Wyrtig

For gardeners with a sense of history
 

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
.

  

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Queen Mary Psalter, BL Royal 2 B VII,
 England, c. 1315 CE

 

 

Tools for Preparing the Garden
 

The equipment used to prepare the seedbed would vary depending on the size of the field, the human- and animal-power available, and the tools at hand. If space permitted --- plows and harrows drawn by one or more teams of horses or oxen were difficult to maneuver -- the garden would be tilled at the same time as the fields for grain and beans. Small gardens would be turned by hand. Some of the implements and materials available for preparing the garden included:

Barrow

Barrow, from the Luttrell Psalter,
BL Add MS 42130
,
c. 1330 CE

Barrow

One- or two-wheeled handcarts, barrows are the forerunners of today's wheelbarrow. Larger, horse- or ox-drawn carts were also used.

 

Old English

Bærwe

Meoxbearwe, manure barrow

 

Plow
 


Plowing with four oxen
Seed are broadcast behind the plow, to be turned under with the next tilling
of the soil. The man leading oxen uses a goad to guide them.

Anglo-Saxon Calendar,
British Library
Cotton Tiberius B.V. Part I; c. 1050


June plowing, using a simple ard, which has no moldboard or coulter. Salzburg Labors of the Months from St. Peter's Abbey,
Austria, c. . 818 CE

Plow
Latin

Aratrum - all plows, ard and moldboard alike

Carrucata - moldboard plow

 

Plowing
Latin

Arandum

 

 

Old English

Plog - plow

Sul, sulh, sules, syll - plow

 

 

Old English

Foriþ, gesylhðe, yrþ, landbrǽce

 


Plowman carrying his moldboard plow and gear, Zwiefalten monatsbilder,, Cod hist 2° 415, fol.17v, Germany, c. 1150 CE

 

 

Móna se twentigoþa cild ácenned yrplincg.
Twentieth-day moon child is a born farmer.
Leechbook III.194, 6

Plow gear

Old English

Sulhgeteógo, sulhgeteóh

Plow beam

Latin

Brigacus

Old English

Scearbeam

Plow tail

Latin

Buris

Old English

Sulh-beam

Plowshare

Latin

Vomer, vel vomis

Old English

Scear, Sceara, Spiwere

Plowman
Latin

Arator, stiba, stivariouis

 

Old English

Sulhhandla, syla, yrþlingc

Using mallets to break up clods
Breaking up the clods, from the British Museum's Luttrell Psalter,
Add MS 42130
,
c. 1330 CE.

Mallet

Mallet, beetle; long-handled, heavy hammer

 

Latin

Malleus

 

Old English

Biótul, bítel, bitl, bytle, from beátan to beat, strike

 

Slegebýtle, sledgehammer

 

Man swinging a maattock

Mattock, from the
Makiejowski Bible, c. 1250 CE

 

... then with the tooth of rake or broken mattock, mix the living turf with clods of earth and set free all the loamy wealth of ripe fields...

Columella, De Rei Rustica,
Book I.x.89-91

Mattock
A long-handled digging tool, the mattock has a strong, wedge-shaped blade at right angles to handle.

 

Latin

Ligo, becca, bidens, fustis, tridens, marra, palus, rastris

 

Old English

Mattuc, mattoc, mettoc, meotticMan digging with a bidens

 

The bidens has two broad prongs at right angles to the handle, used to lift (ligo) the soil

Man swinging a pick-ax

Man using a pickaxe
Anglo-Saxon Calendar,  British Library Cotton Tiberius B.V., England, c. 1050

Pickaxe
Another digging tool, the pickaxe has a curved blade parallel to the handle.

 

Four farmers with their toolsLatin

Dolabria fossaria

 

Old English

Becca
 

 

Shovel

Shovels scoop and haul while spades dig and break up.

 

Latin 

Palas, palas lignea - shovel, winnowing shovel

Spadu capella - shovel

Trulla - small shovel, trowel

 

Old English

Mexscofle - manure shovel

Scoble, sceofel - shovel

Two men using iron-shod spades

Cuthbert digging with a monk, Taymouth Hours, British Library Yates Thompson 13, England c. 1350 CE

 

Man carrying a bifurcated spade
Man carrying bipalium,

Luttrell Psalter, British Library
Add MS 42130
,
c. 1330

 

Two men, one digging with a spade, one holding a mattock

Men with spade and mattock,
Abingdon Apocalypse, British Library  Additional  42555 f. 46
, c. 1275 CE

Three early spadesSpade

Many different types of spades were developed, each for a specific purpose.

 

Latin

Bipalium, older name for a spade with a cross-bar above the blade for the foot to push against

Costere, stake or paling, digging tool

Fossorium, digging tool

Fovesaarria, spade

Palas, paratas, iron-tipped spade or stake

Scudicia, spade or shovel for shallow cultivation around the base of a plant

Veru - spear, dart

Vanga, pala cum ferra, spade with a cross-bar

 

Old English

Delfísen, digging iron

Pal - spade

Spad, spædu – Spade, digging tool

Spitel, handspitel, a spade used for spittlin, light digging

 

When Adam delved (using an iron-shod spade)


Caedmon MS,
c. 950 CE

York Psalter, 
1170 CE

Adam with a short spade

Taymouth Hours,
c. 1230 CE

Adam holding a short spade

Carrow Psalter,
c. 1250 CE

Harrow
 

Two men Harrowing a field with a horse-drawn harrow

Harrowing a planted field, from the Luttrell Psalter,
British Library Add MS 42130
,
c. 1300

Horse-drawn harrow

Harrowing a field, 
Fécamp Psalter, Normandy,
c. 1180 CE

Harrow

A flat, heavy frame or hurdle, sometimes made of wicker, brush, or branches; sometimes a wooden framework set with tines or teeth. It is dragged over plowed land to break up clods, destroy weeds, and cover seed.

 

Latin

Cratis, crate, a woven wicker panel used as a harrow; called crate dentate when it had iron or flint teeth

Hirpex, irpex, erpix, hircipes, a large rake or sled with iron teeth

Occabat, harrow

 

Old English

Egeðe, egide, eiþe, from ecgan, to break up, harrow

Hyrdel, woven wicker panel used as a harrow; called crate dentate when it had flint or iron teeth

Three men using rakes to create a haystack

Shaftesbury Psalter,
British Library Lansdowne 383,
c. 1135 CE

Rake

A tined tool that has changed very little in the last thousand years, the rake is used to spread manure, prepare seedbeds, collect weeds and other debris, and gather hay.

 

Latin

Rastrum, a heavy rake; rastellum, small rake

 

Old English

Racu, raeca

 

Wooden rake

Once the seed bed was prepared, it would be time for planting.

___________________________________

 

Medieval garden tools

I. Preparing

II.  Planting

III.  Cultivation

IV.  Harvest and storage

 

About the Astute Reeve

Medieval baskets

Sources

 

 

 

Medieval garden tools

I. Preparing

II.  Planting

III.  Cultivation

IV.  Harvest and storage

 

About the Astute Reeve

Medieval baskets

Sources


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F.D. Drewitt

 

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