The Great Raised Bed Debate


I was clearly naive about the number of options for raised beds there were to consider. Long gone are the days when my mother tossed a couple of railroad ties against the hillside and called it a garden. And the cost has changed too!

These gorgeous beds from Naturalyards would have cost well over a

Natrualyards Cedar

Naturalyards Cedar

$1000 to hold the Dirt to Dinner growing plots for each of the kids.  Not quite what we had budgeted for! But if money were no object, these would be the beds for me. They are beautiful, easy to assemble, available in lots of size choices and look like they would last a generation.



I also like the idea of Link-a-Bord bins that would have snapped together.  They are made of all recycled materials.  They are light and easy to construct.  They come with two different depths, both a little shallower than I like for vegetable gardening, but reasonably priced. They still have the nice, neat look that any realtors scanning the neighborhood would approve of.

There were also quite an array of sizes and shapes to choose from. Want a good geometry exercise for the kids?  How many square feet of space do you get with this?

Traingle Raised Beds

Traingle Raised Beds

It’s an equilateral triangle with 7’ sides. Then it has another equilateral triangle on top so you can have that section be twice the planning depth of the large triangle ends, so now you really need to look at the cubic feet,…

When the calculator cooled off, it didn’t make sense to go with the funky shapes, much as I wanted to.

Paver Raised Beds

Paver Raised Beds

Lee Valley had some great kits where you use 16” pavers and their hardware to build beds. These things probably would have survived the next Big One, but somehow concrete and kids and all those nuts and bolts didn’t work for me for this project.  Though I love Lee Valley and the excuse to get some fun tools would have been worth it.

I was hoping to get back to the more natural “wild” look of at least the Natruayards design, if not something onto the other side of that when I came across a post on a gardening chat site that referred to the 600 year-old technology of raised bed design used in English gardens. That’s when I found

Historic Willow Raised Beds

Historic Willow Raised Beds


Modern Willow Raised Beds

Oh yeah. That’s as granola-y as they come.  It’s perfect. Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to find enough Willow that size to make similar boxes today, but the ones we’ll be using in the Dirt to Dinner garden will look something like the modern ones before we seal them with linseed oil, line them and fill them with our garden planting mix.

I’m a little worried that the sticks will need some kind of covering on the top to keep from sticking us, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out.  And we may even weave some of our own versions to see how they compare.

6 thoughts on “The Great Raised Bed Debate

  1. Hi Julianne:

    I love your blog! This is a great article on raised beds. The Naturalyards system looks the best to me as well. I’m fairly handy and believe I could build something like this. The real question is whether the materials account for such a high component of the cost that it’s not worth DIY. I’m going to see if I can price out untreated cedar boards (If I can even find them). I’ll post the information back here if I turn anything up.

  2. Pingback: New Raised Beds « From Dirt to Dinner

  3. Pingback: A Raised Garden Bed « Edible Yards

  4. Your wonderful photos of raised bed gardens inspired me to create two 6 ft by 20 ft raised beds of my own, using a cinderblock framework and masonry adhesive to affix foot-square quartzite tiles to the sides and tops of the cinderblocks. I will be happy to send several photos to you if you will provide an e-mail address.

  5. Thanks, Jill. I will check in with Abilities United to see what they have done. And I *LOVE* the idea of using old horse troughs! Anybody got one to donate???

  6. I’m so glad Tom shared your Dirt to Dinner site with me last night. I’m really enjoying pouring through it and seeing what I can adapt to a 4 year old (and my limited garden space and aptitude!)

    On the topic of raised beds… The Junior League of Palo Alto•Mid Peninsula partnered with Rebuilding Together Peninsula about 7 years ago to build handicapped accessible raised beds at Abilities United (formerly CAR). The beds created a great garden experience for their clients and staff. I’m sure they’d be thrilled to show you around!

    My parents have had great success with creating raised beds out of horse troughs. For anyone with knee problems especially, these get the beds up to about hip or waist height. They have a bumper crop of chilies every year and their herbs are to die for! My dad and oldest nephew have been working on a irrigation project recently to improve the overall experience.

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