Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Medieval House Garden in Spring

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I love gardening. As most of you know, I recently moved away from the beach and back to the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This winter provided an intense relief from the last seven years of drought, forced us to evacuate our home under the severe flood warning caused by issues at the Oroville dam, and ripped apart many a landscaped yard. My family actually had to rent a tractor to repair the dirt roads on their ten-acre parcel, many of which were wiped out by torrential rains.

So far this year, I have planted roses, lilies, delphiniums, bougainvillea, and marigolds. Fresh sod has been put down in one area of the yard. Bare-root apple, plum, peach, nectarine, cherry, and apricot trees were planted in February. Tomatoes and potatoes went into the ground weeks ago. Today, we are going to plant daffodils and tulips purchased on sale last spring. Later in the week, carrots, greens, and herbs, will be planted.

Where we were living on the coast, you cannot tomatoes because of the lack of sunshine, so I absolutely cannot wait for my first home-grown tomato in six years. If you have never tasted a truly fresh, sun-ripened tomato, I think John Denver summed up the experience best in his song aptly titled Home Grown Tomatoes.

Because I am a self-described Armchair Historian, today I am bringing you some gardening advice from the fourteenth century.

A Medieval Home Companion is a partial translation by Tania Bayard of a text written by the elderly, Parisian husband of a fifteen-year-old girl. In the opening pages, the author assures his young wife that he is very pleased by her and that he requires no further duty or change of character from her. However, because she was separated from her mother, father, and all others who may give her advice, she has asked for his instruction so that she may be a good wife and keep their home well. To appease her wish and to attempt to prepare her for her future life a second marriage, he carefully composed one of the most exhaustive texts on moral and domestic instructions to come out of the century.

The following passage contains his advice for the garden in April, May, and June which is as true today as it was then:

"Throughout the months of April and May sow the green vegetables that are eaten in June and July.

Cut the green vegetables of summer, leaving their roots in the earth. After winter, the roots put out new shoots, and you must pick the new shoots of the old. 

From April until the feast of the Magdalene (July 22) is a good time to sow green vegetables. Lenten greens are sown in July up to the feast of the Magdalene, and not beyond; they are called beets... When beets have sprouted they are transplanted in rows.

In April and May set out white cabbages and round cabbages that were sown in February and March. In May, one finds new beans, turnips, and radishes. In June, on the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24), plant parsley. Also on the eve of the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (August 15).

When it rains in July, plant cabbages."

My only problem is that it does not rain here in July...

Do you love to garden? Is this advice helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

Now you know how to plant a Medieval vegetable garden, click here to learn how to care for your hair. Hint: it includes washing in fireplace ash or dragon's blood and boiling a dead lizard in oil.

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