This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Strawberry being such a desirable fruit, that not only the eating thereof stimulates to good nature, but it will also bear much good na-tured talk and correspondence without tiring, in consideration of which I hereby add my mite; hoping it will not prove superfluous or out of place.
What is the best variety and what the best method of cultivation is, however, an unsettled question, and perhaps will be so long as we mortals grow and eat them ; for, so long as soils, and habits of growth, and even tastes, differ, no one variety can receive universal approbation, and it is perhaps better that it is so, or we would all cease to aim higher and consequently settle down to indolence in this as also in general pomologi-cal progress. Having grown Strawberries the last twenty years for market, and without stint for our own table, of many varieties, also having at one time over 3,000 seedlings, designedly cross fertilized by nryself, I claim, therefore, not to be altogether a novice in the business. I also claim that I can sympathize with many who in raising a few new seedlings, imagine they have acquired a bonanza, and consequently send out the new comer for public honors with great flourish of trumpets (on paper), to the sad disappointment of many. My lesson in raising new seedlings has taught me, as it will teach others who are over-confident in similar enterprises, that the chances are few and far between, to originate something superior in every respect to what we already have, and planters generally are getting to be more cautious in receiving novelties without being generally approved.
I would not for a moment discourage the raising of new seedlings, but rather strongly encourage it, and also advise to make haste slowly in their dissemination. I have, however, sometimes censured myself for having been too slow; that instead of keeping so many to test, I should have selected some of the best and destroyed all the rest, as there were some among them much superior to dozens for which we have paid big prices; but holding on to so many without proper attention, they overran each other and were plowed down. This season I have raised a few thousand quarts of the finest berries I ever saw, and the same expression was made by competent judges; the bulk of which were Sharpless, and of about thirty varieties, which I fruited for several years, some already discarded. Without hesitation, I place Sharpless at the head of the list as possessing more desirable qualities than I have yet found in any other variety.
1st. It is the strongest grower that I have yet seen. 2nd. Resists heat and frost well. 3rd. Largest berry. 4th. Can be eaten before fully ripe, and yet can be left on the stalk longer than most varieties without seeming overripe. 5th. Color, all that could be desired. 6th. Better without sugar than some kinds with it. 7th. Continues to be profitable in the same bed for at least three years.
Crescent stands next in my estimation ; and these two varieties shall be the bulk of my plantings, unless I find their superiors. The merits of the latter are: 1st. Earliness. 2nd. Productiveness. 3rd. Color, for which it has no superior. 4th. Hardiness. 5th. Carries well, and when properly grown will sell with most other berries. I question whether the Crescent gets a fair chance with many growers, having at first been sent out as weed-proof, which it is to a great extent, but which, in my opinion, has operated very much against its real value, as there are so many careless cultivators to which the Crescent seemed to be a "windfall," expecting to get enormous crops with little or no attention except planting. In all my experience I found none that responds more bountifully to proper care than this. It is almost purely pis-tilate and should be planted adjacent to varieties which are strongly staminate, although in some seasons or in certain favorable conditions, it produces fine crops without such aid.
With regard to the productiveness of Sharp-less I should have said that it is scarcely second to any that I have yet grown, and in addition produces a larger proportion of large berries than any other variety that I have yet tested. Next to the above I value Charles Downing and Cumberland, and shall not yet discard them as they have given paying crops. Boyden's No. 30, and Monarch of the West, produce fair crops of large berries, but are objectionable on account of green tips when the bulk of the berry is ripe ; besides they are only of second quality. Great Prolific is too dark and soft for a market berry, and lacks that great productiveness which was claimed for it. President Lincoln promised well at first, and much as I would like to honor it on account of its name, shall discard it; it makes a few large berries of first quality, but not much more can be claimed for it.
Kentucky will be retained on account of its lateness and fine quality, although rather soft for shipping. It will also bear careless culture better than most other kinds. De Gand has size, quality and firmness, but lacks productiveness, and makes too many imperfect berries. Huddlesen is a fine large berry, very much like Cumberland, but more acid, and foliage suffers more from hot sun. Windsor Chief, moderately productive, rather acid. Glen-dale, one of the most worthless I have yet tested. Garden, excellent but not sufficiently productive. Duchess, in size and productiveness may be considered a strong rival to Crescent, but I prefer the latter. Mount Vernon promises well, and may take high rank as a late berry, of large size, firm and productive, one of the strongest growers. Longfellow, Warren and Minnesota on trial and promise fair, all berries of large 6ize and good quality. Among those not fully tested, are Primo, Manchester, Crystal City, Finch's Prolific, Jersey Queen and Big Bob. From my judgment of the latter, it will not beat everything as claimed by A. P., but Jersey Queen may become a rival to Sharpless, except in firmness, which is an important matter for shipping.
Bidvvell came with such strong claims from up the Hudson that I confidently expected it would set Sharpless, as well as all others, in the shade, but thus far it does not sustain the same reputation on the Susquehanna by a long ways, and I suspect it has been overrated. Side by side with Sharpless, when in bloom I concluded the latter might get a set-back, but in fruiting it was fifty per cent, below Sharpless in size and quantity, besides not equal in quality and firmness. I shall not extend its planting unless it behaves much better than it did this season, except to raise plants for such as wish to test it.
Our soil is loam, from sandy to clay, with a porous sub-soil.