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 pruning of all kinds of fruit-trees and bushes requires attention as early as time can be spared. It is not well to prune trees, especially those of vigorous growth, when frost is severe: Peaches and Nectarines may be left till February. Plums should have all natural spurs retained. These do well on the spur system generally, but not allowing the growths to get away from the walls; and the crowded method some adopt with their wall-trees is bad in every way, besides giving much unnecessary labour. When foliage cannot have plenty of room, scanty crops of inferior fruit may be expected. Morello Cherries should not be kept so thick as they frequently are. The short shoots are preferable, and the natural spurs which often form on established trees are generally very fruitful. When pruning of these is performed, leave enough young shoots to cover every vacant space; and where old rods may have become bare, they may be cut out and younger ones allowed to take their place, or young shoots may be lashed to old rods till they have grown sufficiently to fill their spaces. There need be no hurry in pruning Apricots. The same rule in regard to well-placed spurs and short shoots studded with buds is applicable to them.
Everything - shoot and spur - growing straight out from the tree, should be cut clean off; but if there are no shoots near the wall, the outgrowing spurs must be made the best of. Cherries generally do best spurred and treated similar to Pears - carrying the rods straight from the main stems, terminating equidistant. If Pears are growing far from the walls, they may be tied neatly to each side of the stems, and the larger spurs cut out. Many trees are allowed to run out of bearing by crowding the spurs. Moss growing on trees and bushes should be washed with a brush, applying lime-water and brine; but the bark should not be injured, and the liquid should not find its way to the roots. The dressing of lime does much to keep off bullfinches from the buds. Manuring old trees is often attended with good results. A portion of the old soil from the surface may be taken away, and a liberal dressing of rich stuff put in place of the old soil. But if the soil is cold and unhealthy downwards, and the roots encased therein, all the mulching which may be given will do no good, but rather harm. Planting should not be done in severe weather, as the roots of the trees just taken out of the earth are liable to suffer severe injury; and when the ground is in a puddle it need not be touched.
There has been so much sound advice given recently by the ' Squire's Gardener' and ' H. R,' that the case of beginners generally may be met, and the writings referred to may be accepted as safe practical guides. Always keep in mind that healthy suitable soil, keeping the roots well up out of stagnant subsoil, proper drainage (not unnecessary), mulching to keep out drought, are objects of primary importance when trees are expected to grow and become fruitful. Some kinds suit certain soils and localities better than others. Save some of the strongest of prunings from fruit-bushes to make cuttings; lay them in the earth by the lower ends till they are made. Fork over all plots of bushes when they are pruned; deep digging among the roots is a great evil. A clear circle of a yard wide taken away from over the roots and replaced with rotten manure will help old Currants and Gooseberries much.
A general clearance of leaves may now be made: harvest plenty for hotbeds and manure. Rolling of lawns and walks may require frequent attention. Old gravel may be made to look like new by turning and rolling it. When walks are soft and the gravel rough it is a great annoyance. Shrub-pruning is often done now, as when left till spring the favourable opportunity for doing the work often slips past, and cannot be taken advantage of. It is a great evil when pruning is done to allow the shrubs to keep out the air by mere surface-cutting. A regular system of thinning should be put in practice; and when this work is well done the cuts cannot be seen. Clipping shrubs (except to form hedges, and it is bad for them) should be avoided if possible. The taste for this has been long exploded. Hollies, Standard and Pyramid Thorns, and most kinds of Coniferae, may be helped by timely and judicious cutting: that is generally necessary when the trees take to growing one-sided. Large naked Laurels, both common and Portugal, should be cut well down, and they will make a fine healthy growth.
Let Roses be planted in well-trenched ground well manured \ and a few spadefuls of fresh loam placed with the plants as they are planted will give them a vigorous start. Mulching is very important with all Roses, but especially when they are newly planted. Teas and tender kinds are better out of the ground during winter. They lift freely, and can be transplanted when frost is past. Those trained to walls and wires should not be left to the winds, and it is not judicious to prune them at this season. Long shoots not required may be shortened at present, but not cut close: a fresh lot of young shoots trained in yearly keeps the trees always vigorous, and the flowers are finer. Some kinds of the China class do not require short pruning, but to be thinned out, and the sturdy well-ripened shoots left; neither do all other Roses require cutting back, but to be pruned according to growth, and strong-growing shoots do admirably when pegged down. Bulbs are all the better of protection in severe weather. Prepare Ranunculus beds by well digging and manuring them, leaving them rough to frost for the present. All planting of Tulips, Hyacinths, and Narcissus should now be finished.
Bulbs in pots may be taken into heat as required and kept near the glass, giving plenty of air and light: a gentle bottom-heat helps them to grow strong. They should be removed gradually from heat to cool quarters. All shrubs for forcing, such as hardy Azaleas, Kalmias, Thorns, Lilacs, Deutzias, Porsythias, Rhododendrons, and suchlike, may be introduced freely into heat; but strong heat may ruin them for this season. Lily of the Valley, Violets, Roses, Pinks, Dielytras, Weigelia rosea, Spiraeas, and the usual favourites, may be taken into heat in batches as they are wanted. Cinerarias in flower will now require plenty of water, also fresh air; and no stagnant moisture must be confined about the plants. Let Chrysanthemums going out of flower have shelter under glass; keep them growing strong to get good cuttings. Fuchsias done flowering may be kept dry and free from frost. Young plants of them may be kept growing slowly, but in healthy quarters. Primulas which are liable to rot at their collars must be carefully watered and be allowed plenty of fresh air. Pelargoniums may be kept rather dry and rather cool. Dry fresh air prevents spotting. Camellias in flower now require more water, but sodden soil will cause the buds to drop.
Cytisus, Coro-nillas, Euphorbias, Acacias, Poinsettias, will come in well after the Chrysanthemums. Keep greenhouses and plant-pits dry and clean; 40° to 45° is warm enough. Use no unnecessary fire-heat.