This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
There is not much to do in this department at this season, but much to remember. It is the season of thought, if not of work.
How often do we hear people say they cannot wait a life-time for trees to grow. Well then, manure, and see how they grow. To-day we measured a chestnut on a friend's lawn that was a two-year old tree when transplanted eight years ago. Four feet in circumference. He top-dresses his lawn every year. Nothing pays like manuring ornamental trees where growth is desired. For evergreens the manure must be well decayed.
If our advice has been followed in the past, trees are planted very thickly at first. Cheap ones are put in among valuable ones. As they grow, thin out the worse trees. Winter is the time to do it.
Our readers will do well to remember that it is not so much severe frost that hurts vegetation in winter, as it is severe thawings following the freezings. Everything, therefore, no matter how hardy they may be, will be benefited by having something thrown over them, to prevent early thawing. Small things, such as hardy herbaceous plants, can be protected by a little earth, and there is nothing better. Seed-beds are also improved by this covering, but if earth is used for them, it should be very sandy, because it cannot well be removed, and seeds cannot come through stiff soil.
It would be well, at this season of leisure, to examine and decide on the course of improvements for the ensuing year.
Very few understand that an occasional change of soil is very beneficial to flowers in beds, though all know how important it is to flowers in pots. There is nothing better than surface soil from an old pasture, taken off about two inches deep, and thrown into a heap with about one-sixth part old hot-bed dung to partially decay. In addition to this "staple" item, smaller quantity of different matters should be gathered together for peculiar cases, or particular plants. Peat, for instance, will be found very useful for many kinds of 'plants. This is not, as is often supposed, mere black sand; but a spongy, fibrous substance from the surface of bogs and boggy wastes. Sand' should be collected sharp and clean; the washings from turnpike ditches are as good as anything. Leaf mould is best got already well decayed from the woods. That, one makes for himself from rotten leaves is seldom good for anything; it is always sour and seems "indigestible" to vegetation. A load or so of well-decayed cow-manure is a good thing for the gardener to have by him, as all those plants that dislike our hot summers, and want a cool soil to grow in, prefer it to any other manure.
A small pile of hot-bed manure is almost indispensable to the garden tacks the very tips of the leaves, which should be disposed of before the leaf is disfigured."