The History of Raised Garden Beds

The History of Raised Garden Beds

Very little is known of how or when raised garden beds became part of the norm for gardeners and there is very little information around to say exactly when these were first used for the purpose of alternative above ground gardening. If we look at the way it was done in the past, ie, the open plan garden system in our backyards or back gardens, that method has stood the test of time and is still being used, as we speak, to great effect. My own theory is, that the raised bed gardening system evolved over time, rather than say, became invented as we know it today. The fact that there does’nt exist a book or journal on the history of raised garden beds, kinda tells it’s own story.

Other writers and commentators say that it was discovered by accident. They state that approx some 30 or so yrs ago, a group of horticultural gardeners were doing research and development of certain crop varieties and they wanted to test the theory of organically grown versus naturally grown. They then had to seperate the two trial sections of their garden for the research purposes and this was done by assembling some planks, placed horizontally on edge, which created a division of the garden in which they were working on. The idea was to prevent cross contamination of any seeds from one section into the other. Later on, doing similar trials, they unintentionally constructed a square box for further lesser experiments, and this may account for the raised bed gardening system that we enjoy today.





Rice Paddy Fields;


Let’s take ourselves back some two or three thousand years for a moment and we all remember the Chineese and how they cultivated and grew their rice in the paddy fields. Today they are still using this system in some remote and not so remote areas of that country and all over Asia, where the climate is suitable for growing rice. We might recall seing the rows upon rows of trapped water on the hills as they built ditches and created the gardening system that are called paddy fields. They could control the rainwater and they then used these flooded fields to plant and harvest the rice and have been doing so as long as records show.

Is it possible say that this was a type of raised bed gardening, albeit in a very different envoirnment and totally not related. The practicality is much the same, as rice needs water to grow and they invented an ingenious method of trapping the rainwater, and then cultivating and harvesting their rice to feed themselves. They could manage and control the water-levels as necessarily required, depending on rainfall and extreme dry periods. In flatter terrain the principal used is similar, except that today, it is not so labour intensive and they are now able to employ machinery to do the most of the work for them. The practice of growing rice is essentially one of containment, similar to the raised bed gardening.




Rockeries as a type of Raised Beds;


The idea of creating a rockery outside in our back garden has also been around for hundreds of years and this was an idea to make our garden more attractive and aesthetically pleasing rather than the practical use for which it was used. This method was also used if our garden was not suitable for a grass lawn, if there was a very steep slope or if there was a rocky outcrop that could not be used for anything else. We then created a raised planting area by constructed or placing a row of boulders and stones in a formation, which eventually gave rise to the rockery.

It was seen back then to be a great addition to the back garden and eventually people copied and expanded upon the idea, bacame inventive and experimented with all sorts of plans and ideas, which may have led to the term landscape gardening. If we were to  look at these rock garden formations and say that they are or can be construed as raised bed gardens, I think we may be right to a point or in theory, but perhaps not politically correct.





Raised garden beds by any means;


Today. raised garden beds are being constructed in many shapes, sizes, formations and every available material that would or could be used in the assembly of these, is being tested to see what works best. We have described earlier, raised beds being made from concrete or cinder blocks, pallets, raised beds being made from car or tractor tires and last but not least from wooden or timber planks. The latter is the most popular type of material and it will be some time before this type of raised bed assembly will be bettered. The timber bed frame system is so easy to construct and assemble and it makes such a statement in our backgardens, it really is a terrific alternative solution to our gardening issues or problems.

When these raised beds are fully planted, they really are a sight to behold, they make such light work of the gardening tasks and it is now so much less labor intensive to be working these. So now, we can see the history of raised garden beds has evolved and developed over time, that it is so hard to put our finger on exactly, when and how they were precisely invented for the first time. There is the saying that goes “necessity is the mother of invention” and that may have been the driving force of how these raised beds came into being.


In conclusion;


I trust that the above information is both interesting and useful, should you have any comments to make on the history of raised bed gardens, please use the comments box down below. Alternatively if you would prefer to get in contact with us directly, you may do so here

6 thoughts on “The History of Raised Garden Beds

  1. It is very intriguing how raised garden beds have been around for so long and are still used today. I agree on your theory, existing so long means it has proven its efficiency and has evolved little by little over time making it a useful piece of engineering that has provided food for lots of people.
    Thanks for the good read!

    1. Hi there Larkno

      Many thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that the raised bed system definitely makes life easier and they are so efficient, yet so simple in concept and design. Kudos to those who persevered with the idea and we are so grateful to them today for their efforts..

      Thanks again for stopping


      Cheers….Phil Browne

  2. I have raised beds in my allotment plot and the main reason is that it is much easier to control the weeds that way than if you plant straight into the ground. You can just pull them out with a little tug rather than having to dig them out with a fork. Anyway, I like to think that raised beds were invented by an angry allotmenteer with a bad back. There is nothing like renting an allotment plot to bring out the crazy amateur engineer in people!

    1. Hi there Kristian

      Mnay thanks for stopping by and offering comments on this review.

      I totally agree with you about the raised beds gardening system, it definitely makes life easier and thus your maintenance is practically eliminated. All we need do is plant, water and away we go, its that easy. Maybe a little extra watering until plants get established and thats basically it. The weeding issue is practically nil, thanks to this system.

      I like your sense of humour also, it always helps

      Cheers and thanks again for your comments

      Happy gardening

      Phil Browne

  3. Phil, I have been an avid fan of above ground gardens for about 30 years. We have a great deal of clay in our soils in Australia and digging is horrific.

    I had barely started experimenting when a friend gave me her mother’s copy of a book by a woman called Ester Dean. This has now been combined with a second book to produce; No Dig Gardening and Leaves of Life (gardening for the disabled). I looked it up on Amazon but it was quite pricey. I have a link to an Australian group that also sells it internationally. It is much cheaper but I don’t know the mailing cost. I can’t give you the link here but will do so on your WA profile.

    Ester wrote these books in the 1970s so your guess is in the ball park. She was experimenting in how to garden in an urban garden that was full of rubble and builders rubbish. And boy did she succeed. I gave my dad a copy and in short time he was supplying his neighbourhood with veggies. One year he got 170 kg of tomatoes from one garden 1.5m wide and 3m long!

    In a way, above ground gardening is just creating a large compost area that works as you grow!

    By the way another above ground system dad used was for potatoes. He got one of the old plastic rubbish bins and cut random slots in the side. He then did the Ester Dean thing for about 30cm in the bottom of the bin. Then he put three spuds into that.

    As the spuds sprouted, every time he could see a green shoot poking through he added more organic mix. He did this until the bin was filled to the top. Then the spuds were left to develop until the tops browned off.
    When he wanted a potato, he reached into a slot and found a potato of the size he wanted. And hey presto, it was clean – no washing!

    Good luck with your gardening and your website as it is great for those who want to garden with not too much effort.


    1. Hi there, Helen

      Many thanks for taking all this time to write such a great review, this is very much appreciated. I agree with you 100% and totally concur that this concept has evolved over time and was used in many formats, like you have so elegantly described here.

      There are people who have experiminted with all sorts of ideas and inventions. They have used sacks, boxes, crates, tanks, water containers, concrete blocks and everything else that you can imagine.

      Anything that would hold compost and soil worked and as long as it was functional, then it was used.

      Often you can see all different containers and receptacles that will hold and grow flowers and these were then upgraded to be used for vegetables and thus were deemed a success.

      I searched Amazon here in our neck of the woods and I have come across this book, its pricey as you say, perhaps it is worth a read some time down the road.

      Thanks again for stopping by, greatly appreciated

      Cheers and thanks again

      Phil Browne

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