Are Containers, Raised Beds Or In-Ground Best For Establishing A Garden?

By   | Last Updated :   August 11, 2021 | Filed In :   Garden Style Ideas

Are you wondering which type of layout will suit your garden best? Each of your choices has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Read on to find out about the different types of garden layout, helping you plan a successful garden.

Containers vs raised beds vs in-ground – which is better?

The type of layout that will work best for you will depend on the type of soil, the amount of sunlight as well as the size of your garden. All these layouts also have their own benefits and drawbacks that you’ll have to consider while planning. Just because someone else says raised beds are better, doesn’t mean the same will work for you.

Here’s what you need to know to help you plan the best layout for your garden:

Types of garden layouts

There are four types of garden layouts to consider. You can choose just one and stick to it or you can use a combination of all of them. Your only real limitations will be your soil type and the size of your garden. Let’s take a closer look:

Containers

container gardening balcony

Pots displayed creatively on a small balcony. Credit: Shutterstock

Containers are a great option for those with little to no growing space. You can even create your garden on a balcony or in your kitchen if you live in an apartment building. All you need is a few pots and an area that gets some sun during the day.

Despite being a great choice for those short on space, you’ll need to consider a few things. They are:

Location and design

Container gardens can be very simple with just a few pots standing in every corner of your balcony, but you can also get very creative with them.

You’ll need to decide where to place your garden containers and how you want to display them. It’s even possible to build a trellis that holds pots to cover one or more walls with plants.

There’s a huge range of different designs and sizes to choose from. You can easily create a decorative stacked island or a row of herbs for the kitchen. Your space and imagination is your limit.

container gardening terrace

Mix it up with different sized containers and plants. Credit: Shutterstock

Types of plants

Not all plants do well in a container. Choose varieties of plants that will thrive in the limited space provided by containers. Knowing which plants will work and which won’t, will help you to plan the layout of your container garden.

You’ll be able to place taller trees or large plants towards the back while keeping the smaller plants in the front, or you can make the larger plants the centrepiece of your plant island.

If you’re planning a vertical garden on a trellis, you’ll need to decide if you want climbers or hanging containers. If you’re unsure, ask your local nursery for some plant ideas.

Related: The 10 Best Vegetables for Container Gardening

Space

How much space you have available will also influence what you can do with containers. It is possible to adapt the size of the containers to suit you best. If you have very little space available, however, vertical gardening or hanging baskets might be the best choice.

You can dedicate a wall to growing your plants and either buy or build your own trellis or container holder.

It’s also possible to use old furniture such as a bookcase to do your vertical gardening on. Just make sure that your plants are placed in such a way that they will receive ample sunlight, or choose varieties that do well in shade.

vertical garden bookcase and trellis

Vertical planting is a great solution when space is tight. Credit: Shutterstock

If you have a bit more space, try stacking pots.  Larger pots should be stacked on the bottom with smaller, lighter pots on top.

You will also need to decide on how deep your containers need to be. Some plants have extensive root systems and will require deeper pots while others will be just fine in shallower pots.

Raised beds

raised beds garden

Raised beds are a great idea if you have poor soil. Credit: Shutterstock

Raised beds are great for a garden with problematic soil. If you live in an area with very sandy soil or soil with a lot of clay, you might want to consider this type of garden. It’s also easier on the back since you can raise the bed to minimise bending down.

Raised beds are also great if you want to start small and then expand later on. It is quite simple to make the beds larger. Another plus is that raised beds drain really well, ideal if you have problematic soil that either drains very poorly or too fast.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering raised beds:

Space

Raised beds can be as narrow or as wide as you want them to be. Usually, they’re kept quite narrow to make them easier to maintain. This also means they take up less space which allows you to include containers or more raised beds with different plant varieties. It’s also simple to adjust the amount of compost in the soil for one type of plant without affecting others. All you need is enough space to build two different raised beds.

It is fairly simple to fit your beds into the available space. They don’t have to be square, they can bend and swerve to fit your garden shape. adding some depth at the same time. Just make sure that you can walk between beds and fit your wheelbarrow through in case you need to add or replace soil at any point.

Plants

Many different plant varieties can be grown in raised beds. You can create a bed with mixed plants or you can simply grow only one type of plant. The choice is yours. You can also get quite creative.

It is possible to use raised beds as an attractive feature in your garden. You can create several layers on top of each other with plants of different kinds. This will create a step effect with beautiful plants overflowing from every level.

Flowerbed trellis

Create an attractive step effect using raised beds. Flowerbed trellis; credit: Anikasdiylife

You’ll be able to adjust the soil to suit your kind of plant perfectly and adjust the spacing of your plants, all within easy reach. If you have a plant that is very finicky about water drainage, you can adjust the soil in your raised bed to suit that type of plant perfectly.

In-ground beds

in-ground garden bed

In-ground beds are perfect for containing plants. Credit: Shutterstock

This type of layout is very similar to raised beds, except instead of raising them off the ground, you simply mark them off. They are very effective for growing crops but can be a bit harder to maintain due to being so low to the ground.

