This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
We have frequently urged the importance of planting places very thickly at first, in order both to produce an immediate effect, and also because the shelter which one another affords makes the trees grow with greater health and vigor than when exposed singly to the force of wind and sun. At this season no better employment can be found than in thinning out these thick planted places. It will of course require much judgment; but one fond of trees, and the effects which they produce, will not be much at a loss. Sometimes it is hard to bring oneself to cut down a tree which one has watched grow for so many years; but it often must be done if we would preserve the symmetry and beauty of our places. When there is any question as to the proper tree to be taken away, the size of the place may help one to decide. A tree which will in time occupy much space can be more easily spared from a small place than one which will never transgress a limited space. Indeed, except for the purpose of rapid growth to nurse more valued trees, large growing things should not be tolerated in small places.
The green grass which is the charm of all gardens soon departs when large trees are about.
Of course, this talk about thinning out, brings us to another great winter employment, that of pruning. There is no very great amount of science required for this, and yet some judgment is necessary. This is often done with little more reason than a boy has for whittling a chip - merely to have something to do. For notwithstanding the many papers that have been written "on the philosophy of pruning," the naked question, "what is the best time to prune trees?" is one with which the gardener is continually bored. The keen-edged gardeners give the cutting reply, "any time when your knife is sharp;" but the more good natured say, "it depends on what you want to cut for." The street cutter "wants to keep the tree head low," and cuts down to make them branch lower; cutting in winter does not have this effect, so that unless one has some other object to combine with it, such as to clean the tree of bark scales or the larva of insects, or the giving of employment to some half-starved tree carpenter, the work might as well be left undone. If you want a branch to push strongly at the point where you cut a part away, prune in winter.
If your tree has branches crossing each other, or has half-dead branches, or anything tending to spoil the form or symmetry of your tree, prune in winter; but as a rule the less pruning is done the healthier will he your trees, for it may be accepted as a rule in gardening that all pruning, whether in winter or summer, is a blow struck at the vitality of the plant.
Sometimes we have to sacrifice a good object to gain some other point. So in hedges. The plants are usually trees. To devigorate them and keep them bushy is our great object. The principal pruning is therefore in summer. The winter pruning is simply to keep them in shape. There is, however, one kind of pruning which just suits both the principle and the season, namely, thinning out where thick planting has been adopted, as it is now by all who want a new place to look well without waiting too long for the charm.
Nothiug "pays" like surface dressings of manure or good soil to evergreens and ornamental trees. Life is too short for mere natural growth. It is a pardonable vice to wish for large trees. Put on two inches of good stuff, and see how they will go ahead.
The winter's experience will no doubt show how much the comforts and pleasures of a place will be added to by liberal planting, and while the sad experience is on one is the right time to decide on the details. Good resolutions put off, like death-bed repentances, generally end in smoke. Odd spells will offer through the win-ter season to get ready soils and manure for spring uses.