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Discover the 9 Best Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds (Plus Your Garden’s Best Kept Secret!)

Raised bed gardening is a game-changer.

The benefits are undeniable: better soil quality, no backache, and smart use of space. They’re perfect for small spaces or not-so-great dirt.

But what are the best vegetables to grow in raised beds?

Sure, some veggies are perfectly suited to grow in these beds. Quick radishes, compact lettuces — there’s a great mix to choose from. Some like their own space and can be more challenging to grow in raised beds.

But here’s the twist: the real secret to a lush raised bed isn’t just about picking champions. It’s about cultivating a vibrant mix — a polyculture!

So, let’s dive in and discover how to plant a diverse, bustling raised bed garden that’s more than just the sum of its parts.

Key Takeaways

  • Almost any vegetables can be grown in raised beds.
  • Some vegetables are more suited than others to the space limitations of a raised bed.
  • The secret to a thriving raised is to grow a diverse mix of vegetables and herbs.

Selecting the Best Vegetables for Raised Beds

Choosing the right veggies for your raised beds isn’t just about what grows well; it’s also about growing what delights your taste buds and nourishes your soul.

Here’s a little secret: while almost any vegetable will happily grow in a raised bed, some are just made for this kind of spotlight.

Grow What You Love to Eat

Here’s my golden rule: plant the veggies you’re excited to eat!

There’s nothing quite like the anticipation of biting into a tomato just picked from your garden, still warm from the sun.

Or the joy of snipping fresh salad leaves for your lunch.

Or the fresh peas popped straight into your mouth.

I could go on and on.

When you love what you’re growing, you’ll notice every little leaf and bud. Plus, when you’re passionate about the produce, you’re more likely to give your plants the care they need to thrive.

The 9 Best Vegetables to Grow in Raised Beds

Now, drumroll please, as I introduce the all-stars of raised bed gardening — the vegetables that thrive in raised garden beds:

1. Lettuce and Salad Leaves

Young lettuces in a raised bed.

Let’s start with my personal raised bed favourite: salad leaves.

Lettuce and other salad leaves are perfectly suited to growing in raised beds. These greens grow fast and love the rich soil of raised beds.

Lettuce is amongst the very first seeds that I sow every spring. Once the weather warms up, it makes space for a warmer-weather crop such as bush beans.

Quick-growing greens such as rocket and mustard greens make great space fillers: they can be tucked in almost any corner of your raised beds between slower-growing vegetables.

In the autumn, the oriental greens take centre stage. It’s time for bok choi, pak choi and mizuna.

2. Root Vegetables: Carrots, Radishes and Beetroot

These root vegetables enjoy the deep, loose soil in raised beds, allowing them to grow straight and smooth.

In the case of carrots, raised beds offer the additional benefits of height, keeping the carrot root fly at bay!

3. Kale and Swiss Chard

Glossy leaves of Swiss Chard

These nutritious greens love to grow in raised beds with rich soil.

If you give them the space, they can grow big and steal the show. But they’re just as content tucked in a snug spot, especially if you pick them often.

4. Peas and Beans

Both peas and beans are well-suited to growing in raised beds.

I grow them in several ways:

Dwarf varieties of peas and beans are particularly suited to growing on the sides of raised beds, where they’re easy to reach for regular picking. Plus, their small size means they won’t take up too much space, and they might even cascade over the edge for a beautiful display.

Peas climbing up a trellis.

For those tall, climbing peas? They’ll need something to lean on. Here’s what you can do:

  • Centerpiece Wigwam: Stick a wigwam right in the heart of your raised bed. It’s not just practical, it looks amazing too.
  • Trellis: Place a trellis at the back, but keep it on the North side. This way, your peas get the support they need without shading the rest of your plants.
  • Archway: And here’s my top pick – an arch between two beds. I make a bean tunnel like this every year. It turns picking into a game – like a treasure hunt for your dinner!
bean tunnel
The bean tunnel just waiting for the beans to climb.

5. Cucumbers

That awesome wigwag or trellis you built for your peas? It’s not a one-hit wonder. Give it a second life with cucumbers when pea season’s over!

With the support of a trellis, these climbing plants flourish in raised beds, producing plenty of crunchy cukes.

A young cucumber plant, just waiting to climb!

