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.
When so many crops at this season are likely to be past use, the vegetable garden is liable to become untidy. Peas, Beans, Scarlet Runners, Potatoes, etc, will be turning in for use quickly; and if the ground is not to be cropped again, it should at least be cleaned. Where manure is scarce, all refuse of vegetables should be carefully harvested for turning into the ground. Earth or other material should be thrown over the heap to prevent an unpleasant smell. Rather than lose vegetable refuse, it might be wheeled on to vacant ground, made into a compact ridge, and covered with the soil till trenching has begun. All winter vegetables, such as Spinach, Turnips, late-sown Lettuce, and Onions, should have timely attention by thinning them to keep the plants clear of each other, or pricking out those requiring it. Cauliflower plants should be in a sheltered position, free from damp. A ridge made to slope to the sun often answers well when no other means are at command. A quantity of late-sown Lettuce we had last season on a ridge stood the winter without losing any, though so small that they could hardly be seen till growth commenced in spring. They were then lifted and planted in well-prepared ground.
They grew to a great size and did good service, while others which had better quarters and more attention went prematurely to seed. Cauliflower for an early lot may be placed under handlights on a sheltered border - say nine plants under each light, to be reduced to four or five in spring, when the plants lifted may be planted for a succession. Plants to be placed in a frame may be planted on ground formed to size, and the frame can be placed over when protection is necessary. All such plants should have the lights used only to keep off heavy rains, but kept close during frost and snow. An open healthy surface (by hoeing or otherwise) should be kept as long as possible. Plenty of Cabbage may now be planted. To make the best of the ground they should be placed one foot apart, so that every alternate plant (when fit for use) may be drawn, and the crop left to grow to full size: reducing the number of plants should be done in proportion to the size of kinds and strength of ground. A portion of Celery may now be earthed up for use, first slightly tying the plants together to keep them compact (matting will soon decay, but it is a safe material to prevent cutting the plants as growth proceeds). Place the earth so that the hearts are not buried.
A good watering beforehand is of great importance in securing tender crisp Celery. water can hardly be too freely given to later crops; and if they are to remain "unearthed up" for a time, a little surfacing after watering will keep in the moisture. Potatoes for seed, after being placed a short time in the sun to "green" them a little, may be keep cool and dry. Onions may be pulled and harvested in cool dry quarters, first drying them well in the sun for a few days: if they are left late out exposed to wet they are liable to take second growth, and wall not keep any length of time. All seeds which are to be saved will form strong temptation to birds, unless they are protected with nets, or otherwise looked after. Gather them dry and harvest in cool dry quarters; if placed in close drawers, etc, when damp, they will soon become mouldy. There is no profit in saving ordinary seeds where garden ground is limited; good rare kinds are always worth the trouble. When weather is unfavourable for outdoor work, all the seeds which have been left over may be examined, discarding those (such as French Beans, etc.) which are useless for next year: a note of them may be taken, which will keep the seed-bill less next season.
Brassica seed will keep good for a number of years: useless kinds, however, should be discarded. If Carrots are being attacked with grubs, etc, they may be lifted at once, and covered with sand in a cool place: better to lose some by early lifting than have the crop destroyed in the ground. On damp heavy ground, earthing up winter crops may be done with advantage, as there is no fear of them being too dry. However, in our deeply-trenched rather light ground we seldom ever earth anything up. Blanch Endive by tying it up, or placing flower-pots over the plants. Tie up Lettuce if they don't heart well; and all small salads will require attention, now the season is getting late. Golden and American Cress should be plentiful: sow it in sheltered positions, and it may give a supply all the winter. Radishes may still be tried out of doors, especially in warm southern localities. Where there are good supplies of French Beans, they may be kept on bearing by having hoops bent over them, to be covered with mats or other material when there is danger from frost. Plantations of Strawberries may now be made, well watering them if weather is dry: all that are intended to bear fruit next season should be kept free from runners and weeds, saving the healthy leaves.
