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Gardening Through the Ages: A Look at Historical Gardening Styles and Techniques

Isn’t it amazing to think of all the historical gardening styles that have existed over the years? From growing for sustenance to growing for beauty, gardeners are constantly coming up with new ways to cultivate a garden.

Many historical gardening techniques have been replaced by modern methods, but some are still useful today!

Keep reading to learn about the interesting ways people gardened throughout history. You might be inspired to try some of these techniques yourself.

historical gardening styles

Historical Gardening Styles

Gardens for Sustenance

Ancient people used historical gardening techniques and farming practices to grow food. Their interests were practical, and gardens were designed to feed families and communities.

Nowadays, growing for sustenance is still a primary goal of many gardeners. Growing food for your family, friends, and neighbors is a wonderful part of gardening.


Terraces were designed to create more usable growing space in a sloped area.

People would carve out hills to create large, flat spaces to grow crops. The terraces were often stacked, almost like stair steps going up the hill.

You can find examples of terrace gardens all over the world. It’s one of the most popular historical gardening styles out there.

Gardens as Art

Later in history, people began to use gardens to create something beautiful. Plants were chosen strategically and arranged in artful patterns.

These gardens were enjoyed not just for the food they provided but for how they looked.

Even today, people love to create and enjoy beautiful gardens.

Many gardeners recognize that the benefits of gardening go far beyond growing food. Spending time in nature and appreciating its beauty is good for the soul in the same way healthy food is good for the body.

Victorian Gardens

Victorian Gardens are a great example of a historical gardening style that focused on beauty.

This style includes a lot of green. Neatly trimmed hedges arranged in elaborate designs create the framework for a Victorian garden.

Flowers such as roses, dahlias, and geraniums add color. Neatly shaped topiaries give some drama and an impressive finish.

Cottage Gardens

Cottage gardens are small, residential gardens.

Instead of grass, this historical gardening style fills the space around a home with diverse plants, especially flowers.

These gardens stand out with their use of bright colors, varied heights, and rich textures.

Cottage gardens often include practical vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, beans, and herbs.

historical gardening styles

Historical Gardening Techniques

The history of gardening is long and rich. In addition to all of the unique styles, historical gardeners used a lot of different techniques as well.

Planting by the Moon

Planting according to the phases of the moon has been a common practice for centuries. Many gardeners believe that the phases of the moon affect soil moisture and plant growth.

By timing your planting according to the moon’s phases, your plants have a better chance of success.

Lots of gardeners still practice moon planting, so maybe there’s some merit to this historical gardening technique!

Companion Planting

Companion planting is the practice of growing different crops together. Good companion plants complement each other and grow better together than they do on their own.

Native Americans are well-known for this historical gardening method. The Cherokee and Iroquois tribes grew corn, squash, and beans together. They called them the “three sisters” because of how the plants took care of each other, much like sisters in a family.

Saving Seeds

In the olden days, gardeners didn’t have access to the amazing seed catalogs we have today.

Oftentimes, they would have to collect their own seeds at the end of the growing season.

If you’re interested in giving this historical gardening technique a try, it’s surprisingly easy to do.

Just choose the healthiest plants at the end of the season to harvest seeds from. Lay the seeds out to dry for a few days, then save them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant next spring.

Growing Medicinal Plants

Before modern medicine, growing plants for medicinal purposes was very common.

People grew plants like chamomile, turmeric, echinacea, ginseng, aloe, and many more to soothe common ailments and treat all kinds of problems.

These medicinal plants were made into teas, salves, or poultices. Many people still use plants for their healing properties even today.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation has several benefits, including pest reduction and improving soil health.

Plants use up nutrients in the soil as they grow. If the same plants are planted in the same place year after year, they’ll use up the same nutrients. When this happens, over time, the soil gets depleted.

Some plants (like beans) are known for adding nutrients back to the soil.

By rotating crops, gardeners can balance the nutrients that are taken up with plants that put nutrients back into the soil.

Watching for Signs

Nowadays, many people use a planting calendar or look up frost dates to know when it’s time to plant.

Before we had the weatherman to tell us when the last frost would be, people had to look for signs in nature.

They would watch for changes in the weather, plants, and animal behavior to help them know when to plant.

Buds appearing, animals migrating, and, yes, observing the frost were all clues that spring was near.

Natural Irrigation

Without the convenience of modern plumbing, historical gardening styles relied heavily on making what they had work.

To make watering easier, gardeners would sometimes collect water in ponds or canals near the garden.

This allowed them to store large amounts of water until they needed it.

Today, instead of digging a pond, rain barrels are a good way to do this. You can easily collect water when it rains and then use it to water the garden during a dry spell.

historical gardening styles

Wrapping up Historical Gardening Styles

Historical gardening styles sure have changed, but one thing never changes. Gardeners are some of the most creative and resourceful people around!

To learn more gardening tips and tricks, head to the gardening page. There, you’ll find information on all things garden-related. With product recommendations, how-tos, and plenty of helpful guides, there’s something for everyone.