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 the fruit-garden all arrears should be brought forward, and as soon as possible all nailing, pruning, mulching, clearing off moss from bark, dressing the wood with Gishurst compound, etc., to keep down insects, cuttings of bushes, such as Currants and Gooseberries, finished, so that cropping and other important work may not be interrupted. Peaches and Nectarines are often left from the walls by some leading cultivators as long as can be done without danger from destroying the flower-buds. An old friend we lived near, in the east of England, never pruned before March, and only tied up the shoots as the flowers were beginning to open. He could boast of never having a failure for more than twenty years. When the bearing-wood is thinned, enough should be left to carry plenty of fruit, but so that the leaves will have plenty of space to develop themselves. Disbudding can be done freely, to give room, but it is not necessary to give so much labour for no purpose; crowding of wood is seldom attended with success, as its ripening is very much prevented. If roots of Peaches and Nectarines are extending beyond healthy soil, and an addition of it cannot be given, it is better to shorten back these robust growers, and give a limited space, feeding from the surface.
In front of the roots, stones and loam may be rammed thoroughly firm, and the best results will follow; fibre will cling and grow round the stones till it becomes matted. This practised to a late Peach-house here, 100 feet long, has been very satisfactory. Figs on back wall of same structure, treated in same way, have been kept in very fruitful condition for years, and no amount of manure-water or other feeding ever seems to cause rank growth. The gross -growing Castle Kennedy and Brunswick are as sturdy by this treatment as Brown Turkeys and Black Ischias. Some cover 25 feet of a high wall, others only 6 feet, but are equally serviceable. If cuttings of bush-fruits are to be made, they should be shortened to 1 foot or 14 inches long, and cut clean under a joint: strip off with a sharp knife all the buds except three at top, and place the lower ends firmly in rows to form bushes. Trampled ground, whether among trees or flowering-shrubs, should be well forked up, keeping clear of the roots. This will let in air, and leave a tidy appearance where tying, etc. are finished.
If covering such as canvas or frigidoma is used for protecting fruit-blossoms, it should be got ready for use; much more good can be done by keeping sun from bringing on the flower-buds too early, than by keeping them back after they are out.
Every part of the ornamental garden should now be clean and fresh; and where winter and spring gardening are practised, all the plants should be kept free from decaying leaves, the ground well stirred and free from weeds. Roll lawns after rain, top-dress them where grass is thin and weakly; a little good soil and manure well mixed with fresh lime may be added if moss is abundant and objected to. By a few moss is encouraged, but it is seldom satisfactory. Grass-seeds may remain unsown till April; all flower-beds which have been turned up to sweeten by frost, etc, may be (at any time when dry) turned over and well broken with a fork. This is very essential to heavy soils.
Ranunculuses for early summer flowering should be planted soon; to grow them well they require good rich loam. As they like a cool bottom, cowdung is a most suitable manure. They are generally planted in drills of equal depth, and the roots covered with 2 inches of soil; 6 inches apart is enough. All bulbs planted out, however hardy, are the better of protection in severe weather. Spruce branches or coal-ashes are less unsightly than many other kinds of material used. All hardy plants in frames, such as Pinks, Pansies, etc, must have air on every favourable opportunity; confined damp is very destructive. Good rich loam, well examined for wire-worm, should now be under cover, to be in order to pot Carnations and Picotees where they are grown as pot plants. Auriculas with their pots well filled with roots may be fresh surfaced with rich stuff, first clearing off the wasted soil without injuring the roots. Clear drainage is of great importance to that tribe of plants. Some kinds of Roses may be pruned soon, such as Moss, Summer, and China: the latter should only be thinned, and very little shortening attempted. Liliums, if not already done, should be potted, using good loam and a little sand.
Dahlias to be increased may be placed in warmth, so that shoots may sprout from the old roots to be propagated. Like most kinds of plants at this season, a brisk heat is necessary to propagate them. Lobelia, Cineraria maritima, Perilla nankinensis, Tagetes, and a number of other useful plants for bedding, may be sown soon. They require heat and nice light soil to vegetate in; they grow rapidly and are very useful. In hot southern localities Lobelia and Perilla may be sown next month. They will, by being late, last in good condition late in the season. Bedding plants of all kinds may be propagated forthwith. To make success more certain, the cutting plants should be growing vigorously in warmthj when they are put into well - drained pots or pans filled with sandy light soil, they will never stop growing, and can be afterwards potted or boxed, and hardened off by degrees when they have taken hold of the fresh soil. Geraniums, Petunias, Salvias, Heliotropes, and a few of any other flowering plants, may be potted on if a display is wished early in the season. Healthy soil, and the plants kept free from cold draughts, are necessary to vigorous growth. "Stage" and "fancy" Pelargoniums with their pots full of roots may be repotted in good turfy loam mixed with a little charcoal and sand.
A little bone-dust in the soil suits well. Many little plants may be potted on where specimens are wanted, but it is simply absurd to fix dates for potting or real size of pots, as this can only be regulated by the size of plants required, the time they are wanted in flower, and the present state of the roots. A growing plant should not be allowed to become pot-bound, and overpotting is a great evil, as roots crammed in a potful of soil are very different to what they are growing in natural ground. Chrysanthemums may be propagated in a frame with little heat, but abundance of air allowed when growth commences. Some growers propagate as early as December, but the most vigorous specimens may be had when growth receives no check. Good little plants are got from cuttings put in in May; and those with no glass in their possession may have fair success by dividing the roots in April, retaining the finest growths. Epacris, winter-flowering Heaths, Acacias, etc, may be cut in when done flowering and rested for a time.