This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", 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.
Where Pea-sticks are not easily got, as in the case of villa gardens, I would recommend the adoption of a plan I once saw practised by an amateur, which is, to drive in stakes along the sides of the rows, and fix tightly to the stakes common sheep-netting, one width of which is sufficient for the dwarfer sorts; and in small gardens it is questionable practice to grow the tall varieties. These nets are an excellent substitute for stakes, are not so unsightly, and, as they last several years, are not more expensive.
For a regular succession of Peas, it is not necessary to grow many sorts, and the following are all good kinds in their respective classes: -
Ringleader, Sangster's No. 1, Dilliston's Early Prolific, Emperor.
Advancer, Laxton's Prolific, Early Frame, Prize-taker.
General Wyndham, Lynn's Marrow.
All old gardens, and particularly the one in question, are often infested with insects of various sorts. The Pear scale has reigned predominant here on the wall-trees apparently for a considerable number of years. It made one sorry to look at what once had been one of the features of these gardens - the beautiful trained trees - going limb by limb with a complete investiture of scale, which, like John Brown's ghost, still kept marching on. To put a stop to their triumphant march, I had before me a large field to experiment upon; and knowing from previous practice what would kill both insects and trees, I endeavoured to steer clear of that rock, at the same time I knew that a desperate case required a desperate cure.
Before trying any of the new insecticides, I made a very strong brewing of soft soap and salt, applied it to the trees as hot as possible, and with much force, from the garden-engine, until it lathered against the walls; and for some time the walls acted as a very good barometer, prognosticating the change of weather. I believe this application of brine killed many of the more tender insects which generally harbour about old garden-walls, for during summer the trees were unusually free from the leaf-maggot. As the brine fell to the ground, I have no doubt but many of the insects were killed which secrete themselves under the surface of the soil along the bottom of the walls; at all events, after a time I could plainly see that the dressing had no effect upon the Pear scale. But not to be beat with so many insecticides in the market, I returned to the charge, trying half a tree with one sort and the other half with another sort; but, good or useful as I know those insecticides to be upon tender insects, I failed to perceive that they had any killing effect on the Pear scale, so close do they adhere to the branches.
Being again foiled in my object of eradicating the scale, and knowing the deadly effect of oils upon vegetation as a wholesale killer, I was loath to try them; but paraffin-oil I never had tried. Train-oil I have used for Peaches and Vines when in a dormant state - say, a pint of train-oil (not a Scotch pint) to 5 gallons of soft water, with a good handful of sulphur, adding a little soft soap, stirring all well together, makes a quick and safe dressing for ordinary purposes. The object for using soft water is simply this, that train-oil will not mix with hard water. This dressing can be applied to the trees with the syringe or the garden-engine, keeping it well stirred during its application to hold the sulphur in suspension. This dressing I have used without any deleterious effect to the trees, further than making them feel a little greasy, but this wore off in time with the general syringing, and greatly prevents the quick travel of the Peach scale; but, like the others, it is too weak to combat the Pear scale.
On a small scale I tried, by way of experiment, on the strong branches of an old tree which was very badly infested with scale, both train-oil and paraffin-oil, not mixed, but separate. Both did its work effectually in killing the scale; and, to my great surprise, in a few days the paraffin-oil had completely evaporated, and left the remains of the dead scale quite loose to be blown off or washed off with the elements, while the branches done with the train-oil remain until this day as if polished on purpose. Finding myself safe to a certain extent after my discovery with the paraffin-oil, I had the affected trees dressed wholesale, and I continued dressing them in the spring until the buds were \ an inch long, without doing any injury, although I would recommend the trees to be done properly while in a dormant state, applying the paraffin just as it is bought with a painters' brush; and, singular to remark, on those branches which were worst incrusted with the scale, when set at liberty, as it were, by the dressing of paraffin-oil, the bark less or more cracked, and pushed out breastward from what I believe to be quite dormant branches; and I may also state that the fresh foliage was remarkably beautiful.
My opinion of Stratagem Peas was exactly like that given in last month's 'Gardener.' I do not think, taking the crop as a whole, that we could get our seed out of it again. But I saw it near Liverpool, in the garden under the care of Mr Bardney, and there it was really fine. What becomes of all the new Peas, by the way 1 I try some of the new ones every year, and still continue to depend on old sorts. While writing of Peas, I may say I think very highly indeed of Early Sunrise, a sort distributed this year for the first time. It was our earliest Pea here, coming in even before plants raised in heat and planted out under protection till established. William the First I cannot depend on now, so many rogues have got mixed up with the real Simon Pure. I find Princess Royal a most profitable second early Pea; so is Champion of England, but it requires high cultivation. For flavour and general usefulness as a late Pea, nothing has yet come up to Ne Plus Ultra. I always get the finest Peas off the preceding year's Celery trenches.
I never manure the ground for Peas; they are fond of potash, and fresh manure as commonly used is of no use for Peas - at least such is my experience.