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Medieval to 16th century | 17th - 19th century | Garden Restoration | The Nonsuch Restoration Project

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Fourteenth-Century Instructions for Gardening



The Goodman of Paris

writing for his young wife in 1392

First, be it noted that whatsoever you sow, plant or graft, you should sow, plant or graft in damp weather and at eve or early morn, before the heat of the sun, and in the wane of the moon, and you should water the stem and the earth and not the leaves.

Item, you should not water in the heat of the sun, but at eve or in the morning; cut not cabbage, parsley, nor other such green things which shoot again, for the heat of the sun will harden and burn the cut, and so the plant will never sprout again at the place of the cut.

Note that in rainy weather it is good to plant but not to sow, for the seed sticketh to the rake.

From the season of All Saints' we have beans, but that they may not be frostbitten, do you plant them towards Christmas and in January and February and at the beginning of March; and plant them thus at divers times, so that if some be taken by the frost others be not. And when they come up out of the ground, so soon as the tops thereof show, you should rake them and break the first shoot; and as soon as they have six leaves you should spread earth over them. And of them all, the first come be the most delicate and they must be eaten the day they are shelled, or else they become black and bitter.

Note that if you would keep violets and marjoram in winter against the cold, you must not move them of a sudden from cold to heat, nor from damp to cold, for he that keepeth them long time through the winter in a damp cellar and suddenly setteth them in a dry place, loseth them; et sic de contrarlis similibus.

In winter you should cut off the dead branches of the sage plants. Again let sage, lavender, dittany, mint, clary, be planted in January and February, up to May. Let parsnips be sown broadcast. Let sorrel be sown at the wane of the moon and up to March or later.

Note that the winter weather of December and January kills the porray [greens: purray was a vegetable broth], to wit all that be above ground, but in February the roots put forth fresh and tender green again, to wit as soon as the frost endeth, and a fortnight later cometh spinach.

February. Savory and marjoram be as it were of the same savour to eat, and they be sown at the wane and stay only eight days in the earth. Item, savory lasteth only until St John's Day. Item, in the wane you should plant trees and vines and sow white and headed cabbage. Note that layers put out roots from the moment that they be planted.

Spinach comes in February and has a long crenellated leaf like an oak leaf, and grows in tufts like greens and you must blanch them and cook them well afterwards. Beets come later.

Note that it is good to plant raspberry-bushes and also raspberries

March. At the wane you should graft; plant house-leek from March to St John's Day. Violets and gillyflowers sown in March or planted on St Remy's Day. Item, both of these, when the frosts draw near, you should replant in pots, at a season when the moon waneth, in order to set them under cover and keep them from the cold in a cellar, and by day set them in the air or in the sun and water them at such time that the water may be drunken up and the earth dry before you set them under cover, for never should you put them away wet in the evening. Plant beans and break the first shoot by raking them, as is aforesaid. Note that parsley sown on the Eve of Lady Day in March is above ground in nine days.

Plant fennel and marjoram at the wane in March or April; and note that marjoram delighteth in a richer soil than violets, and if it be too much in the shade it groweth yellow. Item, when it has well taken hold, then must you take it up in tufts and replant it separately in pots. Item, branches cut off, set in the earth and watered, put forth roots and grow. Item, land manured with cow and sheep dung is better than with horse dung.

March violets and Armenian violets desire neither cover nor shelter; and note that the Armenian violet doth not flower until the second year, but gardeners who have had it in the ground for a year, sell it and replant it elsewhere, and then it flowereth.

Sorrel and basil be sown in January and February and as late as March at the wane of the moon, and if you would transplant sorrel sown the year before, you must transplant it with all the earth which is round its roots. Item, there is an art in cooking it, for you should always gather the big leaves and leave the little leaves that be beneath them to grow; and if perchance all have been gathered, it is best to cut the stem down to the ground, and fresh sorrel will grow again.

