How to Choose the Best Raised Garden Bed Material

How to Choose the Best Raised Garden Bed Material

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When it comes to choosing a raised garden bed, the material you pick is important. It affects how long your garden bed will last, the overall appearance of your landscaping, soil temperatures, and how eco-friendly it is, both for the environment and the plants inside. 

With many raised garden beds available, you might be wondering which one is best for your needs and how to navigate all the different options. Perhaps you’re just beginning your gardening hobby and are curious about why these differences matter. Regardless of your experience, this blog covers all you need to know to create the garden of your dreams! We’ll dive deeper into the different kinds of materials for raised garden beds, pros and cons of each one, and how to make the right choice for you.

Factors to Consider

Regardless of your final choice, there are a few things you’ll need to consider as you begin your search for the right materials. Of course, you’ll want to prioritize which aspects are most important to you, but here’s a good place to start: 

  • Durability: Your raised garden bed should endure the test of time, whether that’s storms, animals, insects, or just everyday wear and tear. Different materials are susceptible to different challenges, whether it’s moisture or rust, so you’ll want to ensure you’re choosing an option that will last in your backyard environment.
  • Safety: Choose an option that doesn’t pose a challenge to move around (especially if you have mobility issues) and one that’s free of toxic chemicals or coatings, which can harm your plants. 
  • Sustainability: Pay attention to eco-friendly options or planter beds made from recycled materials so you can be sure that you’re minimizing your carbon footprint. Not to mention, they can be better for your plants and create a more natural garden aesthetic.
  • Cost: While some options may be more expensive up front, they likely won’t require frequent replacements or maintenance compared with cheaper alternatives.
  • Aesthetics: The appearance of your raised garden bed can enhance the overall look of your garden, so consider materials that complement your outdoor space and the plants you’ll put inside of it. Are you going for an industrial, rustic, natural, or luxurious landscaping masterpiece? 
Women watering seeds and a man tending to some plants at a nursery

Exploring the Best Materials for Raised Garden Beds

Now that we've established the key factors to consider, let's explore some of the best materials for raised garden beds and the pros and cons of each one.

​​1. Recycled or Reclaimed Plastic 

Reclaimed plastic raised garden beds are our top choice because of the longevity and sleek appearance they provide. It’s the perfect complement to contemporary landscaping, and there are typically a few color options you can choose from. Recycled or reclaimed plastic garden beds are also suitable for use with trellises, which are structures you can use to help your plants grow a certain way.

You can already find garden beds made of plastic; they’re just not eco-friendly. Switching to reclaimed plastic won’t cause you to sacrifice any features you already love; it’s just a simple adjustment that benefits the environment and helps eliminate virgin plastics.


  • Durability: Recycled plastic is a great option for long-lasting garden beds because it isn’t as prone to weather or insect damage in comparison to metal and wooden counterparts. They’re often coated or treated in a special way that allows them to endure the elements without seeping or leaching into your soil.
  • Low Maintenance: Given their durable build and smooth finish, you won’t have to worry about loads of maintenance or facing issues like cracking, splintering, or rusting. To keep the exterior of your reclaimed plastic garden bed scuff-free, you can just use a hose and an old towel!
  • Easy to Assemble: VioScapes garden beds, specifically, offer a unique advantage with their V-Mod™ construction system. Most other options on this list require some form of physical labor or tools to put together, while our recycled plastic pieces slide together without tools and require little to no effort. 


  • Limited Aesthetic Options: Using reclaimed plastic for raised beds limits your choices in terms of aesthetics when compared to natural materials, which may offer more finishes or color variations. You’ll want to consider, though, especially for wooden and metal options, that the color of your raised planter bed may change over time as it’s exposed to the elements.
  • Higher Initial Cost: Compared with hardware store wood or steel, reclaimed plastic garden beds can have a slightly higher up-front cost. Some options, though (like VioScapes' 5-year warranty), offer buyer protection to ensure your peace of mind, making the investment well worth it.

2. Galvanized Steel

For a contemporary aesthetic, galvanized steel raised beds integrate seamlessly into modern or industrial garden themes; you can complement them with sleek containers or minimalist landscaping. 


  • Durability: Galvanized steel is durable enough to withstand different weather conditions without rusting or corroding. This means you’ll have to pay extra attention to whether it’s truly galvanized steel or a cheaper, less trustworthy metal alternative.
  • Simple to Set Up: The thin sides of galvanized steel raised beds make them straightforward to assemble, though they aren’t as easy to customize, move around, or remove as other options on the list. Some people have complained about the number of bolts needed to assemble.
  • High Sides: A lot of steel sided raised beds offer a taller side.


  • Limited Aesthetic Options: Personalization is not as simple with a raised steel bed, as most come in fixed sizes and shapes, with dark colors being the most prevalent. An additional consideration is sharp edges, which can pose a risk to children or pets if not properly maintained or sealed.
  • Limited Insulation: Compared to wood or other materials, galvanized steel raised beds may not insulate plant roots as well, which could affect soil temperature regulation, especially during extreme weather.
  • Cost: Like recycled plastic garden beds, galvanized steel may cost more upfront than other materials. While they do have a longer lifespan, you should consider the costs to acquire, install, and maintain steel garden beds in your budgeting.
Cylinder concrete blocks surrounding a raised garden

3. Concrete Blocks

You can use stacked concrete blocks to create multi-level raised garden beds, which can create a terraced effect and add visual interest. 


