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.
Asparagus is also come-at-able by every one, as it only requires packing closely and tightly in a little good earth in a box: a glass light over it, and manure round it for warmth, will soon start the crowns, when a watering (say at 90°) will bring it on quickly. Light and air are necessary to give flavour; blanched Asparagus is not of much value. The three foregoing useful vegetables can be bought cheaply by those who have no ground, and grown in towns or anywhere.
Pruning of trees and bushes may be commenced, but avoiding the use of the knife when the wood is frozen. If birds are troublesome, pruning may stand over till late in the season, which is the least of the two evils; then the buds not destroyed can be retained. Keep up a regular supply of young wood among all fruit-trees; even those which are trained to long rods and spurs, such as Pears and early Cherries, are the better of having new shoots occasionally led up to replace old ones. Upright-growing shoots on bushes are preferable, as they do not bend so much with the weight of the crop. Currants may be closely spurred (except blacks, which require regulating and thinning the wood); but vigorous shoots left to form permanent ones may be left alone, yearly cutting out here and there an old one as they get stunted, when young healthy ones will take their places. There need not be any great haste with wall-trees; but Plums, Cherries, Pears, and Apples (where the latter may be on walls to get them extra fine), may be pruned while the weather is mild.
Cut off spurs which are growing out from the walls; but any which have formed at the sides of main shoots should be retained, as they are likely to be fruit-bearing. Pears should have (if not done in summer management) the young wood shortened back to form spurs, and if placed outwardly, should be cut clean off. If spurs are crowded (which is often the case on old trees), they should be thinned, and some shortened, to keep the fruit near the wall. Crowding of Plums and Morello Cherries with young wood is often seen. The fruit is thus kept small and inferior in quality. Enough wood should be retained to secure plenty of fruit, but not to smother it. Peaches, Nectarines, and Apricots may be left till late in the season. When the leaves are off the trees the young wood can be taken from the walls with much benefit. The wood gets firm, and is kept from going quickly into growth, and is less likely to be destroyed by early frosts. This is an old practice, and we have seen it proved to be a good one. bailing in young wood of pruned trees can only be done with comfort in mild weather, so every opportunity should be taken to get the work forward.
We seldom use shreds now, simply from the objection to the harbour for insects, and the appearance, especially if the cloth they are made from is "showy." Matting neatly used is hardly seen, and the nails may remain, as where systematic training is practised, the young shoot is taken from the base of the old one, and when the latter is cut out, the young one is laid in its stead. Cast-metal nails are best, and if not placed where they can be used on the walls, they may be broken over, thus saving the plaster. Holes in walls may be filled up with putty, mixed with a little white lead, and harbour for insects will be scarce. Trees infested with scale may be carefully scraped with the back of a knife, and painted with Gishurst compound (see directions for use): all moss on trees should be taken off if possible, and the bark well painted with a mixture of lime and soot. Root-pruning, if not already finished, should have attention at once. I always advise its being done early, and only when the tree requires it. Where any strong watery shoots are taking the lead upwards, some roots will be also taking the lead downwards, and should be cut off; but cutting right round the tree indiscriminately is unnecessary destruction.
When trees are to be kept within certain limits, root-pruning is necessary to equalise the growth. When much wood is made and cut off, the tree soon yields to canker; but timely lifting prevents these evils; trees making no growth and abundance of fruit-buds should be helped with good top-dressing, or if roots are down in poor unhealthy soil, lifting will be the only means of securing success. Lifting and replanting fruit-bushes gives them a fine constitution; as well as modifying the growth of wood and insuring always abundance of fruit. Stake and tie securely newly-planted fruit-trees, but they must be allowed to settle with the fresh soil, otherwise the bark might be cut with the ties. Raspberries should already be freed from the old wood, and suckers not wanted should be lifted. Pruning will require attention soon. They require a good deep soil, rich and moist.
Lawns and shrubberies now require to be often gone over with rake or broom. Worm-casts on the former may be kept down by the use of lime-water, and well rolled afterwards. Where leaves are all down, quantities may be forked over among shrubs, keeping clear of the roots. To give grounds, however small, an interest at the dull season, thorough cleaning of grass, borders, and walks is necessary. Improvements and renovations can be done well at this season. Cover roots of Fuchsias, Aloysias, and other plants remaining in the ground likely to be injured by frost. Fern or coal-ashes does well for the purpose. Myrtles or any other less hardy plants on walls might be covered with fern or spruce branches and straw. Tender Roses may be lifted, and their roots placed in soil under a wall or similar place, where they can be protected. Rose-planting may be finished without delay. Well-trenched heavy loam, in which is mixed plenty of good rotten manure, is most suitable. A quantity of fresh turfy loam placed with each plant in process of planting, will give health and vigour to the plants; a good mulching for protection after the planting is done will keep them safe from frost. The grafted parts should be well protected.
Bedding and other plants now require careful attention; no more water should be given than is absolutely necessary, and always enough to moisten all the soil about the roots. Open clean surfaces do much for health. Impure damp air is a great evil. Hardy plants in pots, if not under cover, should have the roots plunged in coal-ashes. Heaths and Camellias, when mixed with other plants in structures, should be kept in the coolest end where air can be freely given, and the more tender things where they would be best protected from draughts, etc. Violets and Roses flowering in pots require plenty of air and light; also Primulas and C'inerarias to succeed Chrysanthemums; but they stand little frost.