Container gardening is different from raised garden beds. If you’re new to gardening, you may be confused between raised beds vs. container gardening. While you could plant your garden directly into the ground, your soil may be too sandy or heavy. In that case, you want to consider using raised beds or containers for your garden plants.
What are the differences between raised beds and a container garden? Raised beds rest directly on the ground and raise the soil level up by as much as two feet, while container gardening uses enclosed pots that you can move. Raised beds are often larger than containers, although some pots hold as much soil as raised garden beds.
However, there are other factors to consider when choosing between raised beds vs. container gardening. You’ll need to assess these factors and the benefits of each, depending on the type of plants you want to grow.
Raised Bed vs. Container Gardening
While most gardeners use amended soil in their raised beds, the most critical difference between them and potting containers is that they don’t have a bottom. Some raised beds are piled soil and amendments with no sides. They’re placed directly on the ground, with no barrier. This offers several advantages:
- Better drainage to prevent root rot
- Reduces the risk of fungal disease
- Allows the entry of beneficial microbes
- Welcomes earthworms to aerate the soil
Container gardening means growing your flowers or vegetables in a suitable pot using potting soil or compost mix. The roots and soil are entirely enclosed, which better protects the plant:
- Lower risk of bacterial disease
- Can prevent pest infestation
- Ability to relocate during a winter freeze
- Ability to move the plant out of scorching sunlight
Deciding Between Raised Beds vs. Container Gardening
If you’re not sure which is best for you, first consider how much room you have. Raised beds take more space, with the smallest being about 4 x 4 feet.
With container gardening, you can grow plants anywhere, as long as you have a suitable pot. If your outdoor space is limited to a small yard or patio space, container gardening lets you make the most of it.
One critical factor to consider is what you plan to grow. While some plants do well in containers, others may need more room. Specifically, plants with deep roots may not flourish in a container.
The size of your plants also comes into play when deciding between raised bed vs. container gardening. Even with shallow roots, some plants have a lot of top growth, so they’ll need support.
Most gardeners find heavy plants with supports in containers become quite top-heavy. So, they fall over frequently and become damaged when bumped or blown over by strong winds.
In a raised bed, you have plenty of room to use additional staking for support whenever necessary.
However, if you chose to grow large plants in pots, you’ll need a five-gallon container for each one.
Plant Spacing Requirements
To decide whether to use raised beds or garden containers for your vegetable garden, you need to know how much space they’ll need. So, it helps to know how big they can grow.
|Plant||Root Depth||Mature Height||Raised Bed||Container|
|Beans, Bush||18” to 24”||24” to 30”||Y||Y|
|Beans, Pole||18” to 24”||8’ to 12’||Y||N|
|Beets||18” to 24”||4” to 12”||Y||N|
|Broccoli||12” to 18”||18” to 24”||Y||N|
|Brussel sprouts||12” to 18”||24” to 36”||Y||N|
|Cabbage||12” to 18”||12” to 18”||Y||Y|
|Cantaloupe||18” to 24”||12” to 24”||Y||Y|
|Carrots||18” to 24”||6” to 15”||Y||Y|
|Cauliflower||12” to 18”||12” to 30”||Y||N|
|Celery||12” to 18”||18” to 24”||Y||Y|
|Chard||18” to 24”||12” to 30”||Y||Y|
|Corn||12” to 18”||4’ to 8’||Y||N|
|Cucumber||18” to 24”||1’ to 5’||Y||Y|
|Eggplant||18” to 24”||1’ to 3’||Y||N|
|Kale||18” to 24”||12” to 24”||Y||Y|
|Lettuce||12” to 18”||6” to 12”||Y||Y|
|Okra||24” to 36”||2’ to 8’||Y||N|
|Onions||12” to 18”||8” to 24”||Y||Y|
|Peas||18” to 24”||2’ to 6’||Y||Y|
|Peppers, bell||18” to 24”||24” to 36”||Y||Y|
|Peppers, hot||18” to 24”||12” to 48”||Y||Y|
|Potato||12” to 18”||12” to 30”||Y||Y|
|Pumpkin||24” to 36”||12” to 24”||Y||N|
|Radishes||12” to 18”||8” to 10”||Y||Y|
|Rocket||12” to 18”||10” to 12”||Y||Y|
|Rutabaga||12” to 18”||12” to 18”||Y||N|
|Spinach||12” to 18”||6” to 15”||Y||Y|
|Squash, Summer||18” to 24”||12” to 24”||Y||Y|
|Squash, Winter||24” to 36”||12” to 24”||Y||Y|
|Strawberries||12” to 18”||6” to 12”||Y||Y|
|Sweet potatoes||24” to 36”||12” to 30”||Y||Y|
|Tomatoes||24” to 36”||2’ to 8’||Y||Y|
|Turnips||18” to 24”||6” to 12”||Y||Y|
|Watermelon||24” to 36”||12” to 36”||Y||Y|
Vining plants are good candidates for container gardening because their vines are light and interweave through the supports. With a sturdy trellis, you can grow vining plants like tomatoes, melons, and sweet potatoes in large containers with ease.
