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 is seldom that experienced fruit - farmers plant orchards at this season; neither do practical gardeners often commit a mistake in this manner, though frequently they are, not from choice, compelled to yield to circumstances, and plant when a chance offers itself. If the work has not been done during the past three months, we would prefer preparing the ground for the trees by the necessary trenching, draining, or whatever is required, and plant when days are longer and warmer, as well as when the ground was congenial. Turfy loam, or otherwise fresh wholesome soil, placed next the roots, is always a good beginning for them. A quantity of lime-rubbish or brickbats laid immediately under the tree will cause the roots to spread outwards instead of going down into the cold subsoil. When trees are for orchards in which cattle are to graze, the stems should be high, and every encouragement given to make good substantial growth; but then the roots and trees will do much better if they are kept into the surface-soil and free from the cold subsoil. Tap-roots mostly lead to unfruitfulness. In few localities can roots be left to themselves with safety and profitableness.
If trees on walls and elsewhere have to be planted now, choose a period free from frost, lay the roots out into wholesome loam with extra care, and finish by mulching well. Pruning, training, staking, clearing trees of moss, etc, washing them with lime and soot mixed, stimulating old trees with fresh rich surface-soil after clearing off that which may be sour or inert, are some of the more pressing operations at present. When training where wires are used, it is necessary always to have a twist of the tying material between the bark and wires, otherwise canker may show itself. This precaution is specially necessary with Cherries, Apricots, and Peaches. When tying is made to nails (a system we rather like by placing nails thinly and permanently), the wood should be also clear of the metal. When shreds are used (a practice we never countenanced), they should not be tightened to injure the shoot, but plenty of room left for the wood to expand. Rasps may be trained to wires, single stakes, or bent over, such as taste may dictate. Crowding should not be allowed : four canes tied together, growing 3 to 4 feet apart, are enough if they are strong. Proceed, if not done, with Currant and Gooseberry pruning, and paint the shoots with lime, soot, and cow-manure mixed, to keep off birds.
A general examination of Peaches and Nectarines should now be made where they have set in clusters (as we hope they have this year), so that enough may be thinned to prevent others from falling off by overcrowding, which is apt to take place on trees which are not vigorous. Shoots laid in thickly is another evil, besides the useless loss of time in tying and untying. Disbud very gradually outgrowing shoots first, and retain those next the wall for next year's bearing-wood; but taking off large breadths of young growths at one time may unduly expose the fruit to late frosts. When disbudding is done as soon as the buds are seen, the tree receives no check; but on open walls the fruit is often the better of protection from young growths as late as June. This applies to all fruit-trees. Apricots will now be swelling rapidly, and disbudding may go on piecemeal. Stop shoots which are taking the lead at the expense of their fellows. It may be well to give a dewing over fruit-trees, with the syringe, of the following mixture : 1/4 lb. of quassia-chips, boiled, to each gallon of water, with a little soft soap and tobacco-powder (snuff is useful for the mixture); this may act as a preventive in warding off green and black fly.
Grubs may put in an appearance on Apricots, which are detected by curling of the leaf. Hand-picking is the only effectual remedy we know of for stamping them out. Gooseberries may be early attacked with grubs, as they were last year, and also with aphis. A syringing with the mixture referred to might ward them off; but too often remedies found in print against such vermin prove useless when applied in their best form. Strawberries should be mulched with litter, if not already done. A good soaking of manure-water, succeeded by the same of rain-water after they are set, may give fine crops of fruit. Frequent watering affects the flavour : give plenty of an evening, and let it alone for a week.
Young trees may be making rapid growth, and should be examined often. Any going off into strong watery growth should be stopped, but if such can be spared so much the better : firm even growth is desirable. Maiden trees lately planted, to be trained on walls or fences, will now be starting. And to make fine trees, well balanced on the wall, careful hands should be used to get them well started into form. As all forms of training come to the same thing as regards quality and quantity, it should be done to taste, but systematically, and give plenty of space between the ties and the wood. Grafts must be examined to see that no suckers are robbing them of their supply from the stock : mulch and water stocks if necessary. Orchard-house trees will be in advance of those outside. Attend to stopping, thinning of shoots and fruit, syringing, careful watering at the roots - using weak doses of guano where crops are good and roots in abundance to turn the liquid manure to good account. If insects attack the trees, fumigating (except where any fruits are ripening) three successive times is an effectual remedy.