a Raised-Bed Garden Layout

Full disclosure: Gardener’s Supply provided me with some of these raised beds in exchange for my honest review of them. However, I like them so much I also purchased additional beds for my garden. Read this article to see my full review of Gardener’s Supply cedar raised beds

7. Add the beds to your space, but wait to fill them

Once you have the raised beds in place, walk around (what worked on paper may not work in real life). Make adjustments while the beds are empty if necessary. Take time to ensure distances between beds are even, and that the beds are level. 

Raised-bed garden design tips
10 Tips for Designing a Raised-Bed Garden Layout

8. Fill the bed with the best type of soil for raised-bed gardens

Regular garden soil is too dense for raised beds. A mix of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite (Mel’s mix from Square-Foot Gardening) is ideal for raised-bed gardens. This post about the best soil for raised-bed gardens explains how to make my favorite soil blend and how to determine the amount of soil each bed will need.

10 Tips for Designing a Raised-Bed Garden Layout

9. Set up your watering system before you plant

Adding a watering system after the fact may disrupt seeds or transplants, and it’s crucial your seeds and transplants don’t dry out. The best way to water a raised-bed garden will provide consistent and even watering, be easy to use and maintain, and ideally be simple to install. Read this post to learn more about the best way to water raised-bed gardens

10 Tips for Designing a Raised-Bed Garden Layout

10. Decide what to plant in your new raised-bed garden

Consider the size of plants when they have fully grown, along with the growth habit of different plants. Vegetables that like to grow vertically should be grown near a trellis, and plants that sprawl should be grown on the edge of the beds so they have room to grow.  

Thinking about adding a raised-bed garden to your yard? In my latest blog post, I walk you through 10 steps of how to design your garden. https://growinginthegarden.com/raised-bed-garden-design-tips/

Taking time to carefully go through each of these steps will help your garden not only be productive but look great too. A well-designed vegetable garden adds beauty and bounty to your yard.


23 Comments on Raised Bed Garden Design Tips

  1. Hi Angela – I have been wandering your site all weekend. Excited to start my garden in Phoenix! Thanks for all the helpful tips. Yesterday, I was served your amazon purchase list, but can’t seem to find it again. Can you link your Amazon lists for me?

  2. I want to start a vegetable garden, my backyard is all paver’s, no dirt. I live in Arizona and I am new to gardening. Will you please walk me through the first steps to getting started? Thank you for your help.

  3. Angela,
    Just found your site. I live in SW Fl. ( Ft. Myers- Zone 9 B) so I’m hoping your growing tips suit my area. I love your heavy Duty trellises and arches. Where can I order them or did you make them?
    Excited to watch more videos Mara Clark

    • Hi. So glad it’s helpful. The heavy duty trellises are from twobrothersmetalworks.com If you find a welder locally they may be able to make one for you.

  4. This is my first time trying to grow a garden in Arizona. My backyard is on the North side of my house, if I have my raised bed along the patio on the west side will an indirect sun spot work? It would still get the light just not the sun beating down on it directly (I am worried about my first garden not surviving because of it)

    • Don’t be afraid of the sun. Plants do best with sunlight. You can always provide some shade with shade cloth during the hottest times of the year, but most plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight to grow well. Make sure your beds are deep enough (at least 12 inches) and you fill them with good soil.

  5. Hi Angela,thank you for the valuable advice and tips on home gardening. You are truly an inspiration.

    I’m ordering the 15″ high cedar garden beds from Gardeners Supply and would like to apply some natural protection to the boards. I would appreciate your opinion on Gardeners Supply’s Cedar Garden Bed Oil.
    I have another question, I live in Southern California, planting zone 10a. What’s your planting zone in Mesa, AZ?
    Thank you in advance for getting back to me on the above.

    • Thank you. I haven’t used the oil, but it seems like a good option. I trust and have been happy with the garden bed products I’ve used from Gardeners. My planting zone is 9b – but our extreme heat in the summers makes our planting dates different from a lot of zone 9b climates.

    • I think they are a good option. I like the ones with no bottom – otherwise I think drainage could be an issue – even if you drill holes.

  6. Hi Angela i am from England and due to my health i managed to build two raised beds that are 6ft long, 3ft wide and 22 inches deep.
    These were made from 6×2 Pressure Treated timber which after 2010 were fine to use, as there were bad chemicals in the wood before then, but plenty of veg growers say it’s ok to use now.
    I presume it’s what suits you best and cost really, plus i always line my Raised Beds always have done, always will.
    Stay Safe over there.


    • Hi Barry – Thanks for commenting. Love hearing what you are doing in your garden. Thanks for sharing and happy gardening!

  7. Hi Angela it’s Barry again, i forgot to mention in my last comment, that i fill my beds with Compost, Cocoa Coir and Perlite. I don’t use any Peat in my beds so i use the Coir as a replacement, and the Perlite i use as i live in England and as you know it’s always raining over here, well not 24/7 everyday but it does rain, and the Perlite is better in rainy areas as it keeps the water in, and releases it when it’s dry and also airates the Compost as well, plus at the moment we are having an Indian Summer, unusual weather we are having over here at the moment with Flash Floods, Thunder and Lightening and now this Indian Summer. Stay Safe.

    • I used weed-cloth below my beds that I put over Bermuda grass, but not in other areas. It would block the worms in the locations where it is used.

  8. Hi Angela, it is Lillian again..
    i am first time gardener (2021)!
    My garden is small and the only “sunny” part is close to my neighbour’s tree by the fence and i did see some tree roots 6 inches below the ground when i first worked on the soil (without knowing the no dig gardening) but my swiss chards were still thriving.
    i am going to redo my bed (with cedar, not treated wood), do you recommend me putting weed under the bed to prevent tree roots coming up onto the bed? or should i just leave it and take the benefit of having worms into the bed?
    i saw the difference in growing in the beds vs container gardening, the plants were doing better than in containers, hence i would like to keep that one bed i have

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