How to Choose the Best Garden for You
The secret to a successful garden starts with finding a style that lets you—and your plants—flourish.
What’s the best type of garden? It’s the garden that’s absolutely perfect for you, of course! Only you can decide what garden type suits your space, your favorite plants, and your gardening style.
Luckily, figuring out whether you should try an in-ground, raised bed, or container garden can be interesting and fun. Read on to learn more about these different garden types—including space and soil needs, watering and chores, and start-up tasks and supplies. You’ll have your mind made up in no time!
Garden Type: In-Ground Garden
What Is It?
Just like it sounds, it’s an in-ground garden is dug into the existing soil. You use a tiller to break up and loosen the earth.
Who’s the Ideal In-Ground Gardener?
An in-ground garden is a great choice if you own your own home or are planning to stay put for a long time, since it can be a permanent addition to your yard. If you want to grow perennial flowers, or if you enjoy watching changes from year to year, you’ll love an in-ground garden. Just make sure you like being close to the earth and playing in the dirt!
What Makes an In-Ground Garden a Great Choice?
In-ground gardens come with little to no cost investment. Most ground soils that are tilled and watered can grow plants. An in-ground garden also holds moisture well, requiring less frequent watering. You can grow anything in an in-ground garden—it’s easy to grow edibles and ornamentals together. If you grow perennial flowers or herbs, they’ll grow back bigger and stronger each season. You won’t even need to replant them!
What Else Should I Consider?
Start small. Even though in-ground gardens can be reseeded with grass, remember that they’re a more permanent feature of your outdoor living space. If you don’t own your place, you may need permission before digging. And if you move, you’ll need to leave your in-ground garden behind.
In-ground gardens require a bit of physical strength, special equipment, and some key tools to break the ground and get started. You’ll need a spade, hoe, and pitchfork to pull up sod, and a motorized tiller to power through the packed soil and rocks beneath it. If you don’t have the time, muscles, or tools to do it yourself, you’ll need to find someone who can.
In-ground gardeners do a lot of bending, reaching, kneeling, sitting, and standing while tending their plants. If you have limited mobility, consider keeping your in-ground garden small, or choose a raised-bed or container garden that requires less physical movement.
What Will I Need to Create an in-Ground Garden?
It won’t cost much to establish an in-ground garden. You may need to rent a tiller to break the soil, and you’ll want to choose and purchase healthy seeds or starter plants, like those from Bonnie Plants®. If you live in a place with lots of deer and other hungry critters, you may want to plan to protect your garden with fencing or netting.
It’s also a good idea to give your soil a boost now, and at the start of each new gardening season. Blend in Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil to add vital nutrients that your plants will absorb directly through their roots, promoting healthy, vigorous growth.
Garden Type: Raised Bed Garden
What Is It?
A raised bed garden grows in a specially constructed frame that is filled with soil and placed atop the ground. Made from a range of materials, including wood, plastic, cement, and metal, raised beds come in styles and sizes that suit both city and rural living.
Most raised beds are rectangular, measuring between 3 and 6 feet wide and anywhere from 6 to 12 feet long, but they can be nearly any size or shape. Beds can be as shallow as 6 inches or as deep as 36 inches (or more).
Elevated raised beds are built higher off the ground and include a solid bottom surface that allows drainage. Blocks or legs, from a few inches to a few feet high, boost the beds to help accommodate the gardeners who tend them. Taller raised beds are perfect for gardeners who use wheelchairs—some beds can even be fitted with wheels to move around the garden or patio.
Who’s the Ideal Raised Bed Gardener?
The gardener who wants it all can grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers—separately or together—all in a relatively small space, with raised beds.
Raised bed gardens work well for all ages, experience levels, and physical ability. Because raised beds can be made in different sizes and heights, they make gardening possible for nearly everyone. If you have limited mobility, you can plant, tend, and harvest in comfort with raised beds built to suit your needs. Families with children also love raised beds, as kids can even have their very own garden to tend, side-by-side with their grown-ups.
If you’re very busy, you’ll also appreciate that you’ll need to do less weeding and maintenance with a raised bed garden than you would with an in-ground garden.
What Makes a Raised Bed Garden a Great Choice?
Raised beds solve problems while adding flexibility to your garden. If you aren’t able to dig an in-ground bed or live in an area with poor soil conditions, raised beds can make gardening possible. (With proper lining and preparation, you can even put raised beds atop non-soil surfaces, like gravel and cement.) There’s no digging or tilling required with raised beds. Instead, you place your raised bed on a level surface, line it with weed-control fabric, and fill it with new, nutrient-rich soil. Proper drainage, weed control, and nutrition are built right in from the start.
Raised beds use space efficiently and can be tucked into small places, making them ideal if you have limited space. You can create whatever size and style of bed you need, from scratch or with a kit, or buy a complete bed that’s ready to fill and plant.
What Else Should I Consider?
