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.
Where tree-leaves, manure, etc, are plentiful, a quantity may be thrown up and mixed together: and when the heat is moderate, the whole may be thrown into a bed, building it square, and a little larger than the frame, shaking and building firmly as the work progresses. A good bed from 4 to 5 feet high will last a long time, but to last for 10 or 12 months in good order, we prefer making our beds 6 feet deep. Regular attention to placing linings of hot dung all round the bed is of great importance in keeping the heat steady. After the frame is placed, a few inches of soil may be placed over the surface of the bed (we use turf, and beat firm with the back of a fork). Mounds of good earth, turfy loam, and a little leaf-soil are very suitable for Cucumbers, placed in the centre of each light; and when the heat is right (which can be ascertained by placing a thermometer in the soil, and when it stands 80° or 85°) it may be considered safe to plant. A quantity of soil may be kept in the frame to add to the mound as the roots find their way through. Pinching out the tops of the plants will induce them to throw out fresh shoots which will show fruit.
Young plants are raised by sowing two or three seeds in small pots, and when up, and fit to handle, they are potted singly, always using the soil and water in a warm state. Seeds placed singly in small pots of warm soil are easily managed, without checking the plants when shifting them. Air is necessary at all times, especially if the steam rises strongly from the bed. Covering up from frost is necessary, but light should never willingly be excluded when it can be admitted. Moisture should be carefully applied to the roots: little will be required till the plants are growing freely and the weather fine. A top heat of 65° to 70° is safe, rising 10° or 15° with sun heat. Melons may be treated in the same way, but they require heavier and firmer soil than Cucumbers. Neither of these plants should crowd together, as when the stems become matted they are difficult to manage.
Fruit-trees infested with moss should have as much as possible of it scraped off with a blunt knife or piece of iron hoop, and the parts well dusted with fresh lime, or lime-wash may be laid on with a brush. If the appearance is objected to, a mixture of soot may be given. The old earth from the collars of Gooseberry bushes is taken away by some, and replaced with fresh soil, as a preventive from caterpillars. Fresh planted trees requiring stakes should not be neglected, as the roots would be seriously injured. Mulch carefully to keep out frost. All pruning and nailing should be brought to a close as soon as the weather will permit. Pears which are thin of fruit-buds may remain till later in the season, when inexperienced hands can prune with more safety: the buds then will be swelling, and show themselves. Peaches and Apricots which have been taken from the walls to retard them till they are pruned should not be left to the force of the wind, but be tied in bunches to the stronger wood till they are to be tied up permanently. Walls should be freed from moss, or anything that will harbour insects. Repairs, where practicable, should be made on walls, filling up all holes, leaving no quarters for insects of any description.
A good syringing with soap-suds will help to destroy eggs of insects. Some syringe finely in frosty weather, allowing it to freeze into solid ice.
All kinds of bulbs, however hardy they may be, should be protected from severe frost. Ranunculuses to be grown for summer decoration should be planted soon. When weather will permit, the beds should be well prepared with manure, and the soil well turned up to sweeten. Some use entirely fresh soil for these plants, renewing the beds yearly; and, to do them well for exhibition, extra cultivation is necessary. We at one time grew these plants extensively; and to have them late, we planted the roots in March, in soil well-worked and enriched with cow-dung. Carnations and Pinks which are in pots under protection require little or no water at this season, and all the air that can possibly be given. Surfaces should be kept clean, stirring the soil occasionally, and nothing allowed near the plants that would harbour damp. Auriculas under protection must be also kindly dealt with: they are so impatient of stagnant moisture, and enjoy abundance of fresh dry air. No decaying leaves or moss-covered surfaces should be tolerated; and, like all hardy plants when growing in pots, they should be kept free from frost. Chrysanthemums, when done flowering, should be plunged in coal-ashes, and the tops kept from frost.
Though they are hardy, good cuttings and suckers are easily secured when protection is afforded. All "bedding" and other plants should have air when it can be safely given. Water should be given in a tepid state, choosing, if possible, sunny mornings to apply it, so that the structures may dry up quickly; but where fire-heat is not at command, it is better to err on the dry side at this season. Lily of the Valley, Roses, Lilacs, Bulbs, and all kinds of plants which are forced at this season, should be brought on gently; and when to be placed in cooler quarters to flower, currents of frosty air should be avoided, as they are very tender when coming from heat. Shrubs and ornamental trees should have timely attention after snow has fallen, as serious injury might be done if the snow is not shaken off. Dead wood may be cleared out, and everything done to enliven the pleasure-garden at this dull season. Stunted shrubs may be helped with surface-dressings of rich material. We apply manure liberally to all kinds of Coniferae, especially to Araucarias and Wellingtonias. A number of Araucarias here, growing on a sandy bank, have had quantities of manure of late years, which has told wonderfully on their growth.
We have lately given each tree three loads of dung and three loads of earth.