The Best Raised Beds for Gardening
While a few gardeners use old-fashioned double-dug raised beds with no sides, most prefer raised beds with sides of wood or metal.
You can build them yourself, but you’ll need some tools, including a power saw and drill. Luckily, you can buy a raised bed kit that you can put together without any extensive construction skills.
I’ve been planning to add new raised beds to my garden next spring, but since I have no real building expertise, I’ve examined some of the best kits on the market.
1. Lifetime 60069 Raised Garden Bed Kit
What I like about this kit from Lifetime is that it has three separate raised beds. So, if you have an irregular or uneven lawn, you can create three different beds to suit the space.
Made from durable high-density polyethylene, it will last for years.
It’s light and easy to put together, so if you have physical challenges, this is the perfect raised garden bed kit for you.
2. Galvanized Raised Garden Bed Kit
This old-fashioned galvanized metal kit offers uncompromising durability. It also offers a rustic country charm to any backyard landscape.
Measuring 6 by 3 feet, you’ll have plenty of room for vegetables and herbs.
If you love the modern farmhouse look that’s so trendy right now, you’ll want this in your garden.
3. Greenland Gardener Raised Bed Kit
Wood looks good in any landscaping, and this raised garden bed kit is eco-friendly, too, because it’s made from recycled materials.
Measuring 3.5 feet by 7 feet, and 8 inches high, it makes a statement in any garden that needs definition.
If you like to reduce, reuse, and recycle in your gardening efforts, this kit from Greenland will let you do it in style.
The Best Gardening Containers
While you can turn nearly anything into a gardening container, many commercial containers offer solutions to common garden problems. They provide reservoirs for watering or breathable sides for healthy roots.
Here are two of the best:
1. Hydrofarm GCTR Tomato Trellis Garden
Tomatoes can be a real pain to care for because they’re so demanding. The Hydrofarm GCTR solves several problems with its design. It offers self-watering for those thirsty tomatoes, and the leaves stay dry and disease-free.
It also has a sturdy built-in trellis because there’s nothing as frustrating as tomato plants that break just as they’ve started to fruit.
If you want perfect tomatoes, this container delivers.
2. EarthBox Garden Kit
I started using EarthBoxes this year, and I was completed stunned at how fast and healthy my vegetable plants grew. EarthBox offers a large water reservoir, along with fertilizer, mineral supplement, and a plastic mulch sheet to prevent weeds and regulate temperature.
Each box is big enough for two tomato or pepper plants, or up to six heads of lettuce or spinach. If you want idiot-proof gardening, then EarthBox is your go-to.
Now that you know the difference between raised garden beds and container gardening, it’s time to start planning your vegetable garden and ordering seeds. Once you decide what to plant, you’ll know whether to use raised beds, containers, or even both.