Here’s how I do it:

  • I strategically plant my cucumbers at the base of a trellis in late May. They take a few weeks to establish themselves and begin their ascent.
  • Coinciding perfectly with this, my peas reach the end of their productive phase around mid-June. At this point, I carefully trim the pea plants down to ground level, ensuring their roots remain in the soil. This not only feeds the earth but also prevents any disruption to the young cucumbers.
  • With the peas gone, the cucumbers now find ample room to flourish and climb up the trellis!

As a bonus, cucumbers are super space-efficient. When they climb up, they don’t sprawl out, leaving you plenty of room for other crops!

6. Tomatoes

Raised beds are like a tomato’s dream home – they love that rich soil and the extra warmth these beds serve up.

Just a heads up, though: tomatoes have a wild side and will spread out if you let ’em. Keep them in check with some regular pruning.

Tomato plants need regular attention: pop them on the side or in a corner of your raised bed. That way, you can reach them easily without having to play twister with your plants.

7. Alliums: Onions, Garlic, Shallots and Leeks

Garlic growing alongside strawberries

These are some of my favourite plants to include in a raised bed. Why?

  • They take up very little space, slipping in easily between other plants.
  • Their slender, towering stalks make a real statement among the shorter veggies.
  • Best of all: they repel slugs, acting as a pest deterrent for your other plants.

8. Aubergines and Peppers

It’s worth growing aubergines, even if only for their flowers!

These two members of the nightshade family really shine in raised beds, where their tidy growth habit feels right at home. Plus the extra warmth is perfect for these hot-weather crops.

And as a bonus, their flowers and fruits bring a splash of colour that brightens up your garden space.

9. Herbs

I used to grow herbs on their own, in pots or in a separate herb garden. However, it turns out that herbs are superb companions in a raised garden bed due to their strong scents, which naturally deter pests.

Some excellent herbs to include:

  • parsley,
  • coriander,
  • chives,
  • garlic chives
  • thyme,
  • lemon balm,
  • nasturtium,
  • borage,
  • chamomile,
  • sage,

So, when you’re plotting out your raised beds, think of herbs as your garden guardians. For that reason, they’re great planted around the edge of your raised bed.

Space-Hungry Vegetables to Watch Out For

Zucchini & Other Sprawling Squash

This exuberant squash has escaped its raised bed!

If you plan on growing zucchini or other types of squash plants, raised beds are a great option as they can provide rich soil, better drainage and prevent soil compaction.

Be aware that they will take up a significant amount of space in your raised bed! Plant them at least 3 feet apart to give them the space they need.

Short on space? Use a trellis or an arch between two beds to let them grow up instead of out.

For a non-vining zucchini plant, the best location is in the corner or a raised bed, where it can spread in the pathway.

Be sure to give your squash plants plenty of water and sunlight to ensure a healthy and bountiful harvest.

Potatoes

Raised beds are ideal for growing potatoes, as they offer the right depth and loose soil conditions for good root development.

However, they are tricky to combine with other vegetables in a raised bed. I usually find it best to devote a full bed or a large section of a bed to them.

Planting potatoes in a no-dig bed. I simply nestle them in before covering them with a few inches of compost.

Start by planting seed potatoes around 12 inches apart and cover them with 4 inches of soil. As they grow, continue adding soil, creating a “mound” around the plants. This process, known as “hilling,” promotes the formation of more tubers and protects them from sunlight exposure.

Cabbages

Cabbages also thrive in raised beds due to the improved air circulation and soil conditions, helping them grow big and healthy.

So big and healthy, though, that they might cramp neighbouring plants.

To avoid this, you can choose compact varieties, such as the early spring variety Greyhound. Another option is to place your cabbage plants in a corner of your raised bed so it can spread out.

And remember, cabbages are thirsty plants. Keep the soil consistently moist for proper head formation.

The Real Secret? Grow a Polyculture!

The real secret to a thriving raised bed isn’t about selecting the best vegetable to grow in a raised bed. It is to grow a polyculture!

Peas, cabbages, lettuce, onions, shallots and carrots are happy to share a bed

By growing a polyculture, you’ll benefit from the different plants working together, creating a more harmonious and fruitful garden.

