This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
These are an important crop in the southern part of the county. It is estimated that there are about 2000 ac. of Strawberries grown in this large district; but it is difficult to obtain an approximately correct estimate. They are usually grown in the breadths between the Plum trees, but many are grown in the open, especially in the outlying districts. The Strawberries are usually planted in rows 3 ft. apart, and the plants 20 in. apart in the rows.
During the first year the Strawberries occupy the ground a catch crop of some kind is taken from between the rows. If the Strawberries be planted in autumn the catch crop may be either Spring Cabbage or early Lettuce; if planted in spring, a crop of Runner Beans kept dwarf, French Beans, or Dwarf Peas may be taken. The Evesham gardeners do not trouble about summer or autumn Cabbage; they do not pay.
For the second and subsequent years the ordinary routine is adopted, viz. forking lightly between the rows after the clearance of weeds and runners, then strawing between the rows in spring just before the flowering period.
The crop is sent to market mainly in handled baskets of 6 lb. each, and in flat boxes containing 12 lb. each; the former largely predominate. The varieties grown are chiefly Royal Sovereign, Sir Joseph Paxton, Monarch, Stirling Castle (for jam), and Bedford Champion.
The village of Catshill is in the district of North Bromsgrove and lies at the foot of the Licky Hills, which are about 10 miles south of Birmingham. It is a populous village, and up to about 1888 the whole adult population was engaged in making wrought nails. Machinery deprived many of employment, and the village seemed to be on the verge of extinction; but a number of gentlemen near Bromsgrove, interested in the allotment scheme, thought something in that way could be done to stem the tide of distress. Land was obtained and formed into allotments, which were taken up and cultivated by the nail makers. The Worcester County Council acquired a large piece of land and established small holdings there, the tenants in due time becoming the sole owners of the freehold. The two schemes were established and prospered, and a district which was at one time on the brink of ruin has for long been prosperous.
Strawberries are the main crop, and probably there are about 400 ac. devoted, more or less, to that fruit. Raspberries and early Potatoes, and other vegetables, are grown largely. Much of the produce is taken by road into Birmingham, and anyone journeying on the Bristol road between Birmingham and the Licky Hills, in the afternoon of almost any day in the week except Sunday, will see carts and drays returning laden with manure to Catshill. The soil of Catshill is not very good; it is either too sandy on the one hand or too gravelly on the other, and in either case two weeds, troublesome weeds, are sure to be too abundant - couch grass and horse-tail (Equisetum). But poor, difficult, and foul as is much of the land, the nail makers extract a living from it, or supplement their trade earnings therefrom.
Those who have not a conveyance of their own arrange with their more fortunate neighbours to convey to market and sell their produce.
Besides the usual method of growing Strawberries in rows, there are many grown in beds about 3 ft. 6 in. wide, especially on the very sandy soil which has the New Red Sandstone a few inches below. These beds contain three rows of plants, in groups of three, forming a triangle, with a space of about 15 in. between the plants. These beds are allowed to grow to a mass, the plants and runners to produce as much fruit as possible until exhausted, when they are destroyed and other beds take their place.
Dodford is another district for Strawberries near Bromsgrove, and some of the finest fruits sent into Birmingham are grown here. The soil is a clayey loam and suits the Strawberry; but the original method which obtains at Catshill is not practised here. The plants are grown in rows and receive the treatment generally practised.
Raspberries are not largely grown; indeed very few are grown, and there is little to be said about them.