This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
It is seldom that any pruning or planting of fruit-trees is left till April, but in some quarters such may be the case this season. Late planting will require more than ordinary care, and if the weather is dry, a good watering may be necessary: mulch carefully, and see that the soil is not left loose about the roots. Stakes must be provided for trees which are liable to be blown about by winds; and when ties are used, let the bark remain intact and free from bruises: old cloth or leather should be placed between the bark and the tying material. Apples and Pears may yet be pruned; they do not suffer so readily as some other fruits. In grafting one variety of fruit-tree on another of same species, care should always be taken to let at least one side of the bark of stock and scion fit closely: a careful tying to keep the graft in its position is of much importance. We have grafted successfully till end of April, and this season, growth being late, will aid the success of this operation. The sooner (if not already done) all trees are tied in their positions the better: tie so that plenty of room is left for the wood to expand and be safe from cutting by the ties. Blossoms, though late, should be retarded as much as possible.
Full power of sun should be warded off: it is the extremes which do the harm. Apricots may have set their fruit thickly, but thinning should be done cautiously and not in a hurry. Much severe weather may yet be experienced. Disbudding of Peaches, Plums, and Apricots may be put in practice; but sudden exposure is dangerous. The foliage is a natural covering to the fruit, and should be removed with much caution. All outgrowing shoots should be removed first: in a week or ten days the trees may be gone over again. Misplaced shoots should be removed, and where there are vacancies, wood should be left to fill them up. Rank-growing shoots should be either removed to give place to moderate ones, or be stopped to equalise the flow of sap. Let all spurs forming naturally remain, if there is room for them to develop themselves without crowding. When these are neatly managed and fitting closely to the wall between the main branches, the trees have a nice appearance, and give a minimum of labour compared with the old uncertain system of nailing and unnailing. Figs should now be uncovered and trained in their places: crowding of these is the great evil generally met with; indeed, skilfully managed Figs are the exception and not the rule.
The branches on the walls should be clear of each other, as Pears are treated, so that sun and air may act on the wood to ripen it; and when there is plenty of fruit, light and air are very essential to get flavour. Strawberries may be planted on deeply trenched and well-manured land: plenty of room may be allowed them, especially the large-foliaged kinds, such as Keen's Seedling. When Strawberries are forced, they may be taken care of for planting: when well-hardened and planted in rich soil, they make fine fruiting plants by next season. Currants and Gooseberries being planted (an operation we are likely to perform too late, the space not being ready) should be well cut back, made firm, and well mulched.
In the Orchard-house watering must have careful attention: tepid water (at least that which is as warm as the soil in the structure, should be used. Look after insects: dust with tobacco - powder if aphis should attack the trees while in flower, fumigate when the fruit is set, air carefully in cold biting weather, and avoid extremes as much as possible. Be careful not to use the syringe in unheated structures late in the day when weather is cold. M. T.