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.
Trees may be expected to form growths very late this season; and where ground is rich and deep, and not very firm, the evil will be increased. The growths should be stopped in a systematic manner, going over first and shortening all the strong sappy shoots: in due time the weaker ones may be topped, and many cut out to let in light and air. The form of the trees should at all times have due consideration; and where there is a weak or thin side, wood should be left accordingly to till up. Pyramids are more difficult than most other forms to have in proper shape without crowding. The leading shoot may be shortened less than the side ones; they might be left in the proportion of about 1 1/2 foot for leaders and 9 inches for side growth; and when the leaves are off they can be cut to proper forms. Old-established trees require less care in this way; allowing a few shoots to take the place of older ones to be cut out by and by is a good and safe practice. But where growth is going on now as it should have done in June it is well to examine the roots: at one side lift a goodly portion, shortening back gross ones, and those that are going downward should be cut off cleanly. Place healthy brick rubbish below the tree, ramming it very firm.
If the tree should continue to make gross wood after this operation, the other side should be treated in a similar manner. "While advising this, we abhor the barbarous method of cutting with a spade round the tree, removing all and sundry roots which come in the way. If any roots are split and peeled, they should be cut clean over. In shallow and sandy soil it may be necessary to mulch after the roots have been lifted. There should be no bending or twisting of roots, otherwise suckers may be started, and they are not easily mastered when from the roots. All suckers should be carefully kept off fruit-trees, cutting them clean to the main roots. Whatever is left undone, as to training in young wood on walls and fences, no time should be lost, so that the autumn sun and air may have full power over the wood; this is particularly applicable to Peaches, Nectarines, Plums, and Apricots. Whatever may be said regarding the dying-off of the latter, and Morello Cherries, we are of opinion that it arises from being obliged to use the knife freely, by absence of space for the trees to develop themselves according to root action, consequently trees do not mature their growth; they start early, and spring frosts paralyse them, and dead limbs are soon plentiful.
In the great Apricot districts in Oxfordshire, and elsewhere, excellent Apricots may be seen growing in every aspect, trained to old stables, dwelling-houses, sheds, and piggeries. Seldom are these trees to be found unhealthy, and so far as skill and care are taken with their training and pruning, there is simply none. The roots may be found among solid beds of stones, lime, and brick rubbish. When planting these trees, abundance of old lime rubbish may be rammed in the bottoms of the holes, and a goodly mixture of this added to the soil: the whole should be a solid bottom when the tree is planted. After the trees are planted a year or two, the system of lifting must be skillfully adopted. When the roots are allowed to run into cold wet clay, dying-off branches may be expected. The same principle applies to Gooseberry-bushes; they often die off at their collars. It may be found that in such cases the roots at bottom are starving in cold or very poor soil, while those on the surface are in extra rich soil. They may be lifted and replanted, on ground well trenched, spreading the roots out, evenly covering them with 6 or 8 inches of soil, then carefully mulching them.
After this treatment, which may be done in September, or any time between autumn and spring, they will make small wood, and become very fruitful.
Figs should be freely exposed to sun; after such a late season they are not likely to ripen readily; the shoots should be kept into the wall thinly. Too often the object of fruiting is defeated by crowding in thickly luxuriant growths, which never become matured, and consequently bear no fruit worthy of consideration. Rasps should be thin, and freed from the wood which has supplied fruit, leaving from three to five or six shoots to a stool: they require temporary ties till the proper time of renewing stakes or wires, according to the method of training them. Strawberries may be planted. There are so many ways of being successful with them, one can scarcely add a suggestion; but whatever plan is adopted, good growers admit that thorough trenching and manuring is of primary consideration. Off-sets from old plants may meet a difficulty when runners are scarce. Young plants planted in a triangular form of three together is an old plan, but one not to be despised. Plants which have been forced, and have not been too much neglected, answer every requirement.
In the Orchard-house there will not be a great many fruits left, except the kinds which are kept for special late purposes. Thames Bank Peach, Princess of Wales, and Late Admirable, may not be ripe for some time. Coe's Late Red and Golden Drop Plums are kept late with other things. Wasps and birds may yet be troublesome: guard against them. Lifting trees planted out to keep them dwarf, pinching, and syringing, require special attention. M. T.