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.
The time has arrived when all planting of fruit-trees should be brought to a close as speedily as possible. Though this may be done, and in some cases extensively, between November and April, it is an established opinion that the sooner the trees are in their places and the roots carefully protected, after the foliage has done its work of maturation, the more healthy they are likely to become. This season's growth has generally been later, and consequently the leaves will hang later; but in most cases there will be every safety in proceeding with the work of planting as early as means will allow. First of all, see that drainage is perfect. Stagnant water is a certain destroyer of the hardiest of fruit-trees. Drains 3 feet deep, and every 25 feet or less apart, may be necessary for low-lying damp orchards. The minor drains should be led into a main one, and that should carry the water right off. Trees in such positions should be kept well above ground-level at time of planting. If the whole ground can be trenched, so much the better. Next to this, large holes should be formed, and at a foot and a half from the surface a quantity of lime, rubbish, and broken bricks may be firmly placed. It is of importance that the roots should grow outwards instead of downwards.
At the first they should be placed evenly over the surface of the soil, and covered with good rich loam; and to keep the roots safe during the winter, a coating of litter may be placed over the whole; but when soil is not rich, half-rotten horse-manure will suit well. It is always of importance to induce the roots to grow upwards: this induces fruitfulness, and keeps the trees in good health. Whether trees are planted on walls, espaliers, borders, or in orchards, the treatment of the roots is on the same principle - that of plenty of fibre near the surface, and an absence of those which run downwards, Carrot-like, which keep the trees in gross growth, barrenness, and liable to canker. Root-lifting and pruning are topics which often create some attention at this season. In three contemporaries, views of cultivators are given, all varying more or less; and evidently some views are much opposed to others. One strongly objects to root-cutting during the growing season; another, who cultivates for market, begins his root-pruning as soon as he sees that wood and leaves are being formed, and an absence of fruit. He is evidently no novice - he secures abundance of fruit, which brings the highest price in market.
I have long advocated lifting of roots, and done a fair amount of cutting, but it was always where they could not be lifted up level without bending them so as to cause the growth of suckers; and in no case did I ever see injury from the practice. I always prefer beginning in June or July along with stopping of the wood, so that the roots may become healed up and fibre formed before winter. One writer always lets his roots go, and when they cannot be made to fruit by mulching with manure, he grubs them out and plants young ones. I think few cultivators with a fair share of common-sense would think of carrying out this practice to the letter. We advise giving good wholesome top-dressings to the surface when there are "surface-feeders" to benefit from such; but when roots are growing down into the subsoil, away from sun and air, get them up, and then top-dress to keep them up. Were it not that it might lead non-practical readers astray, we could quote a number of examples where root-pruning has been made short work of and finished in a very summary manner during the growing season, - the spade being the only instrument used for cutting them.
One great authority of undoubted success pointed out to us last year the difference of fruit, foliage, and growth of the summer-pruned roots (which were something splendid) to those uncut; but they at the time were being manipulated by spade as if they were as many roots of brushwood doomed to destruction. Market-growers can do what they please with their own, but not so one who cultivates for another. But enough of this for the present: and we would advise young beginners to err on the safe side till experience is gained.
Bushes of Currants and Gooseberries may be lifted and replanted where growth is excessive. The practice is also good in preventing the dying-ofF of bushes by disease at their collars. The removal of suckers can also be accomplished easily.
If Raspberries are not thinned, they should have attention early, so that the roots left may have every opportunity of ripening. A number best roots may be saved for planting.
Pruning may be done as soon as the" leaves are off trees, except Peaches, Nectarines, and Apricots, which might have a light new broom swept upwards over them to take off loose leaves. Shoots which are unripened at the points may have the ends cut off them, which will help to stop their growth.
In orchard-houses the chief of the fruit will be gathered. Any late Plums or Peaches may be kept rather dry till they are cleared of their fruit, then every effort should be made to get the wood ripened; any late growths should be pinched off. Trees planted out may require lifting. This may be done at once. The trees should be turned round to equalise the growth. When a number are lifted and turned round every year, the stock can be kept equal in size; and they have such masses of fibre at their roots, that abundance of fine fruit is certain, provided the trees are well nourished during their growing and fruiting season. If scale or any other pest have taken quarters on the trees, let them be washed well with soft soap-water heated to 120°.