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.
Celery may be sown towards the end of the month: it requires protection and a little warmth; dryness, or a check from cold winds, is liable to cause it to run to seed. A hand-light, or small box with a square of glass to slide in it, will raise hundreds; then they will require pricking out on a surface of manure a few inches thick, made firm, and an inch or two of soil placed over the surface, and the plants allowed 4 inches apart, fastening the roots in the soil with a dibble. Allowing the roots to remain loose in the soil will result in premature seeding. Shade from strong sun and sharp winds. Leeks for main crop may be sown at once, either on a bed to transplant them from, or where they are to grow. In the latter position the crop has to be thinned out from 8 inches to a foot, the rows being 10 or 12 inches apart. A greater width may be required on extra-rich soil; earthing-up to blanch the leeks is necessary when they are not transplanted. The thinnings, however, from the main sowing, may be planted in deep holes on highly-manured ground. Lettuce may now be sown in a sheltered position; also Radishes to be protected. Litter, hoops, and mats often do much in absence of glass, but covering and uncovering daily gives much labour.
Onions and Parsnips, if not already sown, should receive attention as early as possible. It is not surprising that the practice so often followed with these crops ends in complete failure. The turning over of ground, and cramming in a quantity of manure just before the seed is sown, is too often labour thrown away. Parsley may now be sown for a full supply. Edgings of it are all very well; but when the season is very dry, a deep, well-manured border, well cropped with Parsley, is necessary where much of it is wanted all the year round. A crop of Peas may be sown, either a first or second early sort; and if dividing, without shading, any of the crops already named, good Peas will be had, and little waste of ground. Where they have been sown in boxes, and are ready to plant out, a favourable day should be chosen, and some kindly soil placed at the roots of the Peas in process of planting, and stake them at once to give shelter. Potatoes may be planted for full crops whenever ground is dry enough. Changing suddenly from warm dry winter-quarters and planting them in cold wet ground, gives a check which often kills the seed. Wide planting for heavy crops of fine tubers is strongly recommended by the most successful growers.
Rhubarb should be planted before the crowns are too far grown; and rare or scarce kinds may be potted in free soil, and planted out when weather is warmer. The latter system we practise more or less every season. We force hundreds of roots, and they are weakened, and some of them killed. Dividing the crowns separately, and starting in pots, often secures fine roots, when by ordinary treatment they would perish in the soil. Pieces of Seakale, 4 inches or less long, should now be planted in rows 2 feet apart. One foot between the roots in the rows will be enough when they are grown for lifting. Seed for fresh stock may be sown on soil where no stagnant moisture is to be found, otherwise the seed often rots in the ground. Tomatoes may now be sown in heat; pot them in light rich soil at first, and then turfy loam and manure may be used where it can be had. They require heat till they are of a good size, when gradual hardening is necessary before they are planted out, or planted in large-sized pots. Plant Garlic and Shallots if not already done; also small Onions, to keep up a supply, if there is any likelihood of scarcity, till the main crops are fit for use. Kidney-Beans need not be sown this month except under protection of a frame. The seed perishes quickly by damp or cold.
Fruit-trees in bloom should be kept dry if possible. Thin canvas or other material, to be drawn down in heavy storms of rain or hail, does good service: the abuse of covering is one of the reasons why so little good is often had from it. Peaches, or any other trees not nailed, should be seen to soon; and care is necessary, when tying, not to rub off the bloom-buds: thinning the latter, when done judiciously, is of great advantage. On rank-growing trees extra blooming may be of service, but they should at least be allowed room to prevent their smothering one another. Wood-buds may be rubbed off to lighten the trees and give light to the fruit - this, when done early, gives no check to the tree: the top shoots (which may be stopped at fourth leaf), and one or two near the base of old shoots, are generally enough. The best guide is the space which remains uncovered, but there should be no crowding of wood or foliage; and before trees are in full leaf, it is a practice of ours to mark on the wall any space on which it is necessary to take a leading shoot, as when the wall is covered one cannot always do as they should like, and we always have some old shoots which are to have their places taken by young ones.
All well-placed natural spurs should be left on fruit-trees, thinning out wood-buds where they are too thick or wrongly placed. Grafting may be done about the end of the month; the stock and graft cut to fit each other (allowing the barks to fairly meet) is one of the principal secrets of a grafter's success. Tie them secure, and place clay or grafting-wax over them to keep out air. There are many ways of grafting. The most simple method is often attended with the greatest success. Cuttings of Currants and Gooseberries may now be made about a foot long, picking off all the buds except three at top: cut close over at a joint; plant the cuttings in any spare ground to root.
Every border and plot in garden should now be squared off to size, keeping an orderly appearance, and the hoe should be used on every favourable opportunity, keeping every surface clean, as well as letting air into the soil among crops.
Auriculas, Pansies, Carnations, Pinks, and Picotees require clean surfaces, and those growing in pots may require a shift into soil, well examined for wireworm. Abundance of air and careful watering are necessary. They require to be oftener looked over when the season advances. Tender Annuals - such as Balsams and Cockscombs - may be sown in heat, carefully potted in small pots, and allowed plenty of light. Air must be given carefully on cold days. Bedding-plants may be propagated as quickly as possible, hardening off gradually those that are rooted. Be careful not to prune back such plants as Aloysias, Fuchsias, etc, till they show what parts are dead and what alive. Water gradually as growth advances, giving enough to reach all the roots when watering is done. Roses may be pruned, cutting back weakly growers to two or three "eyes;" strong-growing kinds may be thinned and cut back only moderately. Surface-dressing will help free growth. M. T.