'Cucumbers shake with fear at thunder' and other revelations from Henry VIII's gardening manual

Credit: Topham/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

Cucumbers shake with fear at thunder, squash will bear fruit after nine days if planted in the ashes of human bone and watered with oil, and planting ingredients like a radish and lettuce seed inside a ball of goat manure will result in tasty lettuces.

These are just a few of the rather bizarre tips handed out in a 700-year-old gardening manual, found in the library of King Henry VIII.

The horticultural guidebook, called the Ruralia Commoda was written in Latin between 1304 and 1309, and is thought to be the first of its kind in the world.

It also writes about how to grow giant leeks, produce cherries without pits, grow different coloured figs on the same tree, preserve roses before they bloom, and transform basil into mint.

Legend has it that the mandrake would scream when it was dug up, and kill those nearby Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The manual contains an illustration of a mandrake with a root resembling a human, which, according to myth, would scream when it was dug up, killing those nearby.

The book will be one of the artefacts on display in an exhibition of some of the earliest and rarest surviving records of gardens and plants from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace in March.