Sow parsley, weed it and remove the stones, and that which is sown in August is the best, for it doth not grow high and keepeth its goodness all the year long.

Lettuces should be sown, and note that they do not linger in the ground, but come up very thickly, wherefore you must root them up here and there, to give space to the rest that they crowd not. And note that the seed of French lettuce is black, and the seed of Avignon lettuce is whiter, and Monseigneur de La Riviere caused it to be introduced, and the lettuces be better and somewhat tenderer than those of France; and the seed is gathered from one head after the other, as each head puts out its branch thereof.

Note that lettuces be not planted, and likewise when you would have them to eat, you must pull them up root and all.

Pumpkins. The pips are the seed and they must be soaked for two days and then sown; and you must let them grow without moistening them until they show above ground, and then moisten the foot only and the earth, without wetting the leaves, and in April water them gently and transplant them from one place to another, about four inches or half a foot in the earth, each pumpkin half a foot away from the next, and keep the stem ever moist, by hanging a pot with a hole therein on a stick, and in the pot a straw and some water, etc., or a strip of new cloth.

Sow beets in May and when they be ready for eating, let them be cut down close to the root, for they always shoot forth and grow again and become porray.

Borage and orach as above.

White cabbage and headed cabbage be the same; and they be sown in the wane of March, and when they have five leaves, then must they be pulled up gently and planted half a foot each from each, and they must be set in earth up to the eye and their roots watered; and they be eaten in June and July.

Cabbage hearts be sown in March and transplanted in May. Roman cabbages be of the same nature as these and of the same sort of seed, for in both the seed groweth upon the stem, and from the seed that cometh from the midmost stalk and is topmost groweth the heart of cabbage and from the seed that cometh from below grow the Roman cabbages. Lenten sprouts be the second growth of the cabbage and they last until March and those March sprouts be of stronger taste in eating, wherefore should they be longer boiled, and at this time the stalks must be pulled up from the ground. Note that cabbages should be planted in July when it raineth.

Note that ants abound in a garden and if you cast sawdust of oaken planks upon their heap, they will die or depart at the first rain that falleth, for the sawdust retaineth the moisture.

Note that in April and May each month you shall sow the porray or greens for eating in June and July. Summer greens must be cut down and their roots left in the ground and after winter the roots put forth green again and it is meet to cover them with earth and rake the earth round them and there sow the new ones which be to come and gather the green put forth by the old. Note that it is meet to sow porray from April to St Mary Magdalen's Day and the Lenten greens be sown in July and up to St Mary Magdalen's Day and no later and they be called beets. Item, spinach. Item, the aforesaid beets, when they show above the ground, must be transplanted in rows. Item, in April and May it behoves to plant out white cabbages and cabbage hearts that were sown in February and March. In May come new beans, turnips and radishes.

Note that you must sow parsley on St John's Eve in June and also on the eve of mid-August.

August and mid-August. Sow hyssop. Cabbages for Eastertide be sown at the wane of the moon and parsley too, for it groweth not high.

Note that porray or greens that be in the ground put forth new greens five or six times, like unto parsley, and you can cut them above the stump up to mid-September and thereafter cut them not, for the stump will decay, but strip off the outer leaves with your hands and not those that be midmost.

At this season it is meet to cut down all greens that be run to seed, for the seed cannot ripen by reason of the coldness of the weather, and if the seed be cut and cast away the stump beareth new greens. Item, at this time it behoveth not to cut parsley, but to pluck it leaf by leaf.

After the Nativity of Our Lady in September let peony, dragonwort, lily bulbs, rose trees and currant bushes be planted.

October. Peas, beans, a finger deep in earth and four inches apart and let them be the largest beans possible, for when they be new they look larger than the little ones and you should plant but a few, and at each wane that followeth a few, so that if some be shrivelled in the frost, others be not.

If you would sow pierced peas, sow them in a dry fine weather and not in rain, for if the rain water should enter within the opening of the pea, it would rot and split in half and would not germinate.

