Can I Paint Raised Beds? – How To Paint A Raised Garden Bed

If you paint a raised garden bed, that color helps enliven the space year-round. But there can be issues with painted raised beds. Discover how to get it right.

Red painted raised garden beds
(Image credit: Alamy)

Raised beds in gardens are lively additions to your landscape when they overflow with the reds, blues, purples and yellows of summer flowers. But those with crops can be less colorful and, in winter, the garden may look solemn or even desolate. 

It’s then you may wonder: Can I paint raised beds? If you paint a raised garden bed, that color helps enliven the space the year round. But there can be issues with painted raised beds. Read on for the whole scoop.

Can You Paint Raised Beds?

You expect a yes or no answer when you ask: “can I paint raised beds?” But there are a lot more considerations than you might think. Let’s start with the old, painted wood scenario. You have come across some old wood that used to be part of a fence or a house and it’s a pleasant shade of blue, romantically faded.

The answer here is a clear no. While you would have to do testing to find out, the odds are that the old paint contains lead or other toxins that your organic crops will not appreciate. And older treated wood, even unpainted, can contain arsenic compounds. 

You could take extraordinary measures, like lining the wood with plastic, but plastic isn’t that great for plants either. We give this one a thumbs down.

Paint a Raised Garden Bed

Perhaps using old, painted wood is not your plan here. If you are asking about whether you can paint a raised garden bed made recently of new, naked wood, the answer is an emphatic yes as long as the wood has not been treated with chemicals

In fact, your wood is likely to rot in the moist soil if you don’t treat it at all. If you pick your paint carefully, you can paint a raised garden bed using nontoxic exterior paint. Look at your hardware store for paint made specifically for garden use. It adds color and gives the wood the needed protection. 

Painted Raised Bed Alternatives

If making painted raised beds in your garden seems like too much work, there are many alternatives. Some wood like cedar or redwood is naturally rot-resistant, so you can make your raised beds from this wood and leave them completely untreated.

Alternatively, consider using other, non-toxic materials to make raised beds. Get the traditional look with stone beds or red bricks. Or make the backyard rustic by using logs, interwoven branches or even bamboo.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.