Are Raised Garden Beds Better Than In-Ground?

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Are you ready to start a garden, but wonder are raised beds better than in-ground planting?

The answer to that question is maybe.

While there are many benefits to raised-bed gardens, they do have some drawbacks that might make them unsuitable for your yard or needs.

To help you decide whether it’s best to garden in a traditional ground plot or to set up raised beds, I break down all the pros and cons of both gardening methods below!

Are Raised Beds Better For Gardening?

The question of whether raised bed gardens are better over direct-ground planting is common, especially among newbies.

Both gardening methods require good planting soil and amendments, so plants can benefit from the ample nutrients, aeration, moisture, and microbes it provides. 

A raised bed uses a frame with no bottom to hold planting soil. The frame’s depth allows space for plants to develop a root system while growing little, if at all, into the original earth below the raised bed.

Gardening directly in the ground is different from raised-bed gardening in ways that may or may not suit your gardening style.

Why Raised Garden Beds Are Difficult

Property with lots of slopes may be difficult to install raised beds as they need to lay level on the ground to keep the dirt inside.

Let’s look into the many differences between the two gardening options, so you can see what type works best for you.

Pros And Cons Of Raised Garden Beds

pros and cons of raised garden beds

Benefits Of Raised Bed Gardening

  • Easier To Manage – You can tailor the bed’s size, so you’re only doing the gardening chores you have time and space for.
  • Extends The Growing Season – You can start plants sooner in a raised bed, as the soil warms faster than it does in the ground.
  • Stops Soil Compaction – A raised bed doesn’t require walking over the soil to tend to the plants, so the dirt won’t compress, making it difficult for roots to spread.
  • Avoids Tilling – Filling the bed with clean soil and compost eliminates the need for yearly tilling to add nutrients or break up compaction.
  • Better For Root Development – The looser soil found in raised beds allows roots to spread and grow deep quickly.
  • Fewer Weed And Disease Issues – Clean, fresh soil and the above-ground location help keep weeds or diseases from taking root.
  • Provides Better Drainage – Excess moisture flows into the ground underneath, without getting trapped inside the bed, which prevents root rot. 
  • Allows You To Grow A Garden Anywhere – You can stick a raised bed over muddy or rocky areas, even concrete, if done right, so you can grow plants anywhere on your property.
  • Growth Control – Corralling plants that can “take over” in a regular garden plot is simple inside a raised bed as the framing stops the plant from spreading.
  • Easier For Gardeners With Disabilities – Raising the working surface level for weeding, planting, or harvesting crops is much easier on the back and legs, especially for those with mobility issues.
  • Easier To Monitor Care – Adding water, fertilizers, or pesticides into a contained area is much easier to control and monitor, as the materials won’t run off during heavy rains.
  • Looks Neat – Raised beds look neat and tidy, which can increase the curb appeal of your home.

Disadvantages Of Raised Garden Beds

  • You Need To Build Them – Labor and materials to create raised beds to take time and money that may not fit everyone’s budget.
  • You Need To Fill Them – Once built, there is the cost to fill them with topsoil and amendments so your garden plants can thrive. Depending on size, this can be a significant amount. 
  • Raised Beds Lose Moisture Faster – Due to the soil being above the ground, more exposure to heat and wind can dry out the soil faster. A good soil moisture meter is critical to keep tabs on the watering needs of raised gardens.
  • Raised Beds Require Hand Labor – You can’t drive a tractor into a raised bed to perform tilling, weeding, or fertilizing tasks. 
  • Raised Beds Cannot Support All Plants – Like melons and squash, certain crops do better in larger areas where there is plenty of room to spread out. Crops that rely on strong root growth or pollination, such as sweet corn, fair better in a ground plot. 
  • Raised Beds Are Harder To Move – Once you fill a raised bed with soil, it will be challenging to move it if the location isn’t working out.

Pros And Cons Of In-Ground Garden Beds

in ground vegetable garden

In-Ground Pros

  • Less Expensive – Using existing soil as a base saves a lot of time and money over bringing in fresh earth. You’ll still have to amend the soil with compost or other material to enrich the planting area, but the amount you need will be far less than in a raised bed.
  • Can Use Machinery – An in-ground garden plot is more accessible as the working area is flat on the ground, which means you can utilize the help of a tractor or roto-tiller to get the initial prep work done faster. Once the season is over, it’s easier to run a tiller over the entire plot to turn under the remaining foliage and break up roots, so the parcel is ready for the next crop. 
  • Requires Less Water – In-ground garden soil has protection from wind and sun, so the ground stays moist longer, which means you need less water. The flat surface also makes putting in an irrigation system or soaker hose very simple. 
  • Easier To Move – When you’re not happy with the size or location of your inground garden you can easily expand the edges or create a new area that works better and grass seed over the old plot.
  • Supports All Plants – In-ground gardens provide more space to spread out, a more stable soil structure to hold up tall stems, better moisture levels, and a plethora of established soil microorganisms that promote healthy growth and nutrient intake for all plants.

In-Ground Cons

  • Takes Longer To Get Soil Conditions Ideal – Inground gardens often use a majority of existing soil as a starting base, which may not hold the right amount of nutrients plants need. Traditional garden plots are also continually losing nutrients to water runoff and wind. Combining these two issues means it will take longer to get the soil in the best condition possible for your plants.
  • Soil Compaction – When you walk through the garden to take care of chores, it compacts the soil, affecting root development and restricting plant spread.
  • Harder To Control Pests And Diseases – Nibbling animals like deer, rabbits, or mice can walk right in and help themselves. Diseases or pests present in nearby plants or soil can also work their way laterally to your bed and wreak havoc.
  • Less Aesthetically Pleasing – In-ground garden beds, especially when in full bloom, can look overgrown and messy.
  • More Difficult On Back And Knees – From setting new plants or seeds to hand-pulling or chopping out weeds with a garden hoe, expect to have days of a sore back, knees, and arms.

In Summary

If you’re like me, you’ll find that your garden will expand by use of both gardening methods as you discover some plants do better in raised beds, or some areas of your yard can’t support in-ground plots.

Both methods of gardening, when done right, increase the success of your gardening endeavors, from bountiful harvests of veggies to colorful bursts of flowers. 

Now that you understand the differences between in-ground and raised bed gardens, you can plan and build your garden precisely to your needs!

About Justin Micheal

Justin has always loved gardening and caring for the outdoor spaces in his grandmother's backyard. He believes everyone can enjoy the space available to them, no matter how big or small. On Backyard Digs, he shares everything he's learned about growing a successful garden and maintaining and improving the landscape of a backyard.