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.
It is not uncommon at this season for those who intend planting fruit-trees during the next and following months, to go to the nursery they intend purchasing their trees from, to inspect the stock and make a choice. "First come first served" is an old adage, and those who avail themselves of an opportunity of going early, have a decided advantage over those who wait till the dregs only are left. We could name many nurseries where nothing inferior is sent out, but all of them have their best trees selected and chosen by visitors to their grounds. Trees which are expected to grow freely should be clean, free from eruptions on the bark, no dead pieces from bad pruning; all cuts should be close and nicely healed over. Whether fan or horizontal, the shoots should be regular, equal in growth, and the younger the better: old stunted trees which have not been sold and have been cut back often are worthless, and never make fine trees, and are always liable to die piecemeal from canker, etc. This is especially applicable to Apricots and Morello Cherries. Ground which is to be planted cannot be too early prepared, as the soil gets settled in time, and ready to receive the occupants. Trenched ground, in which is incorporated good fresh soil, is suitable.
Where loam cannot be had, and the natural soil is poor and light, good cow-manure will in a great measure make up for the absence of good soil. Very rich ground for any kind of fruit-trees is a great evil, as they can always be helped with manure. A good mulching at the time of planting keeps the roots near the surface, which is a great object when fine crops of highly-flavoured fruit are desirable, to say nothing of its advantage in keeping the trees in good health. Trees still making gross wood, and which have not been root-pruned, should have attention as formerly advised. A tree with large dark-green leaves and short stiff growths, on examination, will have abundance of healthy fibre, and will not be deep into poor light soil or heavy damp clay. As an example, Rivers's Early Prolific Plum with us has that characteristic, and for the last seven years has borne extra-fine crops; but as this is a bad grower, we give plenty of manure, and have enough to do to keep growth to secure fresh wood and flower-buds. Other kinds growing on the same border require a little root-pruning every second year.
No growths should, at this season, be allowed to make an appearance, as ripening would be frustrated: we mean both fruit and the wood for next year All Strawberry-runners should be kept off, to let the strength of the plants go to forming good hearts: break the surface among them lightly and preserve all the foliage. Save runners for transplanting next season, if fresh crops are wanted; they may be planted in rows on well-manured and deeply-trenched ground. On heavy clay-land low flat ridges may be thrown up, which will keep them from being destroyed with damp during winter. Mulching between the rows in spring saves them from severe drought: on dry positions this ridging is not necessary.
It is now a good time to take a note of the flower-garden, with the view of avoiding any errors which may have been committed, and rectifying them next year. It is a fact that some bedding-plants which do well in some localities and soils are worthless in others. If the stock of cuttings is not completed, it should be done without delay. Calceolarias do well put in at the end of this month, or in October. When put in early they flower quickly, and are done when they should be at their best. They should be kept cool. Many of the bedding-plants will be crowded, and ready to decay if a wet time should set in. To avoid this, a quantity of their leaves should be taken off, the tops of the shoots nipped back to the flowers which are likely to come up to the last display. We have practised this more this year than ever we did before, and never with so much advantage; decaying petals should be taken off, leaving everything which gives colour. Favourite annuals for next spring's display should be sown this month; when arranged to height and colour, much can be done for effect in spring. All tall flowering-plants should be frequently examined, to see that they are not in danger of being snapped by sudden gusts of wind.
Timely tying often saves great mischief; regular attention to cutting off dead flowers from Dahlias, Hollyhocks, etc, is necessary where high keeping is an object. Lime-water may be applied to lawns and walks where worms are at work. Two or three soakings in succession are necessary to be effectual. Mignonette may still be sown, and plants growing should have plenty of air. Violets may now be placed in frames on a gentle bottom-heat, which will cause them to root freely; a quantity of turf loam mixed with leaf-mould to place the plants on, keeping their roots entire, then fresh soil placed over and among them with the same care as if they were potted, is sure to induce fresh roots to be thrown out. They may be planted pretty close, but not crowded, watered with tepid water, kept close, and sprinkled till they get hold of the fresh soil; then abundance of light and air is necessary for them. Plants potted now will be useful in winter. Dutch bulbs may be purchased as early as possible; sound ones give the finest flowers; good loam mixed with a little sand and good rotten manure suits them. Three in 6 or 7 inch pots make a fine show, when show only is desirable.
When planting them in the pots, the richest of the soil should be placed over the drainage, and when the bulb is placed on the surface, a little sand should be loosely placed below, so that the roots may be easily led downwards. Tulips may be nearly covered with soil. Different kinds should not be planted in the same pots, as they seldom flower at the same time. I buy all my Hyacinths in threes, except a number of the best to be grown singly - Tulips, Narcissus, Jonquils, Scillas, Crocus, etc, by the dozen, hundred, or thousand, according to their value or the quantity to be used. When bulbs are potted they may be watered, the surface allowed to become partially dry, and then the pots, arranged all in order, should be placed on coal-ashes, and the surfaces covered with a few inches of fine ashes, sand, soil, old tan, or any such material, to keep the bulbs in their place; we have seen turf used for this purpose. Frequent attention is necessary to see that the bulbs are not growing up weakly under the cover.
The early Roman Hyacinth and others for first display may be had in flower early in November. The best of the bulbs which flowered last year can be turned to good account by planting them rather thickly in boxes and pots; and when in flower, a few Ferns or any other graceful plants may be placed thickly among them. Though the flowers are poor, the effect is good. Chrysanthemums in the open borders should be potted without delay. When they are lifted with good balls, fitted nicely into their pots, kindly soil placed round the roots, carefully watered and kept in the shade for a short time, they will never show signs of flagging. Those in pots must not be neglected, but have regular attention, as formerly advised. All structures which are to be filled with plants during winter should now be thoroughly washed and cleaned, if there is any fear of insects about them. They should be emptied and thoroughly fumigated with sulphur, which will kill all animal life. Plants must not be allowed to come in contact with the fumes, as death to them would be certain.
All hard-wooded plants, such as Camellias, Epacris, Heaths, Acacias, etc, must now be got ready to be taken under cover. Clean the pots, examine the drainage, and put a clean surfacing over them, first clearing off moss-covered and wasted soil, and then they are ready to be arranged in their winter-quarters. Scale and thrips on the foliage should not be tolerated. Oranges and Camellias are subject to their attacks. Cinerarias, Calceolarias, and Primulas should have every encouragement to finish a healthy growth; a wet close atmosphere gives weakly foliage and poor flowers. Prevent them from being pot-bound by timely shifts. Primulas flowering prematurely in small pots may be turned to useful account by regular supplies of manure-water, and a surfacing of decayed manure and leaf-mould. Pelargoniums, "stage sorts," may now require shifting to larger pots. Timely attention is necessary to prevent them from becoming pot-bound. Plenty of healthy roots in the pots is always a safe guide as to shifting the plants to larger pots. Whatever is potted at this season should have plenty of drainage - larger pieces at bottom, and smaller ones over them.
As the season advances, watering requires the more care, always giving enough to reach all the roots and soil; pouring it into pots when the soil has shrunk from the sides is labour thrown away, and the plants are thus destroyed. Fumigate with tobacco such plants as require it whenever insects are observed. Short pieces of Roses root well when placed in sandy soil this month. For tender kinds handlights or frames are necessary. M. T.