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 season has now arrived when special preparation must be made to do what is necessary towards securing fruit for next year. Every tree should be examined, to see that the wood is hard, short jointed, and free from dead portions. If any are in bad health, and others too gross, and not too large to be lifted, mark them with a piece of twine, so that they can be easily recognised in October, when they may be lifted and replanted in healthy loam. Laterals must be stopped on vigorous trees; many of the crossing and unnecessary growths may be cut well back - some taken out altogether, leaving always those which are in the proper positions to aid in formation of handsome trees. Netting of fruits must have attention, especially where fruits are to be kept late. Gooseberries to hang for giving supplies during September and October may be easily saved by the use of hexagon netting; on walls the same may be used to keep wasps off: though they seem scarce hitherto, they may yet come out in great force. Lumps of sugar stuck in the trees may keep them off for a time, as they will eat away at the sugar while it lasts and leave the fruit. In large gardens such a practice would entail a heavy cost for fruit saved by lump-sugar; bottles half filled with beer and treacle or sugar are good traps.
Treacle-water and vinegar do well also. Our system with Peaches, Apricots, Nectarines, and Pears is to pull them from the trees when they part from the stalk with little difficulty; they are then laid in boxes or baskets in which is placed soft paper-shavings or wadding; clean paper is laid over, on which the fruit rests, and they are then taken to a dry airy fruit-room, or to a vinery or peach-house at rest. A better succession is thus kept up. The fruit (if not improved in flavour) certainly does not deteriorate; handling by "interested" visitors is avoided, and vermin cannot destroy it. Currants (red and white) keep late when well shaded with hexagon netting, allowing plenty of air to pass through the bushes. Glazed cloth placed above the bushes to throw off rain is serviceable.
Where proper manipulation is carried forward during the growing season, much may be done to reduce labour, relieve workmen from perishing cold during winter, and have much handsomer and better fruit-bearing trees. Apricots should have no shoots tied in except what are really wanted; and they ought to stand well clear of each other. Gross trees may have the roots lifted at one side as soon as the fruit is gathered. Any rank gross roots going straight down ought to be gradually bent outwards; but if they are not pliable, they had better be cut off clean with a knife (not by a spade). Any broken portions of roots should be cut clean off; and when filling in to the roots is being performed, let the rammer be freely used as the soil is returned. A mixture of lime-rubbish, chalk, and smashed bricks is of great service to the trees. Lay the roots flat over this, if possible; but little twisting and bending ought to be done, as this causes suckers to form and ruin the trees. Lay the fibres in the fresh soil over the hard porous bottom, with the best garden soil over the surface, which maybe mulched with rotten manure, or longer and fresher mulching, before winter sets in. The piecemeal system is much safer with trees than lifting entirely during the period when they are at rest.
We prefer the system of having all mutilations healed over before fall of leaf, so that they may not suffer during the winter. If Apricots suffer from canker, they should be lifted entirely. When their roots are active among cold wet clay, or soil extra rich, they cannot ripen their wood; and the consequence is, after they have passed the winter with apparently little harm, they begin to die off piecemeal during spring and summer. The above remarks apply to Peaches, Nectarines, Plums, and Cherries. They may all be pruned on the same principle, by retaining best placed wood of current year's growth, and leaving all natural spurs close to the walls. The preparation of the tree has much more to do with cropping than the weather. Some trees bear well most seasons; others scarcely ever bear at all, no matter what the season is. Leave the whole of the roots a bunch of fibres in healthy well-drained soil, which will give short hard wood and natural spurs. The roots are the primary matter with every sort of plant, especially those which have to bear fruit. Pears ought to be thin and well ripened in their wood by this time. Those on walls ought to be stopped at several times, to avoid checking them.
Where the shoots are strongest, they should be pinched first, going over the whole at intervals of ten or twelve days. Apples, Pears, and Plums, as standards, should be thinned skilfully, but not too severely, so that the buds wanted for next year should be forced to break into growth. Figs ought to be kept stopped and the fruit exposed to sun and air. Trench and manure land for Strawberries; they do well planted now; give plenty of room, say at least 2 1/2 feet between the rows. Winter Onions or Lettuce may be grown between them. Trim, clean, and mulch older plantations. Attend to battling against insects, as formerly advised. Orchard-trees, when cleared of their crops, must be thoroughly syringed, to cleanse them from insects, dust, and cobwebs. Keep them cool and airy, and water carefully at their roots. M. T.