This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Those who have no greenhouse, and yet are desirous of preserving many half hardy plants through the winter, employ cold pits. Choose the driest situation in the garden, and sink about five feet in depth. It is important that no water can be obtained at the bottom. The pit may be of any length required, and about five feet wide, so as to accommodate six feet sash. The inside of the pit may be built up of boards, or, if something more durable and substantial is required, brick or stone. The body of the frame may be built up a few feet above the level of the surrounding soil, and the earth which comes from the pit be employed in banking up to the upper level of the frame. Shelving should be made for the inside so as to extend from the base of the front to nearly the top of the back, on which to place the plant in pots. In the space which will then be under the staging, hard wooded and deciduous plants, as lemon verbena, fuchsias, etc., may be safely stored, while the more succulent kinds are shelved overhead. The plants to be preserved in such a pit should be potted early, and be well established and healthy before being pitted; much of success depends on this. The less water they can be made to live on without withering through the winter the better they will keep.
Straw mats must be employed to cover the glass when freezing time commences, and when the thermometer is likely to fall below 20°, straw or litter should be thrown over. Board shutters are also excellent, as it keeps the snow out from the straw and litter, which sometimes makes the mats very awkward to uncover when we would like to give air. Very little light or air will be required through the winter when the plants are not growing. If a good fall of snow covers the pit, it may lie on undisturbed for two weeks or more without injury. When a warm, dry day offers the sashes may be raised if convenient, to dry up the damp. Many kinds of border plants can be kept over winter in this way with little trouble.
Those who have greenhouses, pits or frames, will now see to having any necessary repairs attended to. White-washing annually is serviceable, destroying innumerable eggs of insects, in the war against which the gardener should always take the initiative; sulphur mixed with the whitewash is also serviceable. Powerful syringing is a great help to keeping plants clean, and should be frequently resorted to.
Propagation of bedding plants for another season will now be progressing actively. Geraniums, and other things with firm wood, do best in sand spread on the open ground, with a glass frame partially shaded spread over it. A great benefit will be found in most cuttings if they are placed for a short time in slightly damp moss for a few days before inserting the same, so that the wound at the base of the cutting may be partially healed or calloused over. Verbenas, and such cuttings, can be kept but a few hours, unless the wood is very hard. The harder the wood the longer they will do to keep so. Ripe wood of some things will be benefited by keeping two weeks. All this must be found out by each propagator himself.
It is very good time to look around for soil for potting purposes. The surface soil of old pasture forms the best basis, which can be afterwards lightened with sand, or manured with any special ingredients to suit special cases, as required. The turfy or peaty surfaces of old wood or bogs also come very "handy." A stock of moss should also be on hand for those who crock pots, in order to cover the potsherd; moss also comes in useful for many purposes connected with gardening, and should be always on hand.
Plants intended to be taken from the open ground and preserved through the winter, should be lifted early, that they may root a little in the pots. A moist day is of course best for the purpose, and a moist shady place the best to keep them in for a few days afterwards. Anything that is somewhat tender had better be housed before the cold nights come. Some things are checked without actual frost.