Metal raised garden beds are loved for their durability and unique aesthetic, but they also come with a high price tag!
This article will tell you more about the pros and cons of metal raised garden beds, as well as their cheaper alternative.
What are raised garden beds?
Perhaps you have been dreaming of growing your own vegetables, herbs, and flowers at home. The problem is, the native soil in your backyard is not suitable for gardening. In this case, the best option is to plant in raised garden beds.
Raised beds provide the ease of growing several types of plants above ground level. Unlike in-ground beds, raised garden beds or garden boxes allow you control over the type of soil you use for your plants. If you are not lucky enough to have garden soil rich in organic materials and nutrients, then you can choose to purchase high-quality soil for your raised beds instead.
Other benefits of raised gardens:
- The frame of the bed provides a barrier to keep the soil from eroding on rainy days.
- The elevation protects your greens from pests like slugs, snails, and rabbits. Damage caused by burrowing pests like gophers, moles, and voles will also be prevented.
- Raised beds help reduce back pain for gardeners with mobility issues.
- Raised beds are easier to manage since you can focus on caring for a smaller space intensively.
- Soil compaction and plant damage are less likely, since the elevation protects it from foot traffic.
- Raised garden beds that are well cared for will have fewer weeds, good drainage, a longer growing season, and are overall easier to maintain.
Raised garden beds can be constructed using various materials, with wood and metal being the most common options. So, you might be wondering, what is the best material to use for a raised garden bed?
Although some gardeners swear by the advantages of using wood or metal, the final choice will depend entirely on your personal preferences. Each material has its own pros and cons, so it is worth your time to do some research before making your decision.
Metal versus wooden raised garden beds
As mentioned before, the frame of your raised beds can be made from different materials, including stones, recycled plastic or wine bottles, concrete blocks, and the two most popular options – wood or metal.
Now, here is the tricky part – what is the safest choice of material for your raised garden bed? For those just starting their first raised beds, this question is quite common. In fact, even experienced gardeners have differing opinions when it comes to selecting the best material to use!
In a nutshell, wood and metal raised garden beds mainly differ in terms of price and longevity. When it comes to price and availability, wood is clearly the winner. But, if you are after durability and do not mind spending a few more bucks, then metal is the best way to go.
Pros of metal raised garden beds
Although wood is the traditional material used for raised bed frames, many gardening aficionados are currently showing a resurged interest in metal, for the following reasons:
1. Offers a unique industrial look
One thing that sets metal beds apart from the others is their unique, industrial vibe. If you are keen on this type of aesthetic, it will definitely make a great addition to your landscape. Home growers often have good results with corrugated galvanized steel, as this is visually beautiful and super easy to maintain.
2. Easy to set up
Metal raised garden beds are generally the easiest to set up. Although they offer limited customization compared with wood, the metal frames do come in several sizes and shapes. You can even build a DIY metal raised bed if you have the time to spare!
Metal beds can be pre-built before delivery or flat-packed, depending on your preference. But do not worry – these materials are incredibly lightweight. You will not need a lot of help to build your metal garden bed, as long as you have all the tools required.
3. Durable and longer-lasting
Galvanized metal is built to last for more than 20 years, unlike wood, which degrades fairly easily. Depending on your soil type, it can take many years before you see the metal rusting. Most metal raised beds are also coated with zinc, which acts as an additional layer of protection from corrosion.
4. Does not rot
Galvanized metal does not rot, no matter how many times it is exposed to water. The galvanized layer, zinc alloy, will keep the metal from reacting to any elements in the soil which makes your raised garden bed even more robust and less prone to damage.
5. Improved soil quality
Since metal raised beds give you complete control over the type of soil you use, it is easier to decide the quality and volume of soil ideal for the particular plants you are growing. You can even add nutrients to give your plants an extra boost.
But what about the safety of zinc-coated galvanized metal for your plants?
Some growers might be concerned that the metal coating might leach into the soil, especially if they are growing vegetables and herbs. Here is the good news – galvanized metal is completely safe and should not cause any health concerns.
