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.
Cucumbers and Melons will require careful attention, now that nights are becoming colder. Keep up a regular heat by linings or otherwise. Water, when required, should be given in the mornings. Sprinkling the plants where dung is used will not be necessary now. Air must be given on every favourable opportunity. Keep Strawberries free from runners, so that the crowns may have all the benefit of the plant. Some have faith in cutting off the entire foliage from the plant; but we never tried the experiment, and to those who tell us of their success by this practice, we only (in reply) say that success would have been much greater if the leaves had been preserved. Thinning overgrown crowns is quite another thing; we have often to do this, our ground being very deep and rich. Where young plants are scarce, it is a useful practice to save the best of the crowns when rooting out old plants, and plant them in well-prepared ground, on a large brake of Sir Harry and British Queen. Treated thus, we had this year a splendid crop of very large fruit. The divisions were planted last October. Protecting fruit from birds must not be neglected. When the grain from the fields is housed, many birds return in flocks to gardens.
Gather fruit as it ripens; bruised or fallen ones should be kept separate for using up. As the store-rooms get filled, air should be kept on, and for a few weeks after the crops are all in; then a close, dark, and dry room is most suitable for long keeping. Fruit-rooms, before they are filled, should be fumigated several times with sulphur, and thoroughly washed and dried. Cleanliness is of great importance to fruit-keeping; damp is a great evil. No growths should be allowed to grow on fruit-trees now; everything should be done to expose the wood (for next year's fruiting) to sun and air. A good washing with a syringe or engine should be given to Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, etc, to clear off dust and insects. If mildew appears, let a good dusting of sulphur be given. Trees are too often neglected with water at the roots after the fruit is gathered; premature ripening takes place, and perhaps accompanied with mildew; the wood looks hard and fruitful, and opens great clusters of flowers in spring; but as the season advances the greater part drops and the cry is, "Severe weather," "Wet," and everything but the right thing, when the whole evil might have been prevented by careful autumn treatment. Keeping the shoots long off the walls in autumn is another evil to be guarded against.
Unripened wood is an evil on the opposite side. While some advise getting the wood well hardened and brown, they sometimes omit to mention the necessity of keeping the foliage and roots healthy. Our early Peach-trees, which ripened their fruit in June, are now quite green in foliage. The wood is brown all over, and when the hand is drawn over the fleshy leaves they fall easily off, and the wood is clustered with buds. The roots are near the surface, and both water-pot and syringe have been freely used hitherto. With a current of air passing over the whole surface (dryness is now necessary for a time), we could always keep trees on walls in similar condition. Healthy fibre is the principal agent in securing success. Our late trees, which are very heavy in crop, were punished in the spring by keeping the ventilation open in all weathers. Many of the newly-formed fruit fell off, but plenty remained to be thinned off. Raspberries done fruiting may have the old wood cut out to let air in among the young canes; but where the canes are liberally treated, there will be plenty of fruit till the frost takes them off. Good mulching in spring secures all we require till October, though some tell us we have to get "perpetual-bearing" Rasps for autumn supply.
We can manage nicely with Falstaff. A quantity of a wild white kind brought in from the woods last spring, and planted on a trench well filled up with dung and leaf-mould, is now bearing crops of fruit, many of which are an inch through. The canes were cut down to within 2 feet of the ground. Morello Cherries and Currants to be kept for some time on the trees should be kept dry if possible. Thin canvas keeps off wasps and lets in air, but rain splits the Cherries and rots the Currants. Oil-cloth to take off and on would be useful if the fruit were worth the expense. Trees in great vigour should have their roots half lifted, cutting any tap ones clean off, and make the ground hard under them. Dung placed under the roots is a great mistake, as it leads them downwards.
All watering may now be done in the morning; more care is necessary, as plants require less of it. Drainage should now be kept well cleared, and no worms in pots should be tolerated. Clean pots and open healthy surfaces are of great importance.
Stake Chrysanthemums, if not already done. Let the wood cover the stakes as much as possible; nothing is less in accordance with good taste than a mass of sticks propping a plant. Dahlias and all other autumn - flowering plants require to be well secured against wind. If Carnations, Pinks, etc, are to be grown in pots, they should be lifted carefully, and potted in good turfy loam and sand, free from wire worms, and placed on a hard surface where the water would drain off freely. A frame with lights which can be pushed on to keep off heavy rains is of great advantage. We leave hundreds of red and white Clove-layers on the stools all winter, and plant them in well-prepared ground in March. They bloom well from July to Christmas. Anne Boleyn Pinks are valuable for flowering early. The scent is so good and the colour uncommon, every garden should have long lines of them. They are easily managed, and very hardy. Bulbs - such as Hyacinths, Tulips, Narcissus, etc. - should now have attention. Purchasing is a mere lottery. High prices are often taken for very inferior kinds. Last season we had far finer flowers from bulbs bought at 50s. per hundred than those we were charged Is. 6d. each for. Nevertheless, novelty requires a price, and "fanciers" are seldom opposed to paying for their hobby.
Bulbs should be solid, heavy in proportion to their size, and quite free from decay on any part of them. The largest size are seldom the best for throwing compact and vigorous spikes. Good turfy loam three parts, one part decayed manure and sand, will give vigour throughout the whole period of growth. However, when potting three or more bulbs in a pot, we put extra rich stuff over the drainage, so that the roots can have plenty when they go down. Manure-water may be freely given when the spikes are showing. When potting, only half cover the bulb, placing a little sand where the roots are to be emitted. The pots may then be stood on a firm bottom, and 6 or 8 inches of old tan, fine coal-ashes, or sand, placed over their surface, will keep the bulbs in their place till they grow an inch, when they should be taken out and placed in a cold frame for a time, to be taken to force if required, which, however, is best done gently, beginning with a slight bottom-heat, keeping the crowns near the glass. There are several early kinds which come in quickly without forcing. Tulips, Narcissus, etc, do with the same treatment as Hyacinths. Propagate all kinds of decorative plants for next year.
Any which are to be saved from frost should be lifted in time, potted in light sandy soil, and placed in a frame, watering thoroughly at first, but afterwards only when really necessary. Large quantities of Pansies should be placed under hand-glasses, or behind a wall; they are of great service where glass is scarce. Rose-cuttings will root freely in sandy soil if they are taken off with a "heel" joint. All plants which have stood out through the summer, and are to be under protection through the winter, should be taken in now. Let the pots be thoroughly washed, the surfaces stirred; all drainage must be secure and free from worms. A little clean soil placed over the surfaces of the pots will give a neat appearance. Hardy annuals for spring decoration may be sown at the end of the month. Pelargoniums which have been cut down and well broke into growth, maybe reduced at the roots and potted into smaller pots, using rather sandy loam; but richer soil is necessary after they have made plenty of roots. Cinerarias, Primulas, and other favourites may have more sun, and should be looked after for green-fly. Weak manure-water may be given when the pots are full of roots.