Growing a polyculture raised bed involves planting different varieties and species of plants together to create a diverse and resilient garden. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Start small: A simple way to get started with polyculture in your garden without getting overwhelmed is to take a bed where you were growing just one type of vegetable and expand that to three types.
  2. Grow shortest plants on the south side: Grow your shortest plants, like lettuce or carrots, on the south side of the bed. Then add, say, broccoli or Swiss chard in the middle, and then taller plants like sunflowers or corn on the north side.
  3. Plant densely: Sow seeds densely and eat what you thin. Plant several varieties. Chooser slower-growing and faster-growing varieties.
  4. Include lots of herbs: For their natural pest-repellent scents.
  5. Research companion planting: You can research companion planting to determine which combinations are best.
  6. Mix up crop rotation: Instead of having a full bed of carrots, a full bed of lettuces, and so on, fill up a raised bed with a row of carrots, a row of turnips, a row of radishes, a row of lettuces, a row of beetroots, and so on.

Planting different crops together can help deter pests, attract beneficial insects, and promote healthy soil fertility. For example, combining carrots and onions can confuse pests and help keep root flies at bay.

Another clever planting tip is known as the “Three Sisters” – an ancient Native American practice which involves growing corn, beans, and squash together for mutual support and nutrients.

Squash and beans growing together, along with nasturtiums.

Growing a polyculture in your raised bed will not only produce an abundance of delicious vegetables but will also create a vibrant, self-sustaining ecosystem.

Starting a Raised Garden Bed

Starting a raised garden bed is a fantastic idea for anyone looking to grow their own vegetables.

To start your own raised bed garden, here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Select your garden bed location: Choose a spot in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight and has good drainage. Ideally, the area should receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  2. Choose the right materials: You can create your raised garden bed from various materials such as wood, metal, and even recycled plastic. Ensure that the materials you choose are durable and safe for growing vegetables.
  3. Build your garden bed: Keep in mind your available space and the plants you want to grow when determining the size and shape of your garden bed.
  4. Fill your garden bed with high-quality soil: The secret to successfully growing vegetables in raised beds is to use rich, well-draining soil. Mix in some organic matter like compost or aged manure to provide your plants with the necessary nutrients.
  5. Start planting: Now you’re ready to plant your vegetables!

Remember to regularly water and maintain your raised garden bed to ensure a bountiful harvest. Enjoy the process, and before you know it, you’ll have a productive and beautiful garden space full of homegrown delights.

Conclusion

It’s clear that raised beds are a haven for vegetables of all kinds.

But let’s not forget: the real secret to a thriving raised bed is diversity.

A polyculture of veggies not only creates a symphony of colours and flavours in your garden but also encourages a healthy ecosystem that can fend off pests and diseases naturally.

So, why wait? Start today. Your raised beds have the potential to be bursting with life. Plant a tapestry of the vegetables we’ve talked about and watch as they support and enhance each other, growing stronger together. This isn’t just gardening; it’s crafting a vibrant, living mosaic that nourishes both the earth and your soul.

Frequently Asked Questions

What veggies thrive in raised bed gardens?

A variety of vegetables thrive in raised bed gardens, such as carrots, spinach, rocket, tomatoes, and green beans. Raised beds provide the ideal growing conditions, offering improved drainage and control over soil quality.

Which plants are suitable for small raised beds?

For small raised beds, consider planting vegetables with compact growth habits, such as radishes, lettuce, and kale. Herbs like basil, parsley, and thyme are also perfect choices for limited space.

Some vegetables may not be ideal for raised beds due to their size or growth requirements. For instance, avoid planting large plants like pumpkin and zucchini, as they can quickly outgrow the space and compete for nutrients.

How can I grow vegetables all year round in raised beds?

To grow vegetables all year round in raised beds, practise succession planting. This involves planting early spring crops that can be followed by summer or autumn crops. You can also extend the growing season by adding protection such as frost covers or cold frames.

What can be grown in raised beds during winter?

During winter months, hardy vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, and leeks can survive cold temperatures. Additionally, you can plant garlic, onions, and winter salads, which fare well in cooler conditions.

Are there any easy-to-grow vegetables suited for raised beds?

Yes, several easy-to-grow vegetables are well-suited for raised beds. Radishes, lettuce, peas, and carrots are among the top choices for beginners, as they require minimal maintenance and grow quickly.