Medieval Farming, Seeds

First, you have to get the seeds in the ground. In most parts of Europe, northern Africa, and Western Asia, people plant their seeds in the fall, around October.

Four grains were widely cultivated during the Middle Ages: wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Of these, wheat was most valued because it had the gluten content necessary to make good bread. All four could be sown in fall for harvest the following summer.

This so-called winter crop, however, could be easily lost to a particularly cold winter or stormy spring, so to hedge their bets medieval farmers would plant a second crop in the spring. Several steps were involved in planting a grain crop.

Medieval farmers worked on a three-field rotation system: one field for grain, one field for hay, and a third left fallow, which frequently meant it was sown with a legume which would be plowed under to enrich the soil. The fields themselves were long narrow strips of land, and one would cultivate strips which were not contiguous, the idea being that that way nobody would be stuck with all the bad land.

The soil would be enriched throughout the winter with lime, chalk, manure, and by plowing under burnt weeds. A sport called "camping," which involved two teams trying to take each other's men prisoner, was sometimes played on fallow fields and was encouraged as a means of breaking up clods.

Farming Slaves, Weeding, Ploughing, Seeds, Irrigation, Sickles, Threshing, Wheat, Barley, Millet, Oats, Rye, Olive Trees, Grapevines