Landscaping around a raised garden bed can be done by creating stone or mulch pathways or by grouping plants in containers to give the space a more defined look. A big part of the appeal behind raised gardens is that they are low maintenance with a minimum amount of weeding, watering, stooping and bending. Adding plant material around the beds would increase the amount of labor required to tend the raised garden. If you do prefer some plants around the beds to hide them from view or soften their sharp rectangular angles, remember that you need 360 degrees of access to your raised garden beds. Landscaping that blocks your ability to reach into the bed adds complications to what should be one of the simplest ways to grow vegetables and flowers in your own yard.
The most important element of landscaping to include around a raised garden is hardscaping, a well-groomed walkway between raised beds, or between a raised garden bed and another part of the yard. Not only does a walkway give you a mud-free place to stand when watering your raised garden and repress both weed and pest infestation, but if created with materials that complement your overall garden theme, it can also enhance the visual appeal of your yard or garden.
A basic walkway is nothing more than a weed barrier cloth, secured with U pins and covered with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic or inorganic mulch. Depending on the slope and grade of your yard, it may be necessary to dig a shallow path or include edging materials to keep the mulch in place.
Examples of organic mulch are wood chips, shredded bark or straw. These items will relatively inexpensive but do breakdown over time and occasionally need to be replenished; however, if your walkway is under the path of falling leaves or other heavy debris from a tree, organic mulch is the best option. Some leaves and debris can be left behind and naturally decompose with the mulch.
Inorganic mulch, such as pea gravel or rock is more costly but rarely needs to be replenished. However, if debris covers your rock path it will be unattractive and difficult to clean. Raking up costly stones along with fall leaves won’t make anyone happy.
If raised beds are a permanent part of the landscape, cement pavers or natural materials such as flagstone can be used to build elegant walkways that are easy to sweep clean and never need to be replenished. Walkways built from these materials are costly and require a moderately heavy amount of labor depending on the size and number of your raised beds.
The artful arrangement of plants in containers is an effective way to “dress up” your raised beds and give them a more neatly landscaped look. Group containers in odd numbers and/or place large single container on the ground at the corner of raised garden beds. Using containers makes the landscaping portable and temporary, in case you change your mind. Placing container near the corner of the bed will soften some of the hard edges without interfering with your access.