13 Raised Mattress Backyard Design Concepts

No longer an unsightly, utilitarian box tucked behind the garage, the raised bed has earned a prime location in the contemporary yard. Constructed from wood, metal, stone, brick, and a whole spectrum of repurposed materials, they can suit the scale and aesthetic of our unique landscapes. And that’s created a wonderful opportunity for all of us to up our gardening games. 

This garden bed style provides a way to zone the yard cleanly and attractively. They create variations in height and introduce geometry to an area that might otherwise lack structure. They provide color, texture, and visual interest while allowing us to control soil content, drainage, and pest prevention.

Do they still provide easy, elevated access to pepper and tomato plants? Of course! But they can be so much more. The design possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Read on for 13 ideas to help get your creative juices flowing

Cherokee Sunset Black-Eyed Susan

Cherokee Sunset Black-Eyed Susan Seeds

Mission Bells California Poppy

Mission Bells California Poppy Seeds

Night and Day Snapdragon

Night and Day Snapdragon Seeds


A large potager garden with a sprawling expanse of lush greenery, featuring rows of leafy vegetables that stretch towards the sky, their leaves glowing with a warm, sunny light.Create a functional and aesthetically pleasing potager garden near your home.

Derived from the phrase, ‘for the soup pot,’ the word potager has come to include almost anything you might find on a table. Also called a kitchen garden, this design is more than just a row of vegetables or a couple of tomato cages. It blends herbs, veggies, annuals, and cutting garden perennials in a riotous mix that follows no rules.

Locate your garden bed as close to the back door as possible. Think of it as your go-to for both decorative and edible dining accents. Include a trellis or obelisk for the peas and cucumbers. Fill the gaps with zinnia, salvia, and black-eyed Susan – plants that can be cut and cut again for a continuous countertop display. Include some marigolds and nasturtium to deter pests.

Run a chicken wire fence around the perimeter if you’re worried about rabbits or deer. Include a water source for the birds and bees. Mark your plants with homemade seed tags, and poke some metal yard art into the mix if that’s your vibe. Anything goes in a potager garden, so have some fun with it. 


A sprawling garden featuring wooden garden beds brimming with vibrant green foliage, accompanied by a quaint tool shed nestled amidst the verdant expanse.
Consider accessibility needs for elevated garden beds.

Raised beds allow gardeners with physical limitations and mobility issues to keep digging and growing for years beyond traditional in-ground beds. When bending and kneeling become painful or are no longer an option, these beds can meet gardeners on higher ground, where they’re more comfortable. 

To create an accessible garden, think first about getting around. Do you need a hard surface and a little extra width between beds to accommodate a wheelchair or walker? Want your beds to be as close to the house as possible? Need benches for resting or sitting? 

Next, consider the height and depth of your bed. A gardener who uses a wheelchair should be able to access the back of the bed without straining from the chair. The ADA recommends a height of 28 inches and a depth of no more than 24 inches if only accessed from one side. Table-style raised beds or beds with clearance on four sides can be as wide as 48 inches. 

For those who can stand upright but find bending difficult, the ADA recommends a bed height between 28 and 34 inches and a depth between 12 and 24 inches. To make watering easier, install drip irrigation or a soaker hose that can be turned on and off near the beds. 


Select a variety of plants based on color and texture for a balanced aesthetic.

Imagine breezing whimsically through the garden five minutes before a dinner party, snipping fresh flowers for a mixed table arrangement that will surely wow your guests. With good planning and plant selection, your cutting garden dreams can all come true in a raised garden bed.

Begin with a bed material that suits your yard’s aesthetic. Corrugated metal beds offer texture, color, and longevity, whereas wood has a traditional, rustic farmhouse feel. Locate your beds where they’ll get at least six hours of sun per day, drain quickly, and can be easily watered. 

