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.
Fruits, such as Morello and Belle Agathe Cherries, late Plums, Red Currants, and others liable to the attack of insects, etc, will require frequent attention; better to use them for culinary purposes than let them hang, and lose the best of them. Plums, if gathered dry, and hung up by their stalks in a dry room, will keep good for some time; however, if their skins are broken they will soon become useless. The present month is a good time for planting fruit-trees, and if the necessary preparation has been made, it may be done as early as possible, as it will be of great advantage to the trees. Good loam and plenty of it, the trees planted well above the surrounding surface, mulched to keep out frost, and prevented from being moved by wind, are the primary objects to be kept in view when fruit-trees are planted. The roots of the trees should be examined, and if any parts are broken they should be cut clean off. If allowed to die back, they may produce canker and other evils. When trees are planted against walls, they should be kept clear (about 8 inches at the stem), to allow room for growth. It is necessary, when planting fruit-trees on walls, to consider aspects suitable to the trees. In well-sheltered gardens the difficulties in this respect are less than in exposed bleak positions.
For Peaches and Apricots, southern and south-western are best. Easterly is chosen generally for Plums, westerly for Pears and Cherries, northern for Morello Cherries, and Currants to hang late. But trees are often found healthy and in good bearing condition on all aspects except northern, which is generally kept for hardy fruits which are to give late supplies. Lists of the hardier kinds of fruits for walls may be useful to the inexperienced and fresh beginners. Peaches - the hardiest we have met is Violette Hative, and a grand bearer, generally of fine flavour and appearance; Stirling Castle, Royal George, and Bellegarde are very good kinds, of fine quality; the last named is of the highest flavour, and a very free bearer. Among Plums, Pond's Seedling is large and a free bearer; of the Victoria class, the Victoria never fails, and when ripened with full exposure is a good dessert kind, as well as one of the best for kitchen use. Jefferson is one of the best for all purposes; Kirke's Seedling is good, but not such a sure bearer in some districts; it is a grand standard in the South of England. So are Nectarine Plum, Prince of Wales, and Victoria, but in the north they are not of much value as standards, but excellent on walls or for orchard-house work.
Apricots - Moorpark still holds the highest position. Nectarines - Downton, Violette Hative, and Pitmaston Orange, are three of the most useful. Cherries - May Duke, Black Tartarian, and (for lateness only) Belle Agathe, are very productive kinds. Some of the white-hearted varieties are of the highest flavour. The Cherry delights in very strong soil. Figs for outdoor culture in the north are, Brown Turkey, Brown Ischia, and Black Ischia; Brunswick is a very large and handsome Fig, and when ripened rather dry at root, it is very highly flavoured. Although it is mentioned in Dr Hogg's 'Fruit Manual' as a good variety for walls, this chiefly applies to the south or very favoured positions. It is excellent for a back wall of a cool house in the north. With much damp at root or overhead when ripening, accompanied with dull cold weather, it gives way before it is fit for use, but is a grand Fig. White Marseilles is the most delicious Fig we know, and one of the best bearers, not hardy enough for wall-culture in the north, but very easily managed in the south. The late Mr W. Allan, gardener for so many years at Rendlesham Hall, Suffolk, used to grow this Fig as a standard under Vines, never failing in securing two splendid crops every season.
We force it on a back wall under Vines, to come in early in April, but our success is very moderate compared with Mr Allan's. But second crops are generally very abundant and of a rich sugary flavour, sometimes coming greenish-brown, and at others of a pale straw colour. Among Apples, for standards, Stirling Castle, King of Pippins, Lord Suffield, Aitkin's No. 2, have never been thin in crop here during the last seven years. Except the King of Pippins, the others are chiefly for kitchen use. Pears for standards - Beurre d'Amanlis, Flemish Beauty, Moorfowl Egg, Early Crawford, Hessel, and Louise Bonne of Jersey, are among the hardiest with us.
The storing of fruit is a matter of great importance, and any extra care should be bestowed on it in the way of selecting the soundest for latest keepers, and preventing the fruit from being bruised, handling it as little as possible, etc. Dry weather should be chosen for gathering fruit which is expected to keep. The house should be kept dry and airy for two or three weeks, then it might afterwards be kept close and dark; it should not be opened on close, damp days. Fruit, such as Pears and Apples, is fit to gather when it parts easily from the stalks, and when the seeds get dark - premature gathering is followed by shrivelling.
Where bushes are not bearing well, they may be lifted to any suitable position, the roots carefully laid out in fresh healthy soil and mulched; they will be greatly improved in health, and the fruit will be much finer in appearance and flavour. One of the most successful examples of this treatment for bushes we have seen was at the gardens of Grangemuir, Pittenweem: Mr Rose, the intelligent gardener, had a large breadth of red Warrington Gooseberries growing where they were entirely kept from sun by trees and shrubs, and were evidently worthless. The best of them were planted in a suitable position in the kitchen-garden, and the results have been excellent. We give this note, remembering that "example is always better than precept".
Flower-gardens will now be past their best, except the weather should be extra fine. Geraniums, or anything that is scarce and worth increasing, should be lifted before they are destroyed by too much wet and frost; trim off a quantity of the leaves, shorten back the long roots, and pot in nice healthy loam, sand, and leaf-mould. Water moderately, and as the season advances they will require very little moisture - confined damp is next to frost as an enemy for destroying bedding plants in winter. Careful watering is of great importance when growth is slow and roots inactive: plants of any kind should not be placed where pots can be entered by worms. Calceolarias may be put in during the month, or later. Short stiff cuttings placed in sandy loam (made moderately firm) on the bottom of a frame or pit, and the cuttings put in a few inches apart, and kept from frost and rain, will do well, and make nice vigorous plants in spring, which will start freely into growth: pans, boxes, or pots filled in the usual way, if watered carefully, will answer well enough. It is now a good time to divide herbaceous plants, reducing them, and planting according to height and colour; they root readily, and start off into growth freely in spring. Bulbs of all kinds may be planted.