You might also need to remove some soil and replace it with soil that drains well if you have clay or sandy soil in your garden. This makes in-ground beds a bit more work to set up. They can also be used as a smaller version of a garden plot if you have limited space.

In-ground beds will contain your crops or other plants making it easier to stop an invasive grass or plant from taking over your garden. They can also create an artistic flair by dividing the garden into different sections.

Things to consider with an in-ground bed:

Space

In-ground beds only work if you have the space for them. If your garden is small, you might want to consider container or vertical gardening. If you have enough space, you can use in-ground gardens to produce a multitude of crops and to separate those from the rest of your garden plants.

In-ground beds can also take on all kinds of forms which makes them great to look at and can be combined with raised beds to create some depth to your garden.

Plants

In-ground beds will take a bit longer to be ready to plant, unlike raised beds.

The soil will take longer to warm up after winter has passed making raised beds more ideal. In-ground beds are great for perennials however, they can be covered with mulch to protect the soil against freezing and you can easily add fertiliser or compost for the more needy plants.

Just make sure to group the thirsty plants together so you don’t accidentally overwater one in an attempt to keep the rest alive.

Traditional vegetable gardens

landscape-nature-forest

Rows for growing crops. Credit: PxHere

A traditional garden or garden plot is the old way of growing crops in your gardening. You simply dig up the soil already in your garden, add some compost if you need to and then plant your desired plants. It works great for almost any kind of plant as long as you have well-draining soil in your garden.

If you have very sandy soil, you might have to reconsider the type of plants you can grow. Usually, succulents will do fairly well under these conditions but they look better in in-ground garden beds.

On the other hand, if you have poor draining clay soil, you might have to consider a plant that prefers staying wet for long periods of time. You can also add loads of organic matter to fix your soil, but it might take some time and effort to prepare.

Here are some more considerations:

Style

Garden plots aren’t as stylish as in-ground or raised beds. You can however plant quite a few crops or other plants, depending on your space.

Maintenance

Garden plots are fairly easy to maintain since you don’t need to worry about creating walls or barriers. You can simply walk through your bed to where you desire to go and expand on a whim. It is also fairly easy to rotate crops yearly to prevent your soil from getting damaged.

If you have unsuitable soil, however, it can be hard work to get it to drain well. You’ll need to work in quite a lot of organic material to create suitable air space between particles and to hold water for just long enough that your crops get their fill.

Plants

Garden plots are excellent for plants that like to stretch out and take up a lot of space like butternuts. This way you can give them room to grow without taking over the rest of your garden.

Your location will also matter for plants that are more sensitive. You can do companion planting to lure in bees and butterflies. Companion planting can also reduce the risk of some pests.

You can also combine plot gardening with the other layouts. You can create a stunning garden by combining all the forms, depending on your space of course.

Planning your garden

Besides everything mentioned above, there are a few more things to consider when deciding on your perfect garden layout. Here are some things to think about:

Can you maintain it?

When deciding on the perfect layout for your garden, you’ll have to take into account how much time you have to spend on maintenance. Gardens that look great often need a lot of input from us, for that reason, you’ll have to take the time to do what needs to be done.

If gardening is just a part-time hobby for you, maybe turn only a small area of your garden into a planted paradise. Even lawns can look great, after all, and there are lots of low maintenance garden options out there as well.

Space

Space is always the main problem when it comes to gardening. You’ll have to keep in mind how much space each plant will need to grow successfully as well as how much sun they’ll get from their planned positions. It takes careful planning to create a garden without overcrowding or wasted space.

Try using a combination of large shrubs and ornamental grasses mixed with smaller perennials and annuals to fill up any empty space. You can even use vines to decorate an ugly garden wall or fence.

Design

A good garden is often designed before it is planted. If you want your garden to look stunning in the end, consider putting it on paper first. Create a whole map of where you want what to go and take the measurements before you run off to go buy things in your excitement to get started.

In the long run, you’ll save a lot of money and your garden will look great the first time around!

Is your garden user friendly?

Is your main goal for a redesign to make your garden more attractive to yourself and others? There are many ways to design a garden you just can’t stay out of. You’ll have to consider things like pathways to walk on as well as shady spots to relax in.

There are even options for designing a garden whose beauty comes out at night. These gardens are referred to as moon gardens and have a lot of plants that only open their flowers at night.

Night blooming thai white waterlily

Night blooming thai white waterlily; credit: Shutterstock

Your imagination is the limit so go out there and design the garden of your dreams.

FAQs

What is the best layout for vegetable gardens?

The layout of your vegetable garden will depend on how much space you have. It is possible to grow some vegetable plants in containers or even vertically if you need to save space.

If you have a lot of space, you can go the traditional way and plant on garden plots. If your space is limited or if you have poor soil, raised garden beds may be the best option.

Do raised beds need to be level?

It’s ideal to keep your raised beds level to make sure water is distributed evenly. If your garden is uneven you can step your raised beds to accommodate wonky ground.

Should pots be off the ground?

If there’s good drainage around your pots, you don’t need to raise them off the ground. It is only necessary to raise them if the bottom of the pots will get flooded for long periods of time since this can lead to mildew growth and root rot in your plants.

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