Select plants based on color, texture, and stature. You’ll want some large, showy blooms like sunflower, poppy, and ranunculus, but you should also include fine-flowered, supportive companions like verbena, statice, and bachelor’s button. Work some spikey, upright favorites like snapdragon, lupine, and salvia into the mix for a little drama. 

Think also about foliage. Peony leaves, dusty miller, eucalyptus, and even herbs like basil and rosemary provide a foundation of greenery. They also look great in a bouquet. Install taller plants in the middle of your garden beds and gradually step down to your shortest flowering annuals or perennials. 


An old repurposed bathtub, filled with soil, surrounded by wooden planks, catching sunlight for plants to thrive in an unconventional garden arrangement.Everyday items can be repurposed in gardens.

No two gardens are exactly alike. Your unique creative process and personal taste can and should affect the overall design of your property. If you’re a gardener who embraces some kitsch and likes giving new life to old materials, consider an upcycled container for your garden bed. 

Feed bins, dresser drawers, bathtubs, shipping pallets, cinder blocks, old tires, shelving units, and stock tanks can all be turned into raised beds should you feel the urge. In the right hands and the right garden, these things can lend whimsy, charm, and originality to the landscape.  

Be sure a potential container has adequate drainage before filling it with soil and plants. And make sure it does not pose a toxicity risk. You don’t want chemical sealants or old paint leaching into the soil that fruits, herbs, or vegetables are growing in. 

Four Season

Blue-green garden beds teeming with thriving plants, accented by bursts of pink blooms, creating a colorful and lively garden scene full of natural beauty and charm.Plant a diverse selection of flowers to enjoy beauty year-round.

If you live in a part of the world with four distinct seasons and your raised garden bed can be appreciated from inside the house, consider filling it with plants that offer visual interest for as much of the year as possible. If you make your plant selections with bloom time in mind, you’ll always have something beautiful to look at. 

For early spring beauty, plant crocus, daffodils, and tulips. They’ll break ground and unfurl in that order, offering a much-needed pop of color to delight your senses after the long, gray winter. In warmer regions, plant perennial pansies, violas, and phlox to follow, and early summer darlings like iris, daylily, catmint, and daisy to come up next.

Include coneflower, coreopsis, and aster for late summer interest. Ornamental grass, yarrow, and mums will take you into fall with warm, autumnal hues. To keep your garden bed attractive throughout the winter, leave hydrangeas and ornamental grasses in place until spring. Their sturdy blooms will collect snow beautifully and attract cold-weather birds

A wooden raised bed with neatly arranged white strings, organizing a diverse array of plants, creating a harmonious and structured garden space with meticulous attention to detail and organization.
Divide your garden bed into one-square-foot sections using string and nails.

Just like it sounds, a square-foot garden utilizes geometry and simple division to keep things organized and properly spaced. This garden design works particularly well in an elevated bed, which is already symmetrical and easy to divide. This design allows gardeners to maximize their available space without defaulting to boring old rows. 

Using string and nails, wooden slats, or some kind of grid, divide your plot into sections that equal roughly one square foot and fill them with high-quality potting soil. Before you begin, take note of each material’s size at maturity when choosing herbs, vegetables, or flowers to include. 

As a rough guide, plan for each grid section to include one extra large plant, four large plants, nine medium plants, or 16 small plants. Make adjustments as necessary, depending on a particular plant’s spacing suggestions. Feel free to bend the rules and install them a little closer together if the airflow is good, and you plan to keep plants pruned and thinned.

Bird Habitat

A variety of lush green plants and vivid marigolds flourish together in a sunlit wooden raised bed, creating a harmonious botanical tableau basking in the warmth of the sun's golden rays.Design a backyard bird habitat with structured beds.

While some gardeners throw good money after bad trying to keep birds out of their plants, others want to welcome them to the yard and keep them coming back. If this sounds like you, consider building a bird-friendly raised bed garden

Shelter, food, and water are the top priorities for designing a backyard bird habitat. Creating one in a garden bed allows you to build structured sides and a horizontal beam where feeders and birdhouses can be hung to meet the preferences of diverse species. Include built-in pegs and cubby holes to offer places for your migrating friends to rest and nest. 

