Feeling overwhelmed by the thousands of raised garden bed options? Need help figuring out which type of garden beds are best for you? The tips in this article will help!
Choosing the right gardening approaches, methods, and materials for your needs
We’ve grown food plants in our Zone 7b garden every way imaginable for well over a decade: in-ground beds, pots, SIPs, raised beds, etc. Each method or approach has useful applications and use cases.
For instance, we grow organic citrus in large plastic pots rather than in-ground. Why?
Growing citrus trees in-ground or in raised beds in our temperate climate zone would mean certain death for the citrus trees during our cold winters. However, plastic pots are lightweight yet firm and durable, allowing us to move our potted citrus in and out of a heated garage as-needed.
Thus, growing citrus in pots makes sense in our situation. However, if we lived in a warmer/tropical climate region, we’d probably choose to grow citrus in-ground rather than in pots since we wouldn’t have to shelter it from the cold.
Raised beds versus in-ground beds
Wherever and whenever it makes sense, we grow our food crops in-ground using no-till organic growing methods with the aim of developing and protecting the soil microbes and macrobes that give rise to healthy plants and nutrient-dense foods. For us, making new in-ground beds is easy and it’s virtually free.
We start by outlining a new bed with a string, then use a shovel to flip the grass layer upside down (the grass rots and becomes fertilizer). Then we add 6″ of compost, put in our transplants, and top-dress the soil with 3-4″ of mulch. We usually also outline the new bed with cut logs from our property to keep clean edges. Easy peasy.
When do raised garden beds make more sense than in-ground beds?
For many people (including us) sometimes gardening in-ground isn’t ideal — or even possible. Here are five common reasons when and why raised beds are better than in-ground garden beds:
- Ease of use – You don’t want to have to squat down or bend over as much while gardening.
- Aesthetics – You want a neater, tidier look to your garden space.
- Pest protection – You want to help keep common pests like mice or rabbits out of your garden beds.
- Soil contamination – Especially around older homes and in urban areas, existing soil can be contaminated with lead, mercury, and other toxic compounds that is readily taken up into plant tissue, making eating certain types of plants grown in the existing soil quite dangerous.
- Space or material limitations – You want to grow in spaces like a concrete patio, rooftop, or balcony.
Why we needed raised beds
We grow large quantities of food for our family and for our backyard ducks, who probably eat even more greens than we do! Over the past few years since becoming new parents, we haven’t had as much time to maintain our backyard, so it slowly became taken over by blackberries, raspberries and other plants.
This was wonderful for berry production, but the space became embarrassingly messy and unusable for anyone in our family without feathers or fur. Since we have plenty of other berry patches, we decided the space would be better used to grow veggies that we and our ducks could eat throughout the year instead of simply growing berries that only produce once per year in the summer.
Now, in case you don’t know, ducks absolutely love most of the same edible garden greens that people do: kale, lettuce, chicory, chickweed, etc. (See: Top garden plants to grow for your ducks and chickens.)
An in-ground bed (or even a short raised bed) of these plants in our backyard wouldn’t last a minute with our ducks around. Plus, they’d trample over or reach through most types of fencing we could erect — and the fencing would be ugly.
What to do?
Selecting the right raised bed for our backyard garden space
We started looking for the raised beds that would be ideal for us. Our top considerations:
- Transportation – We don’t currently have a truck, so something that could be delivered to our doorstep is ideal.
- Durability – The materials need to last a long time. Building something that we have to replace again in a few years is a waste of time and resources.
- Safe and non-toxic – The materials need to be safe and non-toxic to people and animals. Untreated lumber doesn’t last long, and treated lumber still makes us a bit anxious even though reliable sources say it’s safe.
- Easy and fast to build – We’re incredibly time-starved right now, so spending a lot of time getting materials and doing construction isn’t in the cards.
- Tall – We need raised beds that are tall enough to keep our ducks out.
- Attractive – We want something that looks good: bright, colorful, cheerful, and elegant.
With these considerations in mind, we decided to get raised metal garden beds. That narrows things down a lot, but which raised metal garden beds should we get?
OLLE Gardens’ metal raised beds
As we were started looking for the right metal raised beds for us, it seemed that a certain type of raised metal beds were concurrently looking for us. Through our Instagram account, we kept seeing posts from other gardeners about OLLE Gardens raised beds.
Given that our two websites get a lot of traffic and rank high in search engines for various gardening topics, someone from OLLE Gardens also reached out to us via email to see if we’d be interested in an affiliate partnership.
For the record, we’ve never done a paid promotion for any product or company. The whole “influencer marketing” scene seems kind of gross to us. For one, referring to yourself as an “influencer” seems a bit egotistical and strange. Second, if we happen to promote a certain product or company somewhere, it’s 100% because we actually like and use it, NOT because we’re being paid to promote it. That approach seems more aligned with our values.
Long story short: we ordered an OLLE 4-style galvanized raised bed (green color) and the company was also kind enough to send a second one for us to trial.
Review of our OLLE raised garden beds
Our new OLLE raised garden beds arrived within a week of ordering. They were well-packed to prevent any damage in transit.
Each of the metal panels is covered in an easy-to-remove coating to keep them from getting scratched up. The panels are made of galvanized steel coated with Aluzinc, a zinc-aluminum alloy, which is rust-resistant and durable against extreme weather conditions, allowing the beds to last for 20-30+ years. Maybe we’ll be grandparents by the time we have to replace ours!
Everything needed to put together each raised bed is inside the box. That means even if you don’t have a single tool of your own, you could put together an OLLE garden bed with the materials and tools they provide.
Another cool feature of our OLLE garden beds is their customizability. There are four different potential configurations to choose from using the same product.
- one “tall” bed (63″ x 31.5″ x 31.5″) with the materials in one box, and
- two “oval” beds (63″ x 31.5″ x 17″) with the other.
Even though the top and bottom edges of each metal panel aren’t sharp, the corners could give you a scrape if you’re not careful or wearing gloves. Thus, the company also includes attractive rubber edge strips – another nice feature!
How long does it take to construct an OLLE raised garden bed?
Two people working together will speed things up, but I worked solo on a Saturday afternoon while The Tyrant kindly entertained our toddler. The hardest setup is the tall bed, especially when working alone.
The tall bed took me just shy of an hour to construct, but I admittedly made a few mistakes along the way that cost me 10-15 minutes.
The single layer raised garden beds are much easier to assemble, especially when working alone. In fact, I was able to put together an Oval bed in 20 minutes!
If you order the same 4-style modular garden product we did, that means you could have two beautiful new raised garden beds setup and ready for soil in less than an hour. Not bad!
On that note, in a future post, we’ll show you how to use our DIY method to fill new garden beds with “free” soil.
Want to get 10% off your OLLE raised garden beds?
OLLE metal raised garden beds are an absolutely perfect match for what we needed and wanted. Thus, we decided to join their affiliate program, which allows us to offer you a 10% discount if you also need a high-quality, durable, safe, affordable, and easy-to-assemble metal raised garden bed (or beds).
To get your discount, simply use the code TYRANTFARMS during checkout! Yes, we’ll receive a small commission when you order, and that will help us keep our website up and running (and maintain our duck and plant addiction).
Whether you garden in-ground, in pots, or in raised beds, we hope the information in this article helps you get more food growing in your yard or garden this year!
Related articles you’ll enjoy:
- How to start a garden today: top 10 tips
- Container gardening guide
- How to set up automated drip irrigation for potted plants
- 7 DIY organic lawn care tips you can start using today