History Timelines

Medieval Farming

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.

MonthWork that needed to be doneWeather the farmer wanted


mending and making tools, repairing fencesshowers


carting manure and marl



ploughing and spreading manuredry, no severe frosts


spring sowing of seeds, harrowingshowers and sunshine


digging ditches, first ploughing of fallow fieldsshowers and sunshine


hay making, second ploughing of fallow field, sheep-shearingdry weather


hay making, sheep-shearing, weeding of cropsdry early, showers later


Harvestingwarm, dry weather


threshing, ploughing and pruning fruit treesshowers


Last ploughing of the yeardry, no severe frosts


collecting acorns for pigsshowers and sunshine


Mending and making tools, killing animalsshowers 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.