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.
Pruning and tying up trees will be like other operations - much retarded by the continued wet weather. All this work should now be carried on briskly, as every day will bring abundance of work with it. Limewash on moss-covered stems will help to destroy the pest, as well as eradicate insects. Where time can be spared, old trees should be gone over with a blunt-edged instrument, and all destructive vegetable matter scraped off. Peaches and Nectarines may remain unpruned till the end of the month. Some of the best cultivators we ever knew do not use a knife on these trees till the blooms are swelling; and they are tied up just before the buds open. The keeping of them from the walls retards the crop and keeps it longer out of danger. It is well to break up all surfaces over fruit-tree roots after tying and nailing is finished. A good dressing of manure may do good service if the roots are not too far out of reach. Trees as Standards or Espaliers should not be left to the influence of wind, otherwise much damage might be done. Raspberries not pruned should have attention without delay: they are not easily injured with manure, and do well when kept cool and moist at the roots.
Bushes may require protection from bullfinches: white threads and feathers often keep them off for a time; a tame hawk, magpie, or owl, kept near them will drive them away. All old soil may be removed from the collars of the bushes and replaced with fresh soil. As digging goes on, a good coating of manure placed over the roots, and covered thinly with soil, does much to help the fruit, and is good for preventing caterpillars keeping their quarters near the bushes: their larvae are ready to start into active life. The remainder of tree-planting should have timely attention this year, as growth appears to be everywhere early.
Lawns will now be clean, but if alterations are made by turfing, the earlier it is finished the better. When turfing is done during March, much labour is often expended on carrying water. Shrubs growing bare at bottom may be cut down, and all dead wood taken out. This answers well with Laurels of sorts and Hollies, if not too stunted Good mulching suits almost every shrub and Conifer, but it is no use applying manure when the roots are far beyond its reach. Evergreen trees and shrubs do well when planted before growth commences. Deciduous trees often die when they are planted after the sap has begun to flow: much assistance with mulching and watering can be given, but continuous drenchings at the roots often do more harm than good. Means should be adopted to prevent shaking by wind. Let walks be fresh gravelled where it is wanted. Turning will do good service where it can be practised; it saves much labour in summer. Dig up all beds and borders; if trenching can be done, so much the better for the summer occupants.
Plant Roses; give good turf with the roots, and mulch to keep out drought and to feed the roots gradually. A few Roses may be pruned to give an early supply, but the main stock should be left till next month at least. More than one-half of the Roses in the country are ruined by being left too thick at pruning time. All small useless growths should be cut out, leaving the hearts open and free from dead wood. It is not necessary to cut every shoot back to two eyes. Strong-growing kinds should not be cut back much. Some of the China and other free-growing kinds only require thinning out. Where Roses are trained on walls or other buildings, they should have old stunted rods cut out, and replaced by young healthy growths. Keep them clear of moss and old hard spurs. All suckers should be cut clean off below the graft; if the plants are on their own roots, some of the suckers may be retained if wanted to fill up.
Sweet Peas may be sown in rows in the open ground, but better under glass in turves, pots, or boxes to be planted out. I observe that sowings of common Peas with us have been saved from the ravages of mice by being well dusted with lime before being covered up. The vermin have scraped till they found them, and appear to have left in disgust. Pinks, Carnations, Auriculas, Stocks, Mignonette, and other plants wintering in cold frames or pits, must be kept free from damp. Keep the surfaces clean and healthy: give light and air freely; but cold frosty winds should be avoided. Stocks and Mignonette should never have the lights on when weather will allow them to be kept off. The fine Mignonette grown for Covent Garden is grown more hardy than what is grown elsewhere. Tilting the lights up back and front is practised when weather is showery. Hardy annuals may be sown in boxes or pots for early flowering. Dahlias may be placed in heat to sprout for young plants: where manure or other fermenting material is employed, care must be exercised, as much injury might be done quickly by over-heating. Sow Lobelia, Violas, Hollyhocks, a few Stocks (if required very early), Centaurias, Cineraria maritima, and other things for summer and autumn display.
Let potting and boxing of bedding-plants be carried forward without delay. Keep close at first; then give fresh air when they are growing freely. Place Calceolarias into turf pits, or similar structures, to remain till lifted to the flower-garden. Cuttings of every useful plant may now be taken off and placed in heat to propagate. Very sandy soil is necessary to get them rooted quickly. Prick off seedlings before they become matted. Avoid sowing too thickly. Get up good quantities of hardy bedding-plants where glass is scarce. Dactylis, Arabis, Cer-asteum, Violas, Pansies, Stachys, Osborn's Dark Beet, Variegated Periwinkles, Aucubas, Lemon Thyme, Variegated Trees, Succulents of hardy kinds in great variety, Golden Stone-crop, Lonicera variegata, Ajuga reptans, Polemoniums, etc, are all useful plants, and excellent for edgings or rows in ribbon-work. In greenhouses and plant-pits, young stock will soon be showing active growth; let all have a shift that require it, and prevent any plants from becoming pot-bound. Large specimens, such as Camellias, Epacris, Cytisus, Coronillas, and all the Heaths which flower at this season, should have clean, healthy surfaces, and plenty of water and air. Shift on Cinerarias for late flowering.