Plant selections should be native to your region and fairly unbridled. Seeds dropped from overhanging feeders will sprout randomly in your beds, so accept these volunteer plants as part of the mix. Blend sunflowers, berry plants, sumac, wild grasses, coneflower, and zinnia together in a natural display. Include small holly or boxwood to provide shelter for overwintering birds. 

Beneath these food sources, tuck a raised birdbath or elevated garden saucer into the plant mix and keep it filled with fresh water. Mulch with nesting materials like straw, twigs, and twine. 

Thriller, Filler, Spiller

A tranquil garden bathed in sunlight, showcasing wooden raised beds teeming with lush greenery and flowers boasting shades of pink and purple, creating a serene and colorful oasis.Choose a central plant for bold color and height.

The principles of container gardening can be applied to raised beds with the same exuberance and attractive outcome. Let the size, appearance, and location of your bed determine which plants to include and what kind of scale to achieve. 

Begin with a large central plant that has bright, lasting color and vertical interest. Agave, banana plant, canna lily, mandevilla, hydrangea, and shrub roses would all do the trick nicely, but your color scheme and preferences should be the guide here. In larger beds, you may need more than one thriller to keep things balanced.

Next, fill in with plants that are shrubby, mounding, or densely arranged. Catmint, yarrow, lantana, sage, guara, and even herbs like fennel, and dill can all take up space and cover the soil while supporting thriller plants with great texture and style. 

Finally, on the perimeter, install plants that will spill out over the sides and trail downward to soften the exterior walls. Let alyssum, calibrachoa, phlox, and ivy geranium work together in a chaotic cascade. Sweet potato vine and licorice plants keep things simple.

Water Feature

A garden brimming with colorful flowers surrounding a tranquil pond, its waters gently cascading down a stone waterfall, creating a serene atmosphere amidst nature's beauty.Raised bed ponds should be around 16 inches high and less than 4 feet wide.

Where a sunken pond or rolling waterfall is not an option, a raised bed can be transformed into a wonderful backyard water feature. The elevated height makes it easy to contain a tub without excavating the soil and also discourages accidental entry from toddlers and critters. It also enables easy, out-of-sight storage for pumps, filters, and water treatment materials. 

Beds should be roughly 16 inches high and less than four feet wide to allow for easy access. Choose a tub or pond liner that will take up some, but not all, of the square footage, leaving some room for soil. Install your bed where it will have access to a GFI outlet as well as a direct water source. Fill in around the pond liner with soil and compost as you would a new raised bed.

Consider your location, sun exposure, and desired aesthetic when choosing plants for your raised bed pond. Water lilies, lotus flowers, blue flag irises, and mosaic flowers can all be planted directly in the water with a little know-how. Plant water-adjacent plants like horsetail ferns, bullrushes, and creeping jenny in the surrounding soil for an effect that mimics a natural pondscape. 

Privacy Screen

Lush greenery flourishes in wooden garden beds, neatly aligned along a rustic brown fence, creating a vibrant garden scene against the backdrop of nature's hues.Choose ornamental grasses that grow tall and thin with modest root systems.

Looking to add a little privacy to the yard without offending a chatty neighbor? A raised bed can do that! With the soil level elevated, the plants you install to create a green screen will be that much ahead of the game. In a typical raised bed with a height of somewhere between 15 and 24 inches, that’s a significant boost. 

If your space is narrow and long, choose ornamental grasses like switchback or feather reed that grow tall and thin. These plants have modest root systems and can handle spacing that’s closer than recommended. You may have to dig every other one out in a few years, but you can transplant them somewhere else in the yard at that point.

