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.
While weather is suitable for planting, it should be pushed forward without delay. Though trees are planted every month between October and April, there is a proper time, and that is before winter fairly sets in. When they are then nicely placed in healthy soil, protected with litter over the roots, and secured against wind, the wood pushes more readily than when planted under the same advantages late in the season, besides, much other work comes on in spring which cannot be delayed if success is to be expected. Pruning will now require attention, whenever the leaves are off the trees and bushes: the work may be done as early as possible. Apples and Pears grown as dwarf trees may require little done now further than shortening the shoots from the summer cuts. Where shoots have been left to replace old bearing wood, a little tying to keep them in their positions may be necessary. Though handsome trees are not essential to free bearing, yet it is very desirable to see order and neatness in a fruit-garden. No crowding should be tolerated. Branches crossing one another should have the knife applied to them.
Old spurs cut out, moss scraped off, applications (such as are often recommended) for blight, etc, are some of the things which require attention when trees and bushes are cleared of their foliage. Currants (red and white) are generally spurred in to one or two buds: though abundance of fruit is had in this way, a succession of young wood to take the place of any old branches is necessary, thus keeping the tree vigorous and producing liner fruit. The same applies to Gooseberries, but more wood may be left in them, keeping the growths as upright as possible. The top shoots left as "leaders" should be the strongest and shortest, so that they will require little or no cutting back. Open centres and regularity should be always kept in view, when bushes are pruned. Black Currants do best by having the shoots thinned out to proper distances, cutting out those which are unshapely and crossing one another. Bushes should be kept free from each other, and all suckers taken off cleanly. Manure may be given liberally by forking it in over the roots, keeping the roots free from injury, but not covering up the clean stems, as suckers would soon set to work. Old trees in orchards might be much benefited by a little thinning and clearing off the moss so often seen on them.
Examples of neglect of this kind we lately saw in a district where orchards are very extensive. The trees were only in bearing condition at the points of the branches; any fruit in the centre was green, small, and cracked. Lifting and any root-pruning necessary should be finished as early as possible, though it is best to prune in roots, where necessary, when growth is going on. Few care to make a sacrifice of fruit to get the work done so early. Where soil is bad and trees are not thriving, careful lifting of the roots, placing them in fresh healthy loam, and a good mulching placed over the surface, will do much to help them on. If large trees which cannot be lifted are to be operated on, it does best to do a portion one season, the remainder to be left till the following year. Crops may thus be saved, and the trees brought into good condition. Where roots are rambling far from the tree, and the soil not in healthy condition, canker may be expected ere long, if it is not actually at work. Root-pruning, lifting, or any other doctoring, should not be practised without a just cause.
Wall-trees may be pruned (Peaches, Nectarines, and Apricots excepted) as soon as the leaves are off: where proper management has been in practice during the summer months, there will be little work for the knife; and we here agree with the remarks of the "Squire's Gardener" on summer management, though some may not have understood by his saying that pruning was not necessary, as summer pinching, stopping, etc, are generally understood under the head of "summer pruning." All fruit in store will require to be looked over occasionally for some time after it has been placed in its keeping quarters; and after all is dry, keep the room close, cool, dry, and dark.
Flower-gardens (if not already done) require a thorough clearing, and the "foliage" plants, shrubs, etc, to fill up in winter should be planted without delay, as severe weather might set in, and last long enough to make winter-dressing not worth the trouble. Leaves will be nearly off; they should be taken away before the grass is injured by them. See that Dahlias are safely under cover where frost may not reach them; they should be stored away dry. Myrtles, Fuchsias, Aloysias, and any tender plants remaining in the ground, should be protected with Fern, branches of trees, or similar material. Dry coal-ashes placed over their roots, forming a cone, makes capital protection. Plant all hardy bulbs still out of the ground; arrange them systematically as to height and colour. Protect tender Roses; they may be lifted and placed in turf-pits, or under a wall where straw can be placed over them: this applies chiefly to "Teas." Plant shrubs as formerly advised, and see that none are in danger for want of stakes. Mulching is of great advantage to them till they get hold of the soil. Auriculas, Pansies, Carnations, etc, in pots, should now be in their winter quarters, and air given on every favourable opportunity. Hardly any water will be required: frost and rain should be excluded.
Chrysanthemums coming into flower will require plenty of water; neglect will shorten the blooming period. All forcing plants should be safe from frost; those not lifted from the ground should have attention at once. Plants established in pots force much better than those newly lifted. Skimmias are very useful for winter decoration, and can be lifted from the open ground, potted, and watered. They stand much rough treatment. Bedding plants will require to be looked over frequently. Sulphur may be applied to Verbenas, etc., if mildew makes its appearance. It should be attended to before it becomes too late to stop the evil. Surface watering is one of the worst evils to all plants: bedding plants especially are often killed by the hundred from this cause alone. All plants when watered should have enough to moisten the whole ball of soil, throwing as little as possible about in damp short days. Primulas, Cinerarias, Calceolarias, Cyclamens, which are to come in for later work, must not be allowed to become pot-bound when the pots are full of roots, and watering is necessary. Good surfacings of rotten manure and good soil are of much service when the pots are full of roots; but a wet surface (which is likely to occur) is not to be a guide when watering is performed.
Surfaces are often saturated when the active roots are perishing.
Pelargoniums will now require to be kept in a dry atmosphere; cold and damp will bring "spot" on them. To allow the shoots to become close and matted, while there is so little sun and so much moisture in the air, gives poor specimens. As much pains have been taken to get all greenhouse plants safely under cover, there should be no falling back of attention with them while their treatment is under glass: cutting frosty winds, fire-heat and sun-heat together, and confined damp, are some of the evils which make hard-wooded plants look stunted-like when winter is past. Cleanliness should have strict attention. Insects should be shown no quarter. Plants should stand so that worms cannot enter the pots. Examine bulbs, such as Hyacinths, Narcissus, and Tulips under their temporary cover, and if roots are coming through the soil and the crowns have grown a little, the pots may be washed and gradually brought into light, and afterwards placed in heat if they are wanted soon. Lily of the Valley should be brought forward in a shady position, and allowed plenty of light as it grows. Mignonette and Stocks in pots may have all the light and air possible, keeping off frost and rain. Little water is required by them at this time of year.