  • Stability: Concrete blocks offer excellent stability, preventing the raised bed from shifting over time.
  • Affordability: Because of their availability at most local hardware stores, concrete blocks are a budget-friendly and easy-to-come-by option.
  • Customization: You can find a variety of sizes and shapes for concrete blocks, and the material can withstand painting or stenciling if you prefer to add a personal touch. 


  • Poor Insulation: Concrete blocks may not provide adequate insulation for plant roots, especially in extreme temperatures. They may also allow weeds or unwanted pests to enter your garden through cracks and grooves.
  • Assembly: Creating large beds requires the right kind of adhesive and can take a significant amount of time to piece together. Not to mention, the weight of the concrete blocks can be a challenge for some people to manage and move around, and you won’t have many options to modify the shape once it’s assembled. 
  • Aesthetic Limitations: Concrete blocks may not offer the same appealing look as natural wood or other materials. While they are functional, they may not fit in with your garden's aesthetic.

4. Cinder Blocks

Similar to concrete blocks, cinder blocks offer durability and stability for raised garden beds. You can infuse your creativity by arranging cinder blocks in patterns like zigzags or hexagons, enhancing visual appeal. 


  • Fire Resistance: Cinder blocks are fire-resistant, which can be beneficial in areas prone to wildfires or where fire safety is a concern.
  • Affordability: Like concrete blocks, cinder blocks are affordable and readily available, making them a budget-friendly option for raised garden beds.
  • Versatility: The hollow centers of cinder blocks can be used for additional planting or soil filling, maximizing growing space in your garden bed.


  • Potential for Cracking: Over time, cinder blocks can crack or break, especially if they are exposed to temperature changes.
  • Weight: Similar to concrete blocks, cinder blocks are heavy, requiring careful planning for assembly and installation.
  • Abrasive Surface: When handling cinder blocks in the garden, it is important to be mindful of their rough texture. This can potentially cause scratches or abrasions on both clothing and skin, which poses a minor safety risk.
  • Harmful Chemicals: Avoid using painted or treated cinder blocks as they may contain harmful chemicals.
A wooden house with a wooden garden bed filled with plants and flowers

5. Natural Wood

Often made from pine or fir, wood is typically a default option for raised garden beds. This traditional choice has both its advantages and disadvantages. 


  • Affordability: Natural wood is often more affordable than pressure-treated or specialty lumber, making it accessible to gardeners on a budget.
  • Biodegradability: Untreated wood is biodegradable, which will eventually break down harmlessly in the environment, making it an eco-friendly choice.
  • Customization: Wood offers great flexibility in terms of personalization. Choose from different finishes, thicknesses, types of wood, and more, though be aware that rain and rotting can change the overall color and texture. 


  • Durability: Untreated wood is susceptible to decay, rot, and insect damage over time, particularly in moist environments, meaning you could be putting your plants at risk. Wood beds can also bow or bend, and sometimes fall apart.
  • Chemical Leaching: While natural wood does not contain harmful chemicals like pressure-treated lumber, it can still release tannins and other compounds into the soil, affecting plant growth and health.
  • Maintenance Requirements: Natural wood needs regular maintenance, including sealing, staining, lining, or painting, to protect against moisture and extend its lifespan, which can add up over time.


Trust us, there’s plenty more to know about the materials that go into your raised garden bed. Here are the answers to a few other questions you might have: 

1. What is the longest-lasting type of raised bed?

Garden beds made of galvanized steel or reclaimed plastic can last a decade or more, compared to more short-term options on this list.

2. What is the best material to line raised beds with?

You should always opt for breathable material to allow for adequate air and water exchange. We recommend corrugated cardboard or a light metal mesh to keep pests out, retain soil, and suppress weeds. Be careful, though, that you’re not interfering with the drainage of your plants.

3. What kind of raised garden bed is best?

You might be wondering if one type of raised garden bed material is superior. The answer is yes! While each option has different pros and cons, VioScapes’ garden beds, made from reclaimed plastic, make a strong case for being the ideal choice. Apart from their long-lasting durability, weather resistance, and lightweight material, they’re also uniquely customizable. 

As your garden grows, VioScapes’ unique V-Mod construction makes it a breeze to expand your garden bed and create an aesthetically pleasing landscape. You can choose from different colors, create the perfect shape, and forget about the worries of maintenance and upkeep. Here’s exactly how it stacks up: 

Table comparing Vioscapes materials to other materials

Final Thoughts

Selecting the best material for a raised garden bed is an important decision that can impact your gardening experience and the success of your plants. Proper maintenance can enhance the functionality and beauty of your raised garden bed, whether you choose reclaimed plastic, galvanized steel, concrete blocks, cinder blocks, or natural wood. With these tips, you're well-equipped to create a thriving outdoor space that brings you joy! Explore our blog for further tips on what to plant in a raised bed or planter