Up to All Saints' cabbages may always be transplanted and when they be too much eaten by caterpillars, so that no leaf remaineth save only the veins, if they be transplanted they all bear sprouts; and it is meet to strip off the lower leaves and replant them up to the top-most eye. The stumps from which all the leaves have been stripped should not be transplanted, but should be left in the earth, for they will bear sprouts.

Note, that if you plant in summer in dry weather, you should water the holes, but not so in damp weather.

Note, that if the caterpillars eat your cabbages, spread cinders beneath the cabbages when it rains and the caterpillars will die. Item, you may look under the leaves of the cabbages and there you shall find a great host of white grubs and know that it is from these that the caterpillars be born, wherefore you should cut off the leaves whereon is this seed and cast them afar off.

Let leeks be sown in season and then transplanted in October and November.

If you would have grapes without pips, take at the waxing of the moon in the time when vines be planted, to wit in February, a vine plant with its root, and slit the stock right through the midst unto the root, and draw out the pith from each side. Then prune the stock and bind it all the length thereof with black thread, then plant the stock and manure it with good manure, and fill up the hole with earth above the join of the stock.

If you would graft a cherry or a plum upon a vine stock, prune the vine, then in March cut it four fingers' breadth from the end and draw out the pith from each side, and there make place for the kernel of a cherry stone, and put it and enclose it within the cut, and bind with thread the stock joined as is aforesaid.

If you would graft a vine stock upon a cherry tree, do you prune the v~ne stock, which shall be planted a long time and rooted near to the cherry, and in March, round about Lady Day pierce your cherry tree with a wimble of the size of the said stock, and push the aforesaid stock into the hole in the aforesaid cherry, so that it enters for a foot's length at least, then stop up the hole on both sides of the cherry, to wit with clay and moss, and bind it round with cloths so that no rain may touch the opening. Item, the bark should be stripped off the vine stock that is within the trunk of the cherry and it should be peeled down to the green, for if this be done thus and the bark be peeled and cast away, the pith of the stock will join the pith of the cherry and rhey will become one, which would be prevented by the bark of the stock if it remained. Having done this, do you leave them together for two years, and afterwards cut the stock behind and below the juncture with the cherry.

Item, you can graft ten or twelve trees upon the trunk or stump of an oak; to wit in the month of March, round about Lady Day, furnish yourself with as many grafts and divers fruits as you be niinded to have for grafting, and cause the oak or tree on which you would make your graft to be sawn asunder; and having sharpened your grafts on one side only in the manner of a blind corner, even thus [shape of a triangle], in such a way that the bark of the aforesaid graft is whole on the one side, without being stripped or cut, then slip your grafts between the bark of the oak and the wood, with the pith of the graft towards the wood or pith of the oak. Then stop it up and cover it with clay and moss and cloths, that neither rain, snow nor frost may harm it.

If you would keep roses in winter, take from the rose tree little buds that be not full blown and leave the stems thereof long, and set them within a little wooden cask like unto a compost cask, without water. Cause the cask to be well closed and so tightly bound up that naught may come in or out thereof, and at the two ends of the aforesaid cask tie two great and heavy stones and set the aforesaid cask in a runnmg stream.

Rosemary. Gardeners say that the seed of rosemary groweth never in French soil, but whosoever shall pluck little branches of rosemary and shall strip them from the top downwards and take them by the ends and plant them, he shall see them grow again; and if you would send them far away, you must wrap the aforesaid branches in waxed cloth and sew them up and then smear the parcel outside with honey, and then powder with wheaten flour, and you may send them wheresoever you will.

I have heard Monseigneur de Berry say that in Auvergne the cherries be larger than in France, because they layer their cherry trees.

Please also visit Old London Maps on the web as many of the maps
and views available there have plans and depictions of gardens from
the medieval period through to the late nineteenth century.

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