This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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.
Another thing of great importance to know and understand is, in what position the workman ought to place himself at the work. Let us start with a tree which is in position against the wall, and only requiring to be looked over for deficient or injurious ties and nails, and to have the summer growths neatly put into their places. In this case the workman begins at the bottom of the wall on either the right or left hand side - it matters not; if on the left side, he looks the bottom branch from the stem outwards to the point, removing all bad ties, etc, and if necessary replacing them by new ones. In performing this operation let him always keep to the left of his work - or before his work, as it is termed - so that in placing the branch into position he directs his eye along towards the stem in order to see if it is straight. This looking along the branch must always be done before the nail is driven, because if not done till after, the chances are that it may require shifting, thereby causing double work. A common and bad practice is to place the branch in its position, thereafter to give up hold of it and select the nail and shred, and to take hold of it again, replace it, and put in the nail. It is easy to see what a waste of time this will cause.
The first thing in every case is to take the nail and shred as directed, placing the shred round the branch, thereafter laying down the branch in such a position as the eye determines to be the correct one, and nailing it to the wall. If this course is regularly followed, a man may work for days and never require to alter a single nail which he has driven. The advantage in always looking along the branch towards the stem is, that if the branch is in any degree departing from the straight the eye will at once detect it, whereas in looking from the stem in an outward direction a deviation is not so easily noticed; in fact, in a branch 20 feet long, a deviation of 6 inches will not be more easily detected by the latter means than will a deviation of 1 inch be noticed in looking from the point to the stem. Branch after branch must be gone over in this way till the top of the wall is reached, after which the workman descends and begins at the bottom of the opposite side.
In nailing a large tree to the wall which has been entirely detached, a somewhat different course must be pursued. The workman in this case must first "lay in" the stem or leader, after which he must start at the top of the wall, laying in the branches regularly from the top downwards. The reason for this is evident, because, the branches all being detached, if he were to begin at the bottom, the loose branches would continually be in his way. The leading branches, however, may be regularly spread into their permanent position ere the general training of the tree begins.
Another thing which demands consideration, and is of great importance, is to know upon which side of the branch the nail should be placed. The theory and practice of the work is this: themain stem ought to be trained in an erect position; the nail and shred should be placed on either side alternately. After this the lower branches must be trained horizontally, the first nail and shred being placed upon the upper side of the branch. A common practice is to place them on the under side; but this is a great mistake, as by doing so the branch has a great chance to be split away from the stem by the drag or strain of the shred, whereas if the shred is placed upon the upper side, all the strain is in an upward direction, and will have a tendency to prevent what the other system is likely to incur. The shred placed upon the upper side pulls the branch towards its natural position, whereas if placed on the under side, it pulls it into the most likely position to cause injury to the tree. All the other main branches, it will be noticed, should be done in a similar manner, and for the same reasons.
Coming, however, to the lateral or side branches, the case is reversed, because those proceeding from the upper side of the main branches ought to have the first nail and shred placed upon the under side, in order that the strain ought to be towards the parent branch from which it sprung. The reasons for this are the same as those already given in the former case. I have only further to add, that every workman should have a set of ladders to himself, if the work is to be thoroughly and expeditiously done. For a wall of say 15 feet, three ladders are required - one about 4, one about 8, and one about 12 feet in height. Unless ladders suitable for the work are provided, it is impossible that it can be well done.
I now draw these papers to a close, and I trust they have not been uninteresting or unacceptable to the readers of the 'Gardener.' I have endeavoured to place before the reader my own practice, so far as I thought it had been successful; but in many cases I have sought help and advice from those upon whom I could rely, and whose knowledge and experience of hardy fruits, as well as their success in management, was a guarantee that their practice would be acceptable to the readers of the 'Gardener.' If in one isolated case these papers have proved of any use, I will not consider my labour to have been in vain. I know that what I have written may not, in many cases, agree with the practice of many good gardeners. I nevertheless have presented my "unvarnished tale" before your readers, not in the belief that all I have said is the best and only way to manage hardy fruits, but in the belief that it is the best that I know. Believing as I do that gardeners are always learning, I shall ever be ready to learn the practice of others; and wherever anything good or new is to be taught, there will not be a more apt scholar in all the realms of Pomona's kingdom than the author of these simple papers.