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 will be seen now, or before this, that where the best promise for a crop of fruit was observed in early spring it will now be very moderate. Where flower-buds were unusually thick and the trees in a position which exposed them to the cold rains from the east, the crop will, in many cases, have given disappointment. "The syringing" theory may be very well where heat and air are under control. It has never been my experience to have a fine set of fruit on open walls or standards when the fruit-blossoms have not been dry for days together. At the present moment I can point to Pears, Cherries, and Apricots which escaped the severe rains, which are in a mass of fruit, and will require much thinning; and the same kinds of fruits, equally promising, but which were seldom dry during their flowering period, are very thinly set with fruit. Gooseberries and Currants are no exception to this rule. Again, referring to syringing trees in flower under glass, which, is by no means a new practice, but much older than my gardening career, it may do no harm under certain circumstances, but I would be sorry to adopt the system under all circumstances. A letter in a contemporary, from Mr Taylor of Longleat, is one as full of common-sense on this matter as anything I have read.
This subject, with several other old ones,is being ventilated; and this, no doubt, will lead to good results. Extreme views often take the place of moderate practice, such as deep drainage and shallow borders for fruits, which are rapidly becoming things of the past; and the old system practised by Mr Crawshaw with his famous Vines in Norfolk, which were grown in borders 5 or 6 feet deep and drained in proportion, leaving the front open, and adding 3 feet of soil piecemeal, just as the roots were ready to consume it. Many others famous for Vine-culture followed this practice, and my old comrade of the spade (Mr Speed of Chatsworth, whose success in gardening generally is so well known) follows this practice so far as he can. The nature of the soil, position, and locality, must, however, be the guide in many of these matters, as no one would take the same liberty with heavy clay-land in Cheshire, which is a damp county, as they would with light sandy loam in Norfolk; and as this applies to one fruit, we believe it applies to others. With ourselves both ends of the garden here cannot with propriety be treated alike.
The syringing of Peaches when in flower, except in one instance, has never been practised by me; and it is years since I had not large quantities to thin, especially from the fruit set in January and February. In one case this year a tree of good size was planted on a back-wall in an early Peach-house. It remained dormant till the fruit in front were stoned; it then began to grow and flower abundantly. The syringing never ceased, as fruit was no object. The set of peaches was very thick, and required thinning. The first time I ever heard of the syringing system was in 1854. A young gardener came to a fresh place in the west of England, who had only lived in one situation before, and he spoke of syringing his Muscats to set them, and was much surprised to learn that it was not the practice throughout the country, as his old master had practised it with Muscats all his life ! but never used the syringe, except then, after his Vines were broke an inch or 2 in length. Syringing cannot be overdone on wall-trees during this month, either morning or evening; but young trees growing very luxuriantly will not require much moisture either to foliage or roots: a little careful lifting of roots and a little pruning on one side of over-luxuriant trees, might now be very serviceable.
We have practised this with the best results in July and August on Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, Pears, and Plums. Where strong roots are allowed to run deep into cold soil, badly-ripened wood, which will suffer from a damp cold winter, may be expected. Keep all suckers from fruit-trees, and thin wood by degrees, leaving in supplies of fruit-bearing wood for next year, as formerly advised. Grubs on Apricots can only be entirely destroyed by hand-picking. Clarke's insect-destroyer is the cleanest and most effectual remedy for red-spider. Figs should not be allowed to become crowded; and where they are grown on spurred trees, they may be stopped at the fourth or fifth leaf. Squeezing the top bud before it becomes tough prevents bleeding. Where thinly-trained leading branches are placed so that the side-shoots are laid in yearly, it is well to get the shoots tied in while ripening weather remains, and avoid crowding. Where there is much pruning required on Figs, little fruit may be expected, and the roots will require attention.
The Fig, when not in deep cold soil, requires heavy soakings of tepid water: where growth is not vigorous, plenty of liquid manure will do wonders in producing large fruit.
Roses will now require abundance of water at their roots. The neglect of it will give a short flowering season and plenty of mildew. Where there are single shoots taking the lead, they may be cut well back, and a number of shoots will break out, which will flower freely late in the season. The free use of the hoe will now be of much service among bedding plants, the open surface of loose soil acting as a natural mulching, and keeping out drought. Dahlias require good stakes, which will support the plants against wind. Earwigs and other pests are troublesome; rings of soot and lime, and other unkindly material, placed round the plants, may keep them from venturing on them. Weakly shoots which are getting crowded may be cut out. The finest flowers are had from plants with single stems, and the side-branches kept regular and free from crowding. Carnations and Picotees may have the number of their flowering-stems regulated and tied up neatly. Propagation of these favourites may be done either by bending down the bottom shoots, if they are long enough for layering, or pulling them off for piping, and placing under hand-glasses; if on a gentle bottom-heat so much the better: piping is taking off the bottom leaves and cutting at a joint. Pinks are generally done in this way.