Additionally, the soil has to be quite acidic to break down the zinc coating, and even then it might take a few decades before the coating completely breaks down. Therefore, this little amount will not have much impact on your plants and soil.
Zinc is also a naturally occurring element in the soil, so a minimal amount of leaching should not do any harm, even to food crops you may be growing. The only problem, however, is when the metal coating contains impurities that might cause lead pollution. Manufacturers are aware of this danger, which is why most metal coatings are only made with pure zinc or aluzinc-type alloys.
Cons of metal raised garden beds
In brief, metal raised beds are guaranteed to last for decades with minimal corrosion, unlike wood. But nothing is perfect, so make sure to consider these cons before finally making your decision:
1. Exposed edges can cause injury
While metal bed frames can be really sturdy, they might also cause injuries if you are not careful around the sharp, exposed edges. To avoid accidents, you can make some adjustments to keep the area safe, especially if you have young children and pets at home.
2. They are expensive
The durability of this material comes at a premium price! Some metal raised beds can cost between 60 and 70 dollars. This might be a huge initial investment, but it is definitely worth it if you do not want to deal with any fuss while tending to your garden plants. That said, if you do not have the extra money to pay for a good-quality metal garden bed, you are better off using a cheaper material like wood.
3. They can heat up quickly
Plants can be very sensitive to extreme heat, and unfortunately metals are good heat conductors. With your metal raised garden beds exposed to the scorching heat of the sun all day, they can overheat and damage your greens.
Unlike pots, raised garden beds cannot be moved to a new location, so you need to consider the location very carefully before building it. To reduce the risk of overheating, it is best to construct your raised bed in a partially-shaded area with just a few hours of sunlight exposure per day. You should also avoid growing plants that are particularly heat-sensitive.
4. Not ideal for acidic soil
Some garden plants like blueberries grow best in acidic soil. Unfortunately, acid can gradually corrode your metal beds and hence reduce their lifespan. So, make sure to consider the type of plants you will be growing before installing a metal bed frame in your garden.
Pros and cons of wooden raised garden beds
If you do not find metal raised beds a convenient option for now, then you can always go for wooden ones. Just like metal, this material comes with several pros and cons, as summarized below:
Pros of using wooden raised beds
- They look natural, which makes your garden look elegant.
- Wooden raised beds are easy to install.
- Wood is available everywhere and is cheaper than metal.
- If you are looking for customizability, then wood materials might be your best bet. You can salvage some old wood in your area, or purchase one like pine in your local hardware store.
- Wood is a good insulator; hence, it will not burn your plants even if exposed to the heat of the sun.
Cons of using wooden raised beds
- They will not last very long. Depending on the type of wood, some can last up to eight years. However, there are also rot-resistant woods available, such as redwood and cedar, if you are willing to pay the extra price.
- Some woods are treated. If you purchase treated lumber and use it for your plants, certain chemicals like arsenic can leach into your soil. Arsenic-contaminated soils are toxic to both humans and plants, so make sure to check this out before building your wooden raised bed!
Which is better – metal or wooden raised garden beds?
Every gardener’s dream is to grow healthy, beautiful greens in the comfort of their backyard. Raised garden beds, especially those made from metal, are getting more attention lately due to their durability, convenience, and safety. But, the expensive price of metal beds can discourage some growers. For this reason, wood remains a cheap alternative for anyone looking for budget-friendly gardening boxes.
Thus, choosing between these two materials really depends on your preferences and how much you are willing to pay.
Overall, metal raised beds offer the best value if you are looking for durability and convenience. They are also easy to assemble and lightweight, such as this galvanized planter box from GADI.
Woods, on the other hand, is cheaper and more customizable. Unfortunately, this material can also rot easily. Hence, you might need to replace it or do some repairs and maintenance to keep your beds in good condition.
Metal raised garden beds are aesthetically appealing while also increasing your success at growing almost any plant. However, make sure that you consider the right location and soil quality, to ensure your plants grow healthily and to their full potential!
Image: istockphoto.com / Campwillowlake