Well, we made it through May two-four and there was no snow. To some, this is an indication that summer is here, regardless of what the calendar says. To others, it’s a signal that planting time is almost here, with chives, spinach, kale and other cooler weather crops already thriving. Gardening is becoming more popular and more accessible; urban gardeners are coming up with great ideas like square-foot and vertical gardening for those with limited space. Gardening is also Twig’s focus this month; more specifically, the theme is fertilizing. As you might imagine, there are lots of gardening terms in the DNE so keep an eye out for Part 2 over the coming months. A quick search for the word garden in the DNE brings up 80 results so there’s lots of ground to cover.
As a good gardener knows, in order for crops to grow well in Newfoundland and Labrador in amongst the rocks (and sometimes lead), the soil needs to be amended. Some people might use something from a store but there are several free natural fertilizers at your nearest saltwater shore. Offal, or parts of fish used as manure in its first sense, has been around for quite some time; the oldest citation in the DNE materials is from 1583.
It’s almost time for the caplin run and caplin is, of course, not just for eating. It can be worked into your compost or, alternatively, laid right out in the garden. The same goes for nutrient-rich kelp, or oreweed, which can also be used as an additive to animal feed. If you’re out collecting kelp for fertilizer, you are carbucklin’.
Caplin isn’t the only fish used in the Province’s gardens. Back in the days when cod wasn’t so scarce, the cod’s stomach could be used as fertilizer. This is known as gulvin. According to the DNE citations, this type of fertilizer was particularly common in the pre-Confederation era.
Another fish that could be used in the fertilizer mix is the conner. This fish is also known as Blue Perch and is said to be a flat and sly fish that wasn’t really fit to eat.
In the Irish history of Newfoundland, some of those who came here for the migratory seasonal fishery, and ultimately stayed, were involved in agricultural pursuits. It should not be surprising, then, that Newfoundland English retains some Irish farming terms. One example is moryeen, a mixture of fish offal and peat that can be used as fertilizer.
From Irish, Newfoundland English also hangs on to sulick. This was a liquid or gravy made from kitchen waste. It could include fish, meat, vegetables, or any organic material. You could add water to this mix and use it to water your garden.
Do you know any other Newfoundland or Labrador words for fertilizer? What about other gardening terms? As always, we’d love to hear from you. The last frost date is almost upon us and many fields and yards are ready for planting. So get out your skullies and half-gallons and stop firkin‘ around because it’s time to grow!