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.
There is much that is pleasant at this season in well-kept gardens. Order, of course, should be stamped on every part of the grounds. Plots should be well filled with vegetables; and every flower-bed and border will now be as gay as they have been all the season; and "keeping" may be said to be the greater part of the labour at present. Whenever crops are done with, the space should be cleared without delay, manure given, and the ground turned up and planted or sown; or, if not required, it should at least be kept free from weeds, which only (by their seeding on the ground) give labour for years to come. Hoeing and surface-stirring must be well followed up, and thinning attended to in time. Allowing crops - such as Spinach, Lettuce, Onions, etc. - to become matted before they are thinned, prevents them from becoming hardy and able to stand the winter. Spinach we allow 8 or 9 inches between each plant, and when growth becomes strong in spring a number of the plants are pulled out by the roots. However, where this crop is liable to die off, it is best to thin by degrees, allowing the plants always to stand clear of each other. The same applies to Onions; and dustings of soot and burnt earth help to keep away grubs, etc.
Lettuce can be thinned out in the rows or beds, and the best of the plants planted on a warm sheltered spot. Dryness is of the greatest importance in winter. We prefer a sharp ridge, and planting 6 or 8 inches apart, so that every alternate plant may be cut out when fit for use and a crop left. Lettuce-seed may still be sown. The finest lot of Lettuces which stood the winter were on raised Asparagus-beds, where a few good Brown Cos were allowed to ripen seed, and some were blown about the ground and left to grow. Wood-ashes or dustings of lime are necessary to keep grubs and slugs in check. Cauliflowers may be pricked out where they are to stand the winter. Shelter from the east and north is necessary. A piece of rather dry ground, measured to the size of a frame, may be pricked full, and the frame placed over to keep off rain and sharp frost. When the season is advanced, hand-glasses are useful for protecting and bringing on early Cauliflowers. A sloping bank, well broken and in moderately rich condition, answers well. The lights are fitted on, and the spaces filled with nine plants or more, to be reduced to five in spring, when they are earthed up. To get them very early we have often kept the plants in pots, allowing them plenty of room to grow.
Some sow the seed in a box about the beginning of November, and keep them growing near the glass, with plenty of air and free from damp, and prick them out in March. They are about as early as those sown late in August. We give both systems a chance, and sow again in February, and by the three sowings for early work we are always sure of plenty of early Cauliflower; but if the plants are drawn up weakly for want of light and air, ruin is certain. Let ground be well prepared for a plantation of Cabbage. Strawberries trenched down, and if the ground when turned up is poor, a good coating of very rotten manure under the top spit will help the Cabbage on in spring when the roots reach it. We strongly object to either sowing or planting (at this season) in ground newly dressed with rank manure. Cabbage may be planted doubly thick at this season, so that every alternate plant can be cut for early use, and the crop left at proper distance afterwards. Puddle the roots before planting in a little soot, cow-dung, and earth, mixed with water, which will help to keep grubs at bay after planting. Thick-skinned grubs often secrete themselves by the necks of the plants and eat them through. Hand-picking is the only effectual remedy we have tried for getting rid of them.
The smaller Cabbage in the seed-rows or beds should be pricked out in a sheltered position to stand over for February or March planting. Rank-growing Parsley may be cut down to give a supply of tops in early winter. Let plenty be planted out from the thinnings of later successions. When allowed to become crowded, the leaves are weak, the quality inferior, and the frost and wet act severely on the crowns. Lift Potatoes as they become ripe. Medium-sized tubers may be placed in the sun to become green. Ail seeds should be gathered as they become ripe. Some of them can be kept in pod, where they cannot be scattered about, and cleaned out and put in bags when weather is wet. Keep up supplies of Salads. Larger quantities of each kind may now be sown; they will last long in the cool season, and can be protected when frost is expected. This applies to Cress of sorts; American and Golden are excellent, Radishes and Mustard. Where French Beans are likely to last long, they should have some kind of temporary frame made round a portion of them, or hoops bent over them so that mats may be thrown over for protection. New Zealand Spinach, Ice-plant, or any other thing useful through the autumn, should be protected if they are wanted. Tie up Endive to blanch, or place flower-pots over the plants.
Celery and Cardoons may be earthed up. A month or less before they are wanted will do. We do not hold with earthing them up piecemeal, but give a good surfacing of decayed manure, covered with a little earth, and a portion is earthed up as required; and when fully-grown late crops are forward enough, they are earthed up all at once. No soil should fall in their hearts, and the leaves should be kept clear above the soil. Soakings of manure water will be of great service if the weather is dry. Onions, if not already pulled, may be taken up soon, dried a few days, then stripped of the greater part of their tops, tied to sticks, say, 2 or 3 feet long, and hung up in a dry shed where the air can play freely at all times. Laying them on floors in lofts is a bad practice, except the air can circulate from all sides. Injury from frost need not be feared if the bulbs can be kept thoroughly dry.