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.
In gardens where operations are as forward as they should be, every part will now begin to assume a spring-like appearance. Where time will allow, borders which have been turned up roughly may now be broken down by the hoe; or if stiff and tenacious, a four-pronged fork may answer well. It may be advantageous not to rake the surface too finely, as by this practice the soil becomes "caked," and weeds thrive better than any other plants. Among bushes and fruit-trees the ground may remain in its rough state, if not wanted for cropping, and free from weeds. All this kind of work can be regulated according to strength of labour. Before expending time in "keeping and dressing," let the primary objects receive attention, which are the sowing of seeds, planting, etc. However, when weeds show themselves, they should be destroyed as early as possible; it is economy to use the hoe among them as soon as they can be seen above ground. It may be necessary to weed with the hand among crop3 coming through the soil; the rows can be gone over, and the spaces between them hoed well; this is of great importance to the wellbeing of the crop, as well as destroying the weeds.
All paths, borders, and plots of ground should now be gone over, and measured out to their size, taking the lengths or widths from the walk-edgings. If borders are round the sides of the walks for fruit-trees, etc, it is necessary to have narrow paths to divide them from the vegetable plots, as well as to walk round without treading upon either. Espaliers, when well managed, are of a double service, by giving crops of fruit, and separating the vegetables from the flower-borders. Nothing can be more distasteful to the eye than to see borders of flowers, however beautiful and well kept, with untidy vegetable ground immediately behind them. Shrubs of an ornamental character are the best plants to use as a screen; but Sweet Peas, Scarlet Runners, or trained Roses, answer well, though they do not improve the appearance of the borders, there being no relief to the eye. All growing crops require to have the hoe or fork freely among them, keeping the surfaces open and healthy. Where drills were drawn before planting Cauliflower and Cabbage, the hoe passed carefully among the plants will place the soil around their stems, and act as a gentle earthing-up. On dry sandy soils a little manure or leaf-mould, placed round each plant before hoeing, will be of great service in aiding vigorous growth, and help to prevent premature buttoning.
Potato-planting should be brought to a close. When the ground is well prepared and in a loose state, a strong dibbler for planting them will get through the work speedily. Deeply-drawn drills and a coating of leaf-mould placed in them is a good practice when planting, especially for the Kidney kinds. To have them fine for exhibition, planting widely apart, and using fresh turfy soil, will be a great help. Those grown under protection will require covering at nights for some time to come, weather is so deceiving till the end of May. If weather is wet, it will be much against the sowing of small seeds, which must be sown this month; every dry opportunity lost is a fresh risk. The value of old dry soil, however poor, stored up for covering seeds sown on uncongenial soils, is known to cultivators in wet seasons, such as the present has been so far as it has gone. As there may be potting going on for some time, all old material should be harvested in dry quarters if at disposal. Broccoli of all kinds may now be sown in beds, or, what is better, shallow drills, and every sixth one left unsown, so that cleaning and weeding may be done without treading among the plants.
Walcheren, Autumn (Granger's), Snow's Winter, Knight's Protecting, Gordon's Late and Carter's Champion, will give a supply from autumn till Cauliflower comes in. Broccoli (German greens of some), Cabbage of sorts, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, and any other kinds of green vegetables for autumn and winter supply, should be got in from the beginning to the middle of the month. Broccolis require to be sown in succession to the middle of May in Scotland, and to the first week of June in England, varying a little according to latitude. Lettuce may be sown for succession in small quantities, and if ground can be spared the seed could be thinly sprinkled in drills where the crop is to grow, on finely-broken well-manured soil. The seedlings would soon appear, and could be thinned out gradually as soon as they could be handled, and some of the best thinnings planted behind a wall or other shady position to give a succession. Bath Cos, Paris Cos, Imperial White Cos, All-the-Year-round Cabbage, and Drumhead Cabbage, are among the best kinds we have tried.
Endive may be sown and treated the same as Lettuce, but it requires more attention to blanching, by tying, etc, than Lettuce. Parsley may be sown for succession, and as it takes long to come through the ground, it is well to have two or three sowings. Shor-top, French Breakfast,red and white Turnip Radish, maybe sown in small quantities as required. Those growing may require to have coverings of litter or other material given at night if frost prevails. Spinach may be sown among other crops. Where the ground is loose and rich it soon goes to seed, therefore it requires to be sown frequently. New Zealand Spinach, sown in heat and grown on and planted out when frost is past, is very useful in hot dry seasons. Turnips may be sown in small pinches, and frequently, to keep up a supply of young ones. White Dutch Snowball, Red Stone, and White Stone, are good kinds for first, second, and late sowings. In some catalogues we observe that Snowball and White Stone are given as the same kinds, but we consider them very distinct. Snowball is handsomer and whiter than the Stone. The latter comes in better for late autumn supply. Beet may be sown late in the month, or left till May if not required early. Sang's Own saved is one of the best out of a great number we have had for trial.