This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Since the issue of the July number of the Monthly, I have received many letters from parties asking me to give my method of forcing strawberries. One gentleman in Connecticut complains, if I understand him aright, that from two hundred pots he has never picked more than two quarts of fruit at once. There is no mystery about my plan; it is quite an easy one; and I will give it here :
I procure and pot my young plants in three-inch pots as early in the summer as possible. As soon as they have fairly filled the pots with roots they are re-potted into six-inch pots. For soil I use well-rotted sod, with one-eighth thor-oughly decayed horse-dung. They are then set out, in a good, open place, on a bed of ashes. The ashes prevent worms getting into the pots. I give them plenty of room, so that every plant may develop itself perfectly, and plenty of water - once a week giving them manure water. As soon as the plants show, by the changing color of their leaves, that growth is ceasing, they are watered less often. The plants remain out of doors until the end of November, covering them lightly with leaves if cold weather comes, to prevent the pots bursting. The plants are then taken to a cold greenhouse, where the temperature will not be above 35° to 40" at night. About the first of January they are placed on shelves close to the glass, say twelve inches only from it, where they remain for the rest of the time. They are here given a temperature of from 65° to 70° at noon, falling to 40° or 45° at night.
This is kept up for from three to four weeks, when the heat is gradually advanced until ten degrees more are given.
Although others say they cannot get the Tri-omphe de Gand to set its fruit, I am using this kind altogether for forcing. It is true, they do not of themselves set well, and when it is impracticable to open the ventilators to let the bees in to fertilize the flowers, this tedious work I have to perform by hand when the crop is large. My peach forcing has been very successful this year. I gathered 112 dozen first-class peaches and nectarines from thirty-two small trees in fifteen-inch boxes.
I noticed in the January number of the Gardeners' Monthly page 18, a notice of an article I suppose written to the New York Tribune, condemning Mr. Meehan's views on Strawberry growing under glass, and I suppose pitying every one else who tries it. That " fruit grower and farmer" says he has seen the attempt made, but never with success. I have also seen it tried every year for this last eighteen years, and I never saw a complete failure. I have seen them do better on some occasions than on others.
I always force from 200 to 300 pots of Strawberries. This year I had 250 pots, from which I picked fifty-five quarts and one pint of berries, first class in every respect. I picked the first berries on the first day of March, and the last of them on the first day of May; the most picked in one day was nine quarts on the last day of March.
I will be glad to hear from any one through the Monthly who may consider it a failure, for I don't. I know of no better authority for my statement than my own respected employer, if the " fruit grower and farmer" doubts it.