If your beds are three to four feet wide, they can handle a row of evergreens like holly, arborvitae, or boxwood. Plants in these families grow slowly but take well to having their roots constricted. Deciduous shrubs like dogwood, ninebark, and elderberry will also adjust to life in a raised bed. 

You can also back your bed with a trellis or slatted fence for additional privacy. These common amendments serve as a natural extension. You can train a clematis or cucumber vine to soften the scene with flowers, greenery, and fruit.  


A wooden raised bed filled with leafy greens soaking up the warm, radiant sunlight, creating a lush, verdant oasis perfect for growing vegetables and herbs in a backyard garden.Organize multiple raised beds into a succession garden by creating a system for planting.

If you have a good amount of land and want to grow large quantities of herbs, veggies, flowers, and fruits, you’ll want to plant your crops in succession. This means planting the seeds of one species over several weeks rather than all at once in the interest of spreading out the harvest. It also means replacing early crops with late-season plants when the time is right.

If you’re lucky enough to have multiple garden beds on your property, you can easily come up with a system for installing, harvesting, and replacing the plants you’d like to sow without having them all come to fruit at the same time. Their symmetry and horizontal orientation make this kind of organization a snap. 

To design a succession garden, number each bed and create a grid or spreadsheet listing the plants you want to install. Make columns for the date of the initial seed planting, days to harvest, and your intended succession interval (two weeks is pretty standard, but it depends on the plant). Be sure your last planting date allows for maturity before your region’s first frost.

Put early harvest plants in bed one, mid-season plants in bed two, and so on. Plant seeds in rows, successively from front to back. This way, the most mature plants will be easy to access over younger sprouts. 


A serene garden alive with orange and purple blossoms, offering a picturesque display of nature's palette, with inviting trellises awaiting the embrace of climbing vines and verdant foliage.Choose native plants that naturally coexist with local species to create a balanced ecosystem.

Whether you’re growing produce and want to ensure your blossoms get fertilized or just want to do your part for the environment, turn a raised bed into a pollinator garden, and the yard will soon be buzzing with activity. As a bonus, these garden beds make it easier to control the spread of native plants, a must-have for the pollinator garden.  

When choosing plants, stick to those that are native to your region. These will have a natural symbiosis with the local flora and fauna. A few well-known pollinator plants with a broad coverage area include milkweed, echinacea, goldenrod, blazing star, and butterfly weed. To keep the blooms coming nonstop all season, balance your choices to provide four-season interest. 

Work annuals like daffodils, marigolds, cosmos, and sunflowers into the mix for uninterrupted color and pollen. Include a water source with some rocks for resting and bathing. Let fallen leaves and mulch remain in your beds throughout the winter to provide shelter, and don’t rush to pull them back until the ground has sufficiently warmed. 


A zigzag wooden raised bed hosts an assortment of vegetables, neatly aligned in rows, each displaying its unique hue and texture, thriving in the nurturing environment of the garden.Design a formal English garden using raised beds.

If you crave a formal European landscape design but don’t have the time or patience for a boxwood parterre garden, consider using raised beds to achieve the same effect. With thoughtful planning, these beds can be arranged in a geometric or ‘knot’ pattern that mimics the Palace of Versailles.

Begin with measurements and a detailed plan. Use the dimensions of your available space to divide the area into equal sections that will suit your desired plantings. Consider including a round or octagonal center bed with some kind of statue or topiary, and pave the work paths with stone or brick. 

Plant juniper, holly, and boxwood to mimic the evergreen structure of a formal English garden. Divide one of the beds equally with basil, rosemary, sage, and parsley. Exercise balance and restraint when choosing plants, focusing on a particular color scheme and limiting variety. 

Final Thoughts

Think of your raised garden bed as an opportunity to think outside the box (despite the obvious irony of doing so literally inside a box). For newbie gardeners, in particular, sometimes beginning with a smaller, contained area makes the whole design process less overwhelming and more enjoyable

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