When you start digging up a medieval garden you find all sorts of stuff. Let's discover at PumpjackPiddlewick

I bought a little house with a little walled garden. A medieval garden in fact. It is steeped in history, but having been left fallow for over a decade, it is currently very much in need of some loving care to bring it back to life.

My back wall is formed by the old ramparts of the fortified village. Two other walls are formed by the back of my neighbour’s and my house. And the fourth is the wall that borders an ancient cobbled walkway beside my house. Medieval gardens’ were often enclosed by walls, and it is the main reason I purchased my house. I fell in love with the garden.

Starting Anew

When I moved in the garden was completely overgrown. Head height weeds. I truly could not get into it. So the first order of business was to clear it. I started in one corner and slowly worked my way around and inward.

Cleared back to bare ground, it was time to plan. And I had planned it that the clearing back and time to plan took place over winter. It gave me time to work on it. I researched medieval gardens. What might be planted, and why. As well as the look and layouts. Taking on board the history, I changed it to suit me and came up with my design.

What is a medieval garden?

A medieval garden is essentially to a self sustaining garden. And by self sustaining, I don’t mean it grows itself. Though I do love and am planting perennials, plants that come back year after year. Rather, it is a garden that will sustain me. It will have fruit and nut trees, herbs, medicinal plants and of course grow food.

Typically, a medieval garden is walled or fenced. I can tick that box. It is laid out with raised garden beds. In fact it was medieval gardens that invented the concept of raised beds. I am practising hugelkultur for my garden beds (burying rotting wood in the raised beds for additional nutrients.) Medieval beds generally used wattling for the borders. I do plan to use wattling, woven branches fencing, around the edges. But first I have to find a hazelnut or willow tree I can cut branches off of, as I don’t yet have one.

Starting Planting

My first order of business was to plant my perennials. I now have about 10 fruiting plants/shrubs/small trees planted around the perimeter. Excepting my almond tree, which has pride of place nearer the centre. This is because it will be the largest of my trees, though pollarded to create the most shade in summer as well as keep it a manageable size.

Then asparagus and strawberries went in recently. Again they are along an edge, but nearer the patio for ease of harvest and watering. It feels good to get these in, especially the trees and asparagus since they will take the longest to bear fruit, as it were.

Buried Treasure

I make it a habit each day to go out and dig. A dose of vitamin D. A dose of duck happiness as we dig, to their minds, for worms. And, of course, to get stuff done. There is a lot of work to be done in restoring a medieval garden. A lot.

Old gardens in France were not only used for food, but where you dumped your rubbish (trash), before the days of national collection. It was often burned first. So I discover a lot of ash pockets as I dig. But I also find lots of ‘buried treasure’. Okay, more like rusty nails, and other detritus that doesn’t burn easily. But some of those nails are huge! I plan to keep a few and use in my stone walls as additional hooks for growing plants. Re-use, recycle, repurpose is very much a mantra in my house.

I find lots of broken bits of ceramic. I am thinking to re-use to make a mosaic on a table, or part of a path. And lots of antique glass, including even whole glass bottles. My favourite is finding marbles, most of which are hand-blown. The nicer stuff might make it in to my shop (see below). I’ll repurpose where and whenever I can. And hopefully I won’t have to take too much to the decheterie (the dump) in the end, as ultimately this is just moving it from my garden to some other landfill.

Archeological Dig

One of the reasons I like undertaking restoring a garden is that you are digging down through its history. Often it is more a question of how deep do you dig. The dichotomy is archeological dig versus actually planting a garden. I am using the seasonal timeframe to determine for me.

I know I could spend a whole year simply digging out my garden. My suspicion is that my gardens history goes at least a couple meters down. And I am super curious to what I would find down there. But instead, the decision is to only dig down past the last 100 years rubbish, about half a meter, and then build it back up into my new garden. Planting season is fast approaching, and the garden needs to be ready.

Planting Plans

There are 4 long raised beds. I prefer long to square, ie classic medieval garden style. Less path maintenance, and better optimisation of growing space. Three are now completed, hugelkulured if you will. Though the edges are not yet done and may not be tackled until much later in the season. The fourth bed is underway, half dug out. I’ve run out of rotting wood, so it is more an exercise in turning and clearing the soil of stuff.

Some potatoes are now planted, with more to go in soon. Seeds have been ordered. Side note, I saw a documentary on how agro-industrial seeds, eg big brands, and thus the vegetable they grow can lose their nutritional value when ‘mass produced’. So I found a seed company (Kokopelli) that offers seeds that are rich in nutrients, bio-diverse and available to the public domain. That is they are a small business, providing sustainable seeds to anyone who wishes or needs, worldwide.

The main planting season will begin here in April and May. Our days are certainly warming up, but the nights are still cool. And spring tends to last a long time where I live in France. So I have to practise patience (not good at it) until the soil temperatures warm up. In the meantime, I continue to work on and prepare my medieval garden. It is after all a never ending process. And that is truly the fun thing about gardening.


For more gardening posts, check out my Garden Findings.

And if you like what you read and wish to join in and support Pumpjack & Piddlewick, do check out my Nourish page.

Or if you prefer, and are a keen gardener like me, you will find various garden related items in My Shop. And here’s a taste of some finds from my garden, and restoration home.

Simply click on an image to see more…


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