It costs a bit more to establish a raised-bed garden since you need to build or buy a raised bed, liner fabric, and soil. You can manage your costs by making your own with recycled or upcycled materials—it’s easy to build your own raised bed with a few basic tools and supplies. You can also reuse it each season.
Your raised bed should ideally be only as wide as you can comfortably reach across, usually 4 feet or less. It must also be deep enough for the crops you want to grow. Peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes, for example, need at least 20 inches of soil depth to stretch out their roots. Broccoli, cucumbers, lavender, rosemary, and snapdragons do best with at least 12 inches. Leeks, spinach, basil, marigolds, and other shallow-rooted plants like depths of around 6 inches. Plan ahead when you build or buy your raised bed.
If you’re installing multiple raised beds, leave a wide enough path between them so you can tend your plantings comfortably. (If they’re on your lawn, be sure your lawn mower fits between the raised beds!) Monitor the soil in shallow raised beds carefully: It can dry out more quickly and require more frequent watering.
What Will I Need to Create a Raised Bed Garden?
Plan to spend some money on raised bed materials, soil, and healthy seeds or starter plants. The cost of your raised bed garden can vary greatly depending upon materials, size, design, and style. A do-it-yourself or recycled raised bed will be the most affordable option. A pre-made raised bed will cost more.
To give your plants the strongest start, purchase enough Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil to completely fill your bed to the proper depth. (Use this chart to figure out how much you need.) Plan to refresh the soil at the start of each growing season.
Garden Type: Container Garden
What Is It?
A container garden uses a variety of pots and containers, in a variety of shapes and sizes, to grow vegetables, herbs, and annual flowers. They can be placed or moved anywhere during the growing season to take advantage of sunlight or shade, or simply to add visual interest to the yard or patio.
Who’s the Ideal Container Gardener?
Anyone can grow plants in containers! They’re a fun way to try growing something new, and you can get creative about what kinds of containers you use, where you place your plants, and how you arrange them—whether that’s to take the best advantage of sunlight or add a pop of color to a dull corner.
Containers help you make the most of limited spaces and tricky locations like upper-level balconies, railings, or rooftops. If you’re not able to install an in-ground or raised bed garden where you live, or move frequently and dread leaving your plants behind, a container garden is a wonderful solution.
It’s easy to give your garden a personal, creative flair by planting in interesting containers like barrels, wooden crates, metal pails, plastic buckets, hanging pots, or window boxes. A good-sized container with good drainage can be used to grow almost anything.
If you love to grow things—just one or two plants, or lots more—and are okay with frequent watering, you’re the ideal container gardener!
What Makes a Container Garden a Great Choice?
Container gardens are flexible. They let you experiment with different plants, move your garden from place to place, and expand the size of your garden at a manageable pace. They fit anywhere from the smallest window sill to the largest backyard. Containers are especially well-suited for vegetables and herbs, and they let you enjoy spectacular splashes of color from annual flowers.
As long as it gets adequate sunlight, a container garden can be placed wherever it’s most convenient for you to tend and harvest. If you use fresh herbs to cook, place them just outside your kitchen door. If you have trouble bending or kneeling, place your containers on an outdoor table or hang them at a comfortable height.
Some container plants, like perennial herbs, can come inside for the winter months and go back outside in springtime. Other, annual plants and used soil can be turned into compost, and their containers can be cleaned, stored, and reused.
What Else Should I Consider?
Establishing a container garden shouldn’t cost a lot. Start with just one plant in one container if desired, and choose recycled, upcycled, or new containers as your budget allows.
Your container garden won’t require a lot of upkeep, either. Containers make weeding and pest management easy! But since containers don’t surround your plants’ roots with as much soil and moisture as an in-ground or raised bed garden, you’ll need to water more frequently. In average summer weather, that usually means every day. In dry conditions, be prepared to water even more often.
What Will I Need to Create a Container Garden?
You’ll need containers in appropriate sizes for the plants you hope to grow—those healthy seeds or starter plants won’t stay small for long! All plants need room to grow up and out, to stretch their stems and leaves, as well as down and through, to establish a strong root system beneath the soil.
Many garden vegetables, including carrots, leaf lettuce, and spinach, can grow in one-gallon buckets. Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes need five-gallon containers. Herbs and flowers can grow in a variety of smaller-sized containers.
If your containers don’t have drainage holes, drill or poke several holes, spaced evenly apart, in the bottom of each container. For vining plants like cucumbers or pole beans, provide room to spread as well as a support to climb, such a trellis, post, or railing.
For each new plant, you’ll need enough Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix to fill its container to the plant’s recommended depth. (It’s suitable for all types of edible and ornamental plants.) Once your containers are established, you’ll want to replenish soil nutrients by feeding frequently when you water.
What type of garden did you choose? Remember, all types of gardens require the same basics for success: fertile soil, healthy seeds or starter plants, sun exposure, good drainage, and a water source. As for the rest, well, it’s up to you!