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.
Whatever is to be done to improve the fruit-garden should have attention as early as possible. Moss-covered branches are great evils; scraping and washing with lime-water or brine will destroy the pest. Painting fruit-bushes with lime and soot does much to keep off bullfinches and insects. Soil taken from round the collars of Gooseberry and Currant bushes, and replaced with other material in which is a quantity of manure, will in most cases keep caterpillar in check. Now is a good time to lift Currant and Gooseberry bushes. If they are lifted carefully, retaining all the roots, and well mulching them, they may carry a fair crop next season; but where they are doing well, we would say, let well alone; but often large plots of bushes are seen with the half of the ground vacant from deaths among the plants. Whatever planting is to be done, it should have attention as early as possible, so that the roots may get hold of the soil before the winter is fairly set in. Apricots and Peaches pay well by lifting. We have seen apparently worthless trees of the former lifted and replanted and become vigorous and fruitful, and not subject to dying off piecemeal. Late root-action in wet soils helps on this Apricot disease very much.
If leaves are still clinging tightly to the trees, a light broom passed over them will help quantities off, and allow the action of the weather to help the trees to become matured. When fruit-trees arrive from the nursery, they should be planted at once: allowing them to stick in the ground by the roots till a convenient time arrives, is half-killing them. Mulch well with litter to keep out frost. Pruning and nailing must have attention as early as it can be done. Old trees and bushes may be improved by cutting out a quantity of old wood, and retaining fresh shoots to take the place of old branches. Keeping the centres of Apple and Pear standards well opened out is conducive to productiveness and good quality. How often large trees may be seen with heavy crops at the points of the branches only; the hearts of the trees being shut out from the sun, no fruit-buds can be formed. Trees a quarter their size may be seen carrying heavier crops of finer fruit when a little attention has been given at the right time with saw or knife. We object to severe cutting - only doing it when it is to be of service.
A hundred Apples which we had from the nurseries last season as " Feathered " Maidens, were planted and scarcely touched with the knife; a fewfruit were ripened, and the trees are now full of fruit-buds requiring nothing with the knife. These are hardy kinds to be kept as dwarfs. We have long looked upon the system of cutting young trees "hard back " as a bad practice. Raspberry canes may now be planted in deeply-trenched and well-manured ground. They do well in a cool position. They may be fastened to their stakes at once. Young plantations should be cut well back the first season. Strawberries may be mulched with good manure. It can be turned in lightly, but the roots of the plants should remain entire.
Lawns and pleasure-grounds should be frequently swept, the grass rolled, and worms kept in check by applications of lime-water. Leaves should not be allowed to remain in heaps on the grass. Beach and Oak leaves should be kept separate from softer kinds if they are required for hot-beds. Walks may be coated with gravel, and kept smooth and firm. All improvements in the grounds, such as tree-lifting, shrub-planting, etc, may have attention now. When shrub-planting is done, it is a bad practice to give heavy soakings of water at this season, or treading heavy soil very firm to the roots when weather is wet. A good mulching over the roots after the soil has been carefully placed among and round them, will keep them safe from frost and drought if a dry season should prevail. It is necessary to keep all trees and shrubs from being shaken by wind till they get hold of the fresh soil. Clear off all dead plants from flower-beds, but while the foliage is green they will cover the earth; but if shrubs, ornamental Kales, bulbs, foliage plants, or annuals are to fill the beds, a clearance should be made at once. Cleanliness and order is very important during the dark days of winter. Plant Roses on good ground well trenched and manured.
Place fresh loam with each plant as they are put into the ground and mulch them; branches stuck among the plants will help to protect them. Straw or hay ropes placed round Standards, especially near the union of bud and stock, is a good old system for keeping out severe frost. All choice Carnations, Pansies, Polyanthuses, Auriculas, etc, growing in pots are the better of being protected with a frame, etc. All bulbs should be planted as early as possible. Place red-lead over Crocus roots to keep mice in check. Keep all plants for forcing, however hardy, plunged in ashes. Shelter under glass is advantageous. Get a number of each kind into a gentle warmth. Lily of the Valley, early Hyacinths, Azaleas, Violets, and the usual favourites often referred to, will now claim attention; hard forcing often causes growth of foliage but no flowers. Let every plant which frost will injure be placed in safe quarters. Dahlias should be dry and safe. Chrysanthemums coming into flower may be assisted with manure-water; they should be kept well aired, free from a stagnant atmosphere. When watering is done, let no unnecessary water be spilt; dry up floors with a mop. A little fire-heat will be beneficial. High temperatures are not desirable.