Do Raised Garden Beds Need Drainage?

Raised garden beds are a great addition to almost every garden. They are great for separating different beds, controlling the quality of your soil and they can have many different forms to make your garden look even more beautiful than before. But there are a couple of questions, that I had in the beginning and that I hear almost everyone ask. I will answer one of the most asked questions in this article.

Do raised garden beds need drainage? Yes, raised garden beds need drainage. All kinds of plant containers need drainage. Poor drainage can make your soil overly wet or waterlogged. When this is the case, the root system of your plant can drown in the excess water.

If you have a raised garden bed, you have an enclosed area that is elevated a few inches above the topsoil. In this enclosed area, different kinds of plants and vegetables can be grown. The soil must be prepared well to give your plants the best condition for growth. Most plants will need soil that is moist and drains well. This is the reason why a raised garden bed needs adequate drainage.

Water will displace the oxygen that the roots need to make the plant grow. If the roots cannot deliver oxygen to the whole plant, then the plant will soon grow weak, wilt, and turn yellow. Failure to correct this problem can make the leaves of the plant fall and the plant will eventually die.

With poor drainage, the roots of the plant can rot. Soggy soil is the breeding ground for disease-carrying fungi. The result will be fungal root disease for the plant.

Many gardeners today are only concerned about planting and appreciating the flowers, vegetables, the containers that they come in, and other external things. But when starting a garden, one of the most important things is how the soil drains. Drainage is a very important part of any garden. The survival of your plants depends much on it.

Why Do Plants Need Drainage?

As we have mentioned above, drainage is important to the health of the plant’s root system. A properly drained soil allows the roots to take enough water and get the necessary oxygen needed by the plant to grow healthy and strong. Plants roots must be able to breathe air and absorb nutrients from the soil. A poorly drained soil will hold excess water that will displace the air and suffocate the roots.

A plant’s health depends much on proper drainage. The plant roots need adequate air that they can distribute to other plant parts. The drainage needs of different plants also differ. But very few plants can withstand stagnant water. If you want healthy plants, then their root system needs to be healthy. This is the reason why your garden bed needs good drainage.

Another reason why adequate drainage is important is that it reduces soil and nutrient loss from runoff. Soil erosion can also be avoided. Proper drainage also prevents soil slippage for gardens that are on a sloping hill. Drainage can also be collected and saved so that when there is no rain or during dry weather, you can use the collected water for your plants.

How to Test Your Soil for Drainage?

Dig a foot-deep hole and fill it with water.

Make a day pass and check if the water has disappeared. If so, fill it back again. If the water stays for a long time, then the saturation point of your soil is low. So, when water soaks into it, it will take a long time before it dissipates.

Most plants will not thrive in this condition. Soil drainage needs to be improved. A raised bed can improve drainage. Having this small modification in your garden can help improve drainage.

How Can a Raised Bed Improve Drainage?

Having effective drainage in your garden can be difficult. Some plants can survive with much water but other plants can’t. But drainage is not that difficult to manage. It just takes knowing what to do during wet or dry situations. Creating a raised bed is the best solution.

If you have heavy clay soil, it has small, fine particles that give it poor drainage. Sandy soil is the best soil that drains well. This type of soil has large particles. So, your yard’s drainage depends on the type of soil you have in it. Instead of pursuing costly solutions to this drainage problem, you simply need to create a raised garden bed. The reason for this is that you can control the soil mixture that you put in your raised bed. This can help the plants have proper drainage that will make them strong and healthy.

For your small raised bed, you need to create a border. Add soil and compost so that it can be raised above ground level. Your water drainage can improve through this. If your garden drainage is not so good, a raised bed will help prevent the roots from growing deep into the soil. Evaporation is also slowed down with raised beds and this helps in the development of the plant roots.

You just don’t put any kind of soil on your raised bed. You need a mixture that drains well. Sand and compost added to your soil can be a good mixture. With this mixture, your plants will get adequate drainage and enough water to moisten the soil. Your soil will not be waterlogged because you have a loose soil mixture that you can easily work with. With this type of soil, there is proper aeration and proper development of the root system.

The height of the raised garden bed allows the water to drain adequately. Without a base, the soil of your raised planter drains down to the topsoil of the ground.

What are the Advantages of Raised Garden Beds?

You can have a more superior kind of soil mix in your raised garden than your yard soil. The reason for this is that they don’t get impacted because of being stepped on or being subjected to the weight of machines. And, you can mix your soil combination to make a high-quality soil mixed with fertilizer and other material. It is very much affordable and doe not get wasted because they all go to the garden beds.

A raised garden bed has ideal drainage and is perfect if your yard soil drains too slowly or too quickly. Even if you have clay soil, you can improve the drainage because it is raised. And you don’t have to use your clay soil on your raised garden bed but you can mix it with other material to create a fine loam.

If you have a raised garden bed, your soil warms up easily compared to the surrounding soil in spring. This means that you can plant earlier in your raised bed compared to planting in the yard soil. If you mix a high-quality soil mixture, then there will be improved water and air movement. The roots can easily spread out and get nutrients out of it compared to roots in compacted soil. You can make your raised garden bed very dense compared to a traditional garden. This gives your raised garden higher yields.

There is an increase in yield because of the density of your raised garden bed. Traditional gardens have pathways that take up garden space. Paths are not needed with raised beds. You can use more of your garden to grow plants. You don’t need space to walk around them.

Weeds will have a difficult time growing in a dense raised garden bed. The walls of your raised garden bed can also block out blowing seeds. This can reduce your weed problems.

Why Use Rocks for Drainage in a Raised Bed?

Your raised bed can help solve many garden problems including waterlogged areas, poor soil, and people walking through your garden. You also have better drainage with a raised garden bed than an in-ground bed. But a way to improve drainage better is to add rocks to the bottom of the bed.

You can have additional drainage space below the soil if you place rocks in the bottom of your raised garden bed. If you only have soil, it can settle and get compacted over time. But if there is a layer of rock in its bottom, then you will have space for excess water to drain, keeping them away from the plant roots. Rocks don’t degrade or compact over time.

If your yard has poor drainage and you put you raised bed on it, then adding crushed rock or pea gravel at the bottom of the bed will work well to drain your soil. You can purchase your crushed rock from any rock yard or your home improvement centers.

Your drainage rocks can be installed at the bottom of the space once you have prepared your raised bed site. Add the rocks slowly to the framed space. Then spread the rocks with your hands or with a metal rake. Make sure that the depth of the rocks is uniform across the bed. Then, add good quality topsoil over the drainage rocks. Make sure that the soil reaches just below the edge of the raised bed.

But even with the drainage rocks at the bottom of your raised bed, it is still important to water your plants correctly. Don’t overwater or underwater your plants. Know the water requirements of your plants beforehand. This can be found in the insert included when you first purchased your plants. This also comes with instructions which you should follow carefully. If you are unsure, just make sure that when the top of the soil feels dry, water your plants.


I enjoy all things outdoors and I love plants! I've never considered myself to be one with a green thumb, but it's my mission to learn, so I figured I would bring you along for the ride. :) Happy planting!

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