The roots should not be disturbed, especially on weakly growers - though we may mention that we have seen old gardeners who practise heavy draining and deep digging between their Strawberries in winter very successful in producing fine fruit, probably the extra manuring making up in a measure for the destruction of roots. We never have advocated this system, but rather kept the roots entire. One season we had a number of Keen's Seedling which grew to a great size, and smothered many of the flowers when they opened. In the following autumn every plant was cut round their collars with a spade, cutting the roots unmercifully: the result was a finer crop on that sort than we ever had before. However, we never recommend root-cutting for any fruits unless the whole energies of the plant are making growth of foliage or wood, and no fruit. Root-pruning may be practised on gross fruit-trees which have no fruit on them: by doing it early, new roots get hold of the fresh soil before winter, but partial root-pruning is the safest method of doing it. Cutting one side this season and the other the next will gradually bring the tree into a healthy bearing state, without giving a severe check.
Where fruit is of any value on rank trees, and not ripe, root-pruning may be left undone till the crops are gathered. Next month is generally considered the proper time for planting young trees, and if time can be spared to get ground ready, and soil suitable, it will be of great advantage. If trees are to be selected in the nursery, the sooner the choice is made the better.
Wasps are unusually plentiful this year: every means will be required to save the fruit. Bottles with a little beer and sugar attract them. Tiffany or hexagon netting may be used. In absence of protection, the fruit may be gathered when it begins to ripen - it is seldom attacked before that time. If placed in a dry airy position it will ripen in fair condition. This is applicable chiefly to stone fruit, such as Plums, Peaches, Apricots, etc. Blackbirds and thrushes soon devour Pears, such as Jargonelle, Crawford, Bon Chretien, and other early sorts.
Fruits too thickly left on the trees to ripen may be helped by beginning early to thin them for culinary purposes. Heavy crops of badly-matured fruit are by no means creditable to any one, besides being false economy. Apples and Pears are generally fit to gather when the seeds turn dark. They should be placed in cool quarters for a time, with plenty of air passing among them: then they may be kept close and dark. Fruit-rooms and other places for storing fruit should be made thoroughly clean, and all parts where mice or other vermin can get in should be stopped up. Fumigating thoroughly with sulphur is a good practice to keep insects, etc, from taking up their quarters in fruit-rooms during winter.
Auriculas in pots may now be placed in their winter-quarters. They will not require to be often watered, and the lights of structures kept off except in times of wet, and abundance of fresh air, free from damp, is life to them. Any valuable plants in borders will now require protection if they will not stand frost. Cuttings of all bedding plants should have attention now. If a good stock is not already in, they should be taken off at once. Calceolarias, however, need not be put in yet - when they are early, they do not stand drought so well the following season. It is well to have them young and growing in spring, instead of coming into flower; as when they bloom early, they are seldom of much service in autumn. This is also applicable to Pansies - some we had very late are now blooming in fine condition, and no water can be afforded for them. Dahlias may have soil drawn over their roots if there is any danger of severe frost: this is often necessary where soil is heavy and wet. Keep all dead flowers off the plants, which will add much to their beauty.
Chrysanthemums may now be potted where they have been growing in the open ground: keep them in the shade, and well water them for a few days: stake them out neatly, if necessary, and place them under protection, giving plenty of light and air: after they have taken hold of the fresh soil, weak liquid-manure may be given frequently. Pelargoniums and other plants should not be exposed to cold rains, but kept airy, with plenty of light. Bulbs for potting may be bought as soon as they can be had. Hyacinths, Narcissus, Tulips, and Jonquils are general favourites, and by potting them early, and forcing some of them, plenty of flowers can be had from Christmas till April. The Early Roman Hyacinth can be had in flower as early as November, and by potting five or seven in each pot, they make a fine display. Good loam mixed with a little rotten manure and sand answers well for most kinds of bulbs: a little of the richest stuff may be placed over the drainage, and when the roots have reached it, they will make vigorous growth. A good system is to leave plenty of room for top-dressing on the surfaces of pots.
When potting, the bulbs may have a little clean sand at the base of each, leaving a third or more of the bulb out of the soil: after they are potted, place them together, and cover all over with 6 inches or so of old tan, leaf-mould, or coal-ashes, and in five or six weeks growth will be commenced, when they should be removed to where they can have light and air, and be protected. Make cuttings of Roses: when taken short jointed, with a heel to each, they strike root readily. Tulips may be planted in borders, allowing fresh healthy soil: by choosing suitable colours a find display can be made. Housing of plants to be protected in winter will now require attention, and water them in the morning. M. T.