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.
It may not be out of place at this season to mention a few of the most useful sorts of vegetables for the benefit of the inexperienced, and others who have to make their choice from catalogues for the first time. I would first remark that the descriptions generally given are, I believe, done honestly, but as soil, culture, and situation make such a difference in the quality and general appearance of some vegetables, seed sown from sample, and treated under various circumstances, can be made to assume entirely different habits. As an example, Peas sown on poor, shallow, and light soil, may only attain the height of 3 feet, with the straw weakly and pods small; but if sown on deep, strong land, and allowed plenty of room, they might grow to 5 or 6 feet. Out of many kinds (old and new) which we have grown here, and seen elsewhere, the following sorts are favourites: - Among broad Beans, Johnston's Wonder and Broad Windsor are good: and Dwarf Fan, for filling up small borders, is useful. Beet, Sang's own selected, if well thinned and not sown too early, is extra fine. Dewar's is very handsome and free from fibre. Dell's or Osborn's is also good, and has extra-fine foliage. Broccolis, I find, are very numerous under different names, and difficult to get true.
Among the best we have seen are Walcheren, coming in from September to mid-winter. Snow's Superb, Backhouse's Protecting, Knight's Protecting, Carter's Champion, and Gordon's Protecting, ought to give a supply till the middle of June. A kind we are growing this year named Lauder's Superb, late Goshen, offers well: it seems very hardy, dwarf, and compact. Among Cauliflowers, early London, Stadtholder, and Walcheren are very good. We fail to see any difference between the latter and Walcheren Broccoli. Cabbage are very difficult to secure true; Early York, M'Ewan's, and Vanack are good. Carrots for early work; French Horn is the best; James Scarlet and Red Surrey are good for general use. In Celery, for fine flavour, dwarf habit, and hardy constitution, Sandringham with us has outdistanced all others; however, it is identical with the first sample we received of Turner's Incomparable. Years have passed since then, and we have only seen that variety once during that time. Ivery's Nonsuch Pink and Cole's Dwarf Red are always good with us. Out of some eight or ten kinds of Cucumbers, Lord Kenyon's and Highland Mary (Cuthil's) have borne the heaviest crops of fine crisp fruits; Telegraph, Pearson's Long Gun, and Cox's Volunteer are also first-rate where good quality is valued.
Leeks are now grown under many names; we found three kinds last year the same as .Aytoun Castle, which is a very good one. Good kinds of Lettuce are numerous: among Cabbage kinds, Drumhead and All the Year Round are very good. Bath Brown Cos and Paris White Cos are very useful kinds. Onions: we tried fifteen or sixteen kinds last season on various soils and situations, and the two best for general use and keeping are Danver's Yellow and James's Keeping. Reading is very good; we have grown Nuneham Park three seasons and find it good, but not equal to some others. Giant Madeira is useful where size is the only object; it does not keep well: White Lisbon and Strasburg are suitable for autumn sowing. Among the best Radishes are French Breakfast, Olive Shape, and for summer use Red and White Turnip Radish still hold their own. The best Savoys we have grown are, for first, Pan-calier Joulin, Dwarf Green Curled for general crop, and Drumhead for size. Turnip for first crop, old White Dutch; for summer use, Snowball: Red and White American Stone are very useful as late sorts.
It is very difficult to decide on varieties of Potatoes, and perhaps there is no vegetable changes its character (when grown in various soils) more than the Potato. Veitch's Ashleaf and Mona's Pride are good among early Kidneys; the latter is liable to come up blanky. Smith's early Milky White and Dalmahoy are very good as first, second, and third early round kinds. Fortyfold, when grown widely apart on good dry soil, is still one of the best, and crowded on damp ground it is one of the worst. The Pea crop is always an interesting one. Among many which we gave a trial last season, Dillistone's Early, Sangster's No. 1., and Little Gem (for borders, &c), are first-rate for early work; Dickson's Favourite, Laxton's Prolific, Prince, and Supreme were good seconds; M'Lean's Wonderful, Champion of England, and Veitch's Perfection, are excellent on rich ground, sown thinly, and plenty of room between the rows. Jaye's Conqueror we observed in the leading collection of vegetables at the late International Show held in Edinburgh, and to all appearance it was the best Pea in the room. Some Peas we have seen this season bearing excellent crops, but of very poor flavour.
In most gardens attention will soon be given to sowing a few seeds, such as early Carrots, Radishes, Brown Cos Lettuce, Cauliflower, and early Cabbage, - the last three under protection, such as handglasses, hoops and mats, or in boxes of earth placed under glass. The two first, to have a chance at all, must be kept from frost, covering and uncovering when necessary. Where frames are at command, much labour will be saved. A pinch of Kale, Brussels Sprouts, and Red Dutch Cabbage may be sown: though spring sown, and smaller than that sown in autumn, they are finer in quality. Beans and Peas may be sown every three weeks in succession as required. In very small gardens limited quantities only should be sown early, so that a regular succession may be kept up, to prevent a glut at one season and shortcoming at another. The sowing of Peas very wide apart (allowing the rows to divide off, systematically, other crops) is now becoming very general, as it is by far the most productive system, and the pods are more easily picked. Beans may be sown from 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart. For small seeds, such as the Brassica tribe, the soil should be made very fine and the drills shallow; dry weather should be chosen for sowing.
A row of Parsley may be sown on an early spot, leaving a good border for sowings to supply autumn and winter. If weather is dry, and the soil in proper condition towards the end of the month, Onions and Parsnips may be sown. Though they both will do well later in the season, we do not like to lose any favourable opportunity. For the Onions, drills drawn 9 inches to 1 foot apart, slightly covering in the dry soil and thoroughly treading, will answer well. Parsnips may be sown in drills 2 inches deep, and the rows may be from 15 to 18 inches apart. Make the surfaces over newly-sown seed smooth and level with a rake, but at all times avoid treading on newly-sown ground in wet weather. A sloping bank may be thrown up on which to sow early seeds. Leeks may soon be sown in a box, but unless they are wanted very early, a sowing on an early border will answer well enough. Potatoes should be kept cool, but if they are sprouting it would be well to plant them, and keep the tubers free from frost.
To keep a garden orderly and to make the best of it, all crops should be arranged systematically, keeping each kind as much by themselves as possible, avoiding small patches scattered through the garden, so as to get the ground worked advantageously. Winter crops should be kept together, and for crops which require sowing or planting in quick succession, a breadth should be set aside. Salads and Spinach (where ground is scarce) can always be sown between other growing crops, and cleared off in time to do the latter justice. To clear ground at this season, crops of Kale, Brussels Sprouts, etc, may be lifted, and have their roots placed in soil behind a wall or hedge closely together. Celery may also be lifted and placed in sand. Walks may be turned and rolled down firmly, bringing forward all arrears as quickly as possible.
All tree planting, lifting, &,c, left unfinished, should have attention when weather will allow the work to be done. If protection (by canvas, frigi-domo, or otherwise) is to be used for trees on walls, it should be examined and got ready. There is much which might be done by retarding fruit-blossoms; and commencing early with protecting will do much towards that end. Boards lapping over the top of the walls are of great service in keeping the trees dry. If strong sun can be partially kept off by thin material, the buds will expand slowly and be subjected to less extremes of temperature. Apricots may be pruned soon, leaving enough of wood to clothe the tree regularly, avoiding crowding. All stunted and useless wood should be cut clean out, and shoots coming out of the tree should not be left. Much cutting of Apricots is liable to produce canker. Peaches, if very forward, may be pruned towards the end of the month, cutting out all shoots which carried fruit last year, leaving young ones to take their place, always choosing, if possible, those from nearest the main branches.
There need be no hurry in nailing them up, as when they are close to the wall the buds open rapidly.
Cuttings of bedding plants may be got in rapidly, using sandy soil, carefully watering, allowing no damp to remain about the surfaces. Shade from sun sufficiently to keep them from flagging. Cuttings root more freely when they have been taken from plants growing freely in heat. Keep up a high temperature; but when the cuttings are rooted they may be taken to more airy quarters, making room for fresh batches. Dahlia roots may be started in warmth, to increase the numbers. When short stout cuttings are formed, they can be taken off with a heel and placed in the centres of small pots, using sandy soil, and, plenty of heat allowed - say 70°, and 10° higher with sun heat - they will root very quickly. Carnations and Auriculas in pots require plenty of fresh air to keep them healthy. The latter may be well surfaced with good loam, cow-dung, and a little sand. Soil should be prepared and examined, to be ready soon for potting Pinks, Picotees, and Carnations which are to be flowered in pots. Plants in pots which are not growing freely should be kept moderately dry, but occasionally looked over, and have a full supply of water when they require it. All the usual forcing shrubs, bulbs, etc, will require care when bringing them from heat to cold, taking others in for succession.