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Autumn Plans

The first thing we need to do is lay plans – what are we planting, and when does it need to be planted? 

The indications I’m finding thus far are that winter crops weren’t much done in Western Europe in the Medieval Era. This is in part due to some interesting climate features – there was a Medieval Warm Period, which ran up to about the 15th century, depending on your strict definitions, and then the Little Ice Age, which stretches up to about 1850. The effect here is that the later period material – as in, when we have more sources – presupposes a climate that’s rather colder than our modern one.

So the first plantings will be in springtime. We can simulate a lifetime of careful attention to last frost dates by looking at actual records, and given that last year had a nice warm period in the spring followed by a couple of frosts, we’ll probably be tricked by the weather regardless.

Working backwards, this means that we now need to dig over the beds, and get whatever fertiliser we’re using in there in the autumn. That’s the old reliable well-rotted farm manure, of which we’ve a copious supply. This would have been very available in period, and probably hasn’t changed much at all. And we’ll build up raised beds for drainage; there’s evidence for this right back to the Roman Era, so we’ve no tricky decisions to make just yet.

Thus far, our thinking is to aim for produce as it would have been in the late 1500s this year, and work backwards from there in future years.

Reading List

This is a compiled list of books and references that look like they might be relevant. Many of the books come from the work done by Lady Brianna McBain, whose Pleasure Garden article on the Florilegium has been of immense help in getting started on this project.

Books

Agnus Castus – A Middle English Herbal (c1430) Almqvist & Wiksells Bokrtyckeri, Uppsala 1950

A Medieval Home Companion (Engish translation of the 14th century Le Menagier de Paris) Tanya Bayard, Harper Collins, NY 1991

Brother Cadfael’s Herb Book, R. Whitman, Little, Brown & Co., London 1988

In A Monastery Garden E. and R. Peplow, David and Charles ,London 1994

In Pursuit Of Paradise: A Social History Of Gardens and Gardening  Jane Brown, Harper Collins, London 1999

Herbs For The Medieval Household For Cooking, Healing, And Divers Uses Margaret B. Freeman, The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, NY 1943

Medieval English Gardens T. McLean, Collins, London 1994

Medieval Gardens J.H. Harvey, Shire Publications, Aylesbury 1993

Medieval Gardens Sir F. Crisp, Hacker, New York 1979

Men and Gardens Nan Fairbrother, Hogarth press, 1956

The Early English Kitchen Garden Mary Palmer Kelley, Garden History Assoc. Columbia, S.C. 1984

The English Housewife Gervase Markham (c 1568) McGill-Queen’s University, Quebec, CA, 1994

Mary’s Flowers Vincenzia Krymow, St. Anthony Press, Cincinati, OH 1999

Restoring Period Gardens by J.H. Harvey , Batsford London, 1981

Sweet Herbs And Sundry Flowers: Medieval Gardens and the Gardens of the Cloisters Tanya Bayard, Harper Collins, New York 1991

The Medieval Garden Sylvia Landsberg, British Museum Press, 1996

The Story of Gardening  Richardson Wright, Dodd, Mead & Co, New York 1934

The Unicorn Tapestries Margaret B. Freeman, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1974

The Herb Companion Vol 3, No 2 Jan 1991 article: Medieval Herbals Steven Foster

The Herb Quarterly issue 70 summer 1996 article Medieval roots of the Modern Garden N.S. Gill

Period Records

Mostly from Metressa Jadwiga Zajaczkowa’s notes (to which I’ve added some links here):

Websites

The Florilegium listings for Plants, Herbs & Spices and Food – Vegetables will be of use.

History of the Carrot Part Three – from Medicine to Food: A.D 200 to 1500, World Carrot Museum 2012

At harvest tide, a new start

Hello! In the SCA we are known as Nessa and Aodh. You’ll probably be able to find our real names somewhere here if you dig deep enough and if you care. We live in the shire of Dun in Mara, in Insulae Draconis, Drachenwald.

We love growing things and gardening in general. We have been growing vegetables and fruit in our own back garden for the past few years with varying success. Late in the spring we acquired ourselves an allotment, which we’re sharing with a non-SCA friend of ours. What we plan to do with it is to use parts of it for a year-long (to begin with!) A&S project. We’re going to research medieval kitchen gardens, appropriate vegetables, growing methods and monthly practices, and employ those as far as possible in order to produce something edible at the end of it all. Hopefully, if things go well, we may even be able to offer the produce to others in one form or another. We will be documenting this project in this blog throughout the year.

A “wattle fence” is a type of fence commonly used in medieval gardens, made from willows or other lithe trees or shrubs. “A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie” is a 1557 text by Thomas Tusser, which describes the common tasks of the calendar year by means of verse.