Of all small fruits, none perhaps stand so high in general favor as the strawberry. Its culture is simple, and as it grows freely in almost any soil or location, no garden of any pretensions should be without it. If a choice of soil can be had, nothing is so suitable as a deep, rich, but rather sandy loam, though it will yield returns sufficient to warrant its cultivation on any soil, from almost pure sand to clay, providing that it is drained naturally or artificially. In all soils, deep spading or plowing is essential to the production of fine crops; and this should not be less than a foot, and if 18 inches, all the better. A coat of thoroughly rotted stable manure at least three inches in thickness, should be dug in and well mixed with the soil to a depth of six or nine inches. In the absence of stable manure, any of the concentrated fertilizers mentioned in chapter VI (How To Use Concentrated Fertilizers) (How To Use Concentrated Fertilizers), "How to Use Concentrated Fertilizers," used in the manner and quantities there described, will do as a substitute. Where muck from the swamps, or leaf-mold from the woods can be obtained, twenty bushels of either of these mixed with one bushel of ashes, will make an excellent fertilizer for strawberries, and may be spread on as thickly as stable manure, and on sandy soils is probably better.
Strawberries may be planted either in the fall or spring. If the plants are to be set in the fall, it should not be done if possible in this latitude before the middle of September. This, of course, refers to the plants from runners taken up from the bed in the usual manner, and there is nothing gained in time over planting the nest spring, as the plant must grow for one season before it can bear a full crop of fruit. In private gardens it is much better to have the plants layered in pots, as they may then be set at almost any time. These pots may be from two to three inches in diameter; when a lot of strawberry plants are wanted for a new bed, all that is necessary to do is to fill these small pots with soil, and " plunge" or plant the pot just to the surface level, plac-ingthe unrooted "runner" of the strawberry plant on the top of the soil in the flower-pot, and laying a small stone or clod on it to keep it in place. This method of striking in pots is shown in Fig. 64. The runners so treated will form plants in two or three weeks, and may be planted out with safety any time from August to October. If strawberry plants are treated in this way, and planted in August, and care taken that all runners that come from them be cut off as soon as formed, so that the whole force of the root is thrown into the main crown, a full crop of berries will be gathered the season following, or in nine or ten months from time of planting. "We have practiced this system of layering strawberry plants in pots for what we need for our own use, for the past twenty years, and the results have been so successful that we have many converts to the system among our neighbors. Plants grown in this manner cannot often be obtained from the nurseries, as the necessary labor and expense of the pots makes the price five times more than that of ordinary plants rooted in the open bed. When strawberry plants are set out in the fall, unless under favorable circumstances, many will fail to grow, for the reason that each young plant or runner is sustained in part by the old plant, and when detached, feels the shock more than a rooted cutting or seedling plant does, that has been growing for weeks on its own account, for that reason we have always advised all that were intending to plant fresh strawberry beds, to prepare their plants a few weeks ahead by layering them in pots. Two to four hundred plants are all that an ordinary family will need, and two or three hours' work would be all the time required to layer the plants in the pots. One hundred plants so prepared, will give more fruit the first season than 1,000 plants planted in the usual way, and the plant forms a stool quicker, and much less time is expended in keeping them clean. The use of layered plants is recommended specially for fall planting, and the sooner it is done in fall the better; plant in August if possible.
Fig.64.- Striking Strawberryes In Pots.
In spring the use of potted plants would have no special advantage, as if planted in April or May, they would have all the summer to grow, but of course no fruit can be expected the season of planting. For this reason, it will be seen that to secure a crop quickly, the time to plant is in August or September, and from plants that have been layered in pots. There is no arbitrary rule for the distance apart at which strawberry plants should be set, but if the ground has been prepared as advised, the finest fruit will be had by giving them plenty of room. For our own use we usually set 400 plants annually in August, at two feet apart between the rows, and eighteen inches between the plants, and gather about 200 quarts of splendid fruit. If the ground is limited they may be planted at half the above distance, particularly if set late in fall. There is one very important point in strawberry culture that should never be neglected; that is, that the beds be entirely covered with hay, straw, or leaves, to the depth of three or four inches. This covering should not be put on, however, before the approach of severe weather, in this district about the middle of December. This covering should not be taken off in spring; it is only necessary to go over the beds as soon as growth begins in spring, and pull the covering back from the plants only sufficient to expose the crown, allowing all to remain on the bed. This covering serves several purposes. It keeps the roots warm until the plants start to grow, it keeps the fruit clean when ripe, it