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.
Where all leaves are off trees, "bedding-plants trenched down, refuse of crops cleared away, and the garden comparatively bare, it is easily seen where the strength of the cultivator lies. In summer, when there is profusion of everything, the more skilful portion of the gardener's work is often passed by unobserved. But now there is nothing to take off the attention from the more important things, it is well to have them in condition, so that they will bear inspection. The primary objects in a garden at this season are walls filled with well-trained trees loaded with fruit-buds, the wood trained regularly over every space, except about a foot above ground to keep the fruit free from dirt. No canker, rough naked branches, old trees which never produce fruit, or worthless sorts, should be tolerated in the smallest garden. Bushes and trees of all kinds should be clean in the bark, healthy in their growth, and not too high or crowded. In orchards they may be different; where the fruit-garden cannot bear inspection, there is yet plenty of time to get it in order this season.
Though November is the month in which many plant their trees, there are many who never think of doing it till far on in the season, when work of all kinds is abundant, and trees have not half the chance of doing well as those planted in autumn. We would say to those who have empty walls, or borders for dwarf standards, plant without delay, give plenty of fresh soil, keep the trees well above the surrounding level, mulch well, and secure against wind. Pruning, nailing, and tying should be brought to a close as early as weather will permit. If there is any doubt by the inexperienced in regard to pruning Pears, they may be left till their plump fruit-buds are easily distinguished. If the spurs are very thick on the trees, those growing outwards may be cut off. Thinning them judiciously will do much to secure crops of fine fruit; but if the growths have been strong, soft, and badly ripened, no system of pruning will make the trees fruitful; root-lifting or root-pruning can alone give satisfaction. Pruning of trees should not be performed when the wood is frozen, as the bark is then liable to be injured, causing canker and other evils.
Nailing, where there are no wires to fasten the shoots to, is generally performed by severely injuring the walls, as well as making endless nests for insects. We have for a number of years given up the use of shreds, and very few nails are used after the tree has grown to its full size; leading branches are trained regularly over the walls, and the side shoots are kept regular, so that when the wood which has carried fruit during the past season is cut out, the shoot for next season's supply takes its place, and is tied to the nail which has been in use before; and if a nail should happen to "be in the way, it is better to break it over than injure the wall and make shelter for insects. While the work proceeds it is necessary to see that no old shreds or ties are injuring the bark; room for growth should be left. Where shoots are growing outwards they should be cut clean off.
Stems of Standard Plums, Peaches, Apricots, and Cherries, should be bound round with fern, straw, or hay-bands. The past season has been damp, cold, and sunless, and if severe weather should set in much damage is likely to be done, especially in damp low-lying localities. Rasps may now be prepared. Cut out all the weakest canes, dig up what suckers are not required, cut down the fruiting-canes to 4 or 5 feet in length, according to strength. They may be trained to wires stretched on posts 8 inches apart; bending and arching them answers well. Make fresh plantations; choose for them deep, cool, and rich soil. Where birds are troublesome it is a good old system to tie fruit-bushes in bunches till late in the season, when they may be pruned; lime dusted among the branches when they are wet helps to keep birds off. Plenty of manure may be forked over the surface of roots of old bushes to give them vigour. The surface-soil around Gooseberries may be taken off 2 inches deep, and replaced with fresh soil. This practice will do much to keep caterpillars in check. Primings of the best kinds of bush fruits should be kept for raising fresh stock. A few bushes in a spare corner are very useful, and are kept with little trouble.
Strong shoots 15 inches long, with all the buds picked out except three at top, may be stuck into any waste ground, 1 foot or less apart; they will soon take root in the growing season. Others in store quarters may be lifted, the ground manured, the roots shortened back, and the bushes replanted. They can be kept in this way for some years, and when planted in permanent quarters on good land they grow well and fruit abundantly. Much work under cover may be done now, when weather prevents outdoor operations from being pushed forward. Stakes, labels, and shreds, where they are used, may be made, nails cleaned, pots washed, mats tied at ends, and all work done which will help to reduce labour when days are longer.
In the pleasure-garden every part may now have a thorough clearing; leaves may be collected and stored, beds untouched may be turned up roughly to the weather. Turn walks; roll them, and give a surfacing of fresh gravel first, then level and make them smooth. Loose walks should not be tolerated if means can be had to make them smooth. Gladioluses, Hollyhocks, and other plants of a similar character, are the better of being protected by coal-ashes, or they can be lifted and placed in pits among sand or any light soil. Roses may now be mulched, or have evergreens stuck among them. The stems of standards may be covered by haybands, or Ferns tied round them. Stocks for budding on may be collected, trimmed, and planted in rows. Young green stems for budding on are most desirable. Pinks and Pansies in the open ground may be protected with. Evergreens. Carnations, Picotees, Auriculas, etc, in frames and pits, require to be kept free from damp, decaying leaves, and unhealthy surfaces of pots. Give air whenever weather will allow. Violets in frames require plenty of air; healthy moisture may be kept at their roots, but they should not be allowed to become wet. Slugs should be kept out of all structures, and cleanliness should not be neglected wherever plants are growing.
Tulips and other bulbs may be protected in severe weather. All bedding-plants should be examined occasionally for insects: thrips and greenfly are always ready to prey on such plants as Verbenas. Tobacco-powder dusted among them will put an end to vermin for a time; dust sulphur wherever mildew appears on any plants. Cinerarias, Calceolarias, and Primulas require plenty of light and air when it can be allowed; cutting winds are to be avoided. Geraniums may be kept growing slowly, and water used only when it cannot be wanted. An atmosphere for growing plants should not be allowed to become parched with fire-heat, as it would soon do irreparable injury in a short time, besides wasting fuel. Eire-heat should be always used as a necessary evil; sun-heat should be harvested by closing structures early; 40° will suit most greenhouse plants at this season; 45°, as a rule, should not be exceeded. Bring flowering-shrubs and bulbs on gradually, as formerly advised. M. T.