Medieval Farming

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The farming year in Medieval England was clearly shaped around the weather. At certain times of the year, certain things had to be done by peasant farmers or crops would not have grown. Farming, in this sense, was controlled by the weather.

Month Work that needed to be done Weather the farmer wanted
 

January

 

mending and making tools, repairing fences showers
 

February

 

carting manure and marl

showers
 

March

 

ploughing and spreading manure dry, no severe frosts
 

April

 

spring sowing of seeds, harrowing showers and sunshine
 

May

 

digging ditches, first ploughing of fallow fields showers and sunshine
 

June

 

hay making, second ploughing of fallow field, sheep-shearing dry weather
 

July

 

hay making, sheep-shearing, weeding of crops dry early, showers later
 

August

 

Harvesting warm, dry weather
 

September

 

threshing, ploughing and pruning fruit trees showers
 

October

 

Last ploughing of the year dry, no severe frosts
 

November

 

collecting acorns for pigs showers and sunshine
 

December

 

Mending and making tools, killing animals showers and sunshine

Marl = a limy clay used as manure in Medieval England

Frosts were a major worry for Medieval peasants as just one severe frost in the growing season could kill off your crop. Seeds were especially vulnerable to frosts. The impact of a bad frost could leave a family or village without a crop for the year.

Harrowing = a spiked farming tool used to cover up seeds after they have been planted. Like a giant garden rake.

Fallow fields = these were farming fields left alone by the farmers for a year so that the field could regain its strength. If a field was used year in year out, it would not maintain its fertility. Though this system seems a waste as land was lost to the farmers, it was the only way then not to exhaust the land.

Acorns = these come from oak trees which were a very common tree in Medieval England. Pigs were allowed to wander in forests and feed themselves up on acorns. Acorns were free and a lord would not mind as he would have no use for the acorns – but he certainly would for fattened pigs.

Heavy rain – this was feared in the summer as the crop had nearly grown and a heavy rain storm could flatten the crop and make harvesting it all but impossible.

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