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.
Much time and attention will now be required where gardens are to be kept free from litter, falling and decaying leaves, which offend the eye as well as the sense of smell. All the Brassica tribe of plants should be gone over, and the lower leaves taken off; many will be decaying among Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Savoys, and Kale. Air freely admitted among them is very essential to their wellbeing. Leaves from fruit-trees will now be coming off freely, and should not be allowed to remain in quantities by the side of the box or other edgings, otherwise long dead patches may follow. Everything of a decaying nature should be taken to a considerable distance from any dwelling. There should be nothing likely to produce fungi taken to the general heap, but should be charred along with parings of walk-edgings, prunings, etc, to be taken to the vegetable, fruit, or flower ground. This dressing, especially on old garden-ground which has been highly manured, has a more kindly and sweetening influence than is generally admitted. We often, to save time and labour, have all decaying garden-refuse wheeled on to empty ground, and left in ridges covered with earth till the whole can be trenched down 2 or 3 spades deep.
However, at present there should be little empty space where close cropping is practised. The clearing off of autumn Cauliflowers, Strawberries, etc, may give space, but no manure should lie exposed to be wasted by evaporation. Beech and Oak leaves should be gathered when they are dry, and kept in store to be used with manure for hotbed-making - the leaves retain the heat and keep the bed regular for a long time. A hotbed here, which was made last November with a large proportion of Beech-leaves among the dung, is still warm, and plenty of Cucumbers are produced. We have seen some Pine-Apple growers stack and thatch their tree-leaves as one would corn. Let everything be done now to help on winter work. Any improvements and renovations may be executed; box edgings made and repaired; gravelling walks, draining, trenching, and preparing for fruit-tree planting: collecting of soils, etc, may be carried on when opportunity affords. Ordinary trenching and digging may be commenced, but we prefer leaving this work till most of the tree-leaves are down. Let more Cabbage be planted if required. If those left in the seed-bed are loosened or otherwise disturbed, let them either have some clean earth placed round the roots, or lift them and place them in sheltered quarters.
Where there is no fence or wall for shelter, much can be done by using Pea-stakes thickly on the north and east sides of the plants. Lettuce and Cauliflower may still be planted and otherwise attended to, as advised last month. Let slugs and other unwelcome visitors be carefully looked after. Dustings of lime and small coal-ashes over every surface where young plants are growing will keep them safe. About the end of the month Lettuce and Endive ready for use, lifted with all their roots and placed in earth under protection, will keep up a supply for some time. Growing plants of the above may be planted in frames, giving plenty of air when weather is dry and not frosty, and when wet bricks may be placed at top and bottom of the sashes in the way which market growers use their Mignonette, Stocks, Radishes, etc, through the winter. No one would imagine the attention they give to airing unless they witnessed the men at work; and well the attention given is remunerated. Endive may be blanched by placing slates or boards over the plants; doing a small quantity frequently will keep up a supply. Carrots may now be lifted and stored away. Let them be moderately dry before they are taken under cover; large heaps of them are liable to decay if stored away damp.
A quantity of dry straw thrown over them will keep them as well as anything. A pit built in the earth, with covering to keep out frost, damp, etc, makes a good "store" for roots of all kinds. The best for the purpose we know is an old icehouse, with shelves round the sides, and covered over, water and rat proof. Celery may be earthed-up as required, allowing the hearts to remain clear of the soil. Keep the leaves erect and compact. If the ground should be dry, give a good soaking of manure-water before earthing-up. Earthing-up Cabbage, Savoys, Kale, etc, may be done with advantage at this season, especially if they are in exposed positions; however, it is years since we did anything of the kind, the ground being rather dry, and the filling-in of the drills drawn for the plant keeps the stems in their places. A quantity of Parsley may be lifted and placed under protection, so that when snow or severe weather might set in, picking the Parsley-tops could be done without injuring the plant. Hoops, over which mats, etc, can be placed, is a good system for protecting tender or other plants. Peas in full bearing might be kept on, if timely attention could be given, with mats.
When frost sets in while covering, the material should not touch the plants, as they would get frozen together, and the latter would be destroyed entirely. Our sunk pits, filled with Little Gem and Tom Thumb, might have done good service in November, but the want of water and time to apply the little we could spare has brought on premature fruiting. Care must be exercised when winter Spinach is picked, so that the outside leaves only should be taken, leaving the heart entire. Laying down Broccolis with their hearts from the sun may be done now, to prevent the sun injuring their hearts by rapid thawing after frost; soft vigorous growth is also checked. Cauliflower and autumn Broccolis turning in too quickly may be lifted and placed by the roots in earth behind a wall, shrubbery, etc, which will keep up a succession for some time.
Pears and Apples are mostly gathered this month; for the sake of convenience keep late and early kinds separate. If there is room to lay them thinly on shelves, they will be less likely to be injured from handling when the ripe ones are picked out. Keep the fruit-room dry and airy for a short time after the crop is housed, and for late keeping a dry, close, and dark house is best: keep cool, but frost should be excluded. Examine the fruit frequently for some time, so that all that are decaying may be taken away. Trees for walls and orchards may now be ordered without delay; old trees, which have been frequently cut down, should not be accepted for planting though offered gratis. Choose young healthy plants of even growth, clean bark, free from old wounds or snags. Wide borders well mixed with fresh turfy loam will suit most trees. Concrete, used in a semicircle for a yard or more next the wall, will prevent the roots from going into the subsoil. When planting, the soil should be made firm and the roots spread over the surface - cutting off any that are broken or very long and coarse; fibre is what will give success.
The roots should be kept up nearly on a level with the surrounding soil, placing a layer of good earth over them 6 inches or more deep; then a mulching of litter over all to keep out frost. The shoots should be fastened so that they will not be beaten by high winds; but allowance should be made for the trees sinking, that they may not be allowed to hang on the ties; making the soil thoroughly firm will in a manner counteract the evil.
Bedding plants of all kinds should soon be where protection can be given. They may be placed in the pits or other winter-quarters, but give plenty of air on every favourable opportunity. All things must now be watered carefully, always giving enough to moisture all the soil about the roots, but it need be given only when really necessary. Fresh air, free from damp, is now desirable for Cinerarias, Primulas, Pelargoniums, etc. The latter, if not already done, should be shaken out of the old soil, the roots reduced, and repotted into smaller pots. More sand than when in flowering-pots is necessary till the roots are plentiful. If plants are too numerous for the means to grow them in, it would be well to give some of them away, or destroy them, rather than crowd and weaken the whole stock. Calceolaria cuttings may now be taken off an inch or two long, using the young tops. Use sandy loam in pans, pots, or shallow boxes, well drained: place some clean sand over the surface, and put in the cuttings firmly; shade them from sun, keep moderately moist, but no damp should be harboured among the plants. China Roses for flowering in pots may now be cut back or regulated: give fresh surfacing, but avoid battering the dressing down, which keeps out air from the plants.
Everything which is to be cared for through the winter should now be looked after. Plants, however hardy, if they are in pots, require protection from frost. Dahlias should now be protected to keep them in bloom, but covering and uncovering them is scarcely worth while. Chrysanthemums will now require manure-water. M. T.