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.
Now that winter is fast approaching, much of what is termed the "rough" work of the garden should be carried forward without delay. It is too often the case with amateur gardeners to be in a miserable plight at this season - all the falling leaves, decaying vegetable refuse, and litter lying about, and much left to the turn of the year which has to be hurried through and often half done. This applies not only to renovation, but also to the usual course of work - such as trenching, draining, manuring, etc. While weather is open, no time should be lost in preparing for the coming season. After all refuse is cleared off to the compost-heap, let a good coating of manure be wheeled on in ridges, and a trench taken out 2 or 3 spades deep and about 3 feet wide for the first (as more is required to fill in at the finishing than 2 1/2 feet of a trench would give, which is the usual width). If the bottom is heavy clay, and the top part of a light nature, a little of the subsoil brought up would improve the soil, or light brought up to heavy clay land would improve it; but this must be done with caution, as we have seen crops ruined for a season by turning up much of a poor subsoil. The great object is to have deep soil which will hold its own against a wet or dry season.
Turning the bottom spade over roughly, and placing a thick layer of half-decayed manure over it, is a good preparation; but thoroughly-decomposed manure may only be placed under the top spade: a rough-ridged surface will break over freely in February and March, which makes a fine preparation for seeds at that time. Good healthy loam added to old garden ground is often much better than the usual coatings of manure.
Pease and Beans may be sown on a sheltered border about the middle of the month. If sown on the surface in rows rather more thickly than usual, and the earth drawn over them, there will be a good chance of an early crop, if mice and rats can be kept at bay: chopped furze placed over them often does well; red-lead among the seed is not relished by vermin. But those who have means to raise their early Pease under glass in boxes, tiles, turfs, etc, and plant them out in March, well hardened and sturdy, seldom sow in November. Sang-ster's No. 1 and First Crop are still favourites for early work. Early Longpod and Mazagan Beans may also be sown now in rows, if wanted early, 2 to 3 feet apart, and an inch or two from seed to seed. They can be thinned out if they require it when through the ground. Allowance should always be made at this season for losses. Pease in bearing should now be protected from frost. They are now valuable and scarce; Veitch's Perfection and M'Lean's Premier are yielding fair with us at present. The latter were topped back with common garden-shears, watered and mulched with short grass, but are now loaded with flowers and green pods. It is becoming difficult to gather one dish daily, as the exposure to wind and rain is of the worst description.
These are two of the finest-flavoured Pease we ever tried. Many new ones have been tried here this season; some have supplied fine crops of large well-filled pods of wretched quality. It appears from what we have read in one or two contemporaries, that soil and locality seem to entirely change the character of some kinds of Peas. Celery should now be well earthed up. The soil placed round the stems to keep them compact, and the earth out of the hearts, are the principal parts of the operation; dustings of lime will keep slugs in check. A quantity of Horse-radish, Jerusalem Artichoke, and other hardy roots, should be lifted to keep up a supply if the ground should become frozen. Brussels Sprouts are now ready for use. Some take the tops first, with the idea that the Sprouts will swell out better, others leave the tops for protection: however, we have failed to observe much difference either way. Keeping them clear of dead and decaying leaves is of importance. It is now late to sow small Salads outside, but in boxes or earthen pans small quantities may be sown, and can be raised in the window of a dwelling-house, or anywhere that a growing temperature can be allowed.
Golden and American Cress, with us, often give a supply the whole winter through, when well established at the base of a wall. Lettuce, late Cauliflower, Broccolis, or any other vegetables liable to be destroyed by frost, should be taken under cover in time, in a cool dry earth-pit; they will keep good for weeks. Lettuce and Cauliflower (for next season's supply), growing in frame, etc, should be kept dry, and the surface soil free and healthy. We have seen successful market-growers have the soil for these and Salads in frames so free, that they could blow it with their breath - almost entirely withholding water till active growth commenced, then there was no stint in supplying it. Globe Artichokes should have the soil thrown up to the collars of the plants, sloping so that rains would be carried off. Dry litter is often used, but if not placed compact, and so as to throw off wet, it does more damage than full exposure to all weathers. Parsley under protection should have plenty of air, only using the covers when weather is severe. Grubs have kept down Parsley crops with us this season, but a few bundles of thinnings from friends will keep us well supplied. These thinnings were planted thickly in an earth-pit, and are now growing freely, and will be kept as a reserve.
Box edgings may be formed or repaired. The latter operation is very unsatisfactory. For the fresh box, let the edge be dug over, breaking the soil well, picking out any stones that might be in the way of the spade; thoroughly tread and beat down the soil to the proper level, and cut out a notch close along a mark made with the garden-line; and after the box is reduced and neatly trimmed, it should be placed in the cut made for it, placing the soil to the roots, while the plants are kept in their place with the back of the left hand, leaving the tops an inch or so above the soil; level in and tread the soil firmly, replace and level the gravel, and the operation is finished. Gravelling and turning walks may be done at any time in the winter months, making them firm by treading, levelling, and rolling. Salt stops the work of worms; care must be exercised afterwards for a time, till the salt dissolves, as if carried on to lawns with the feet, dark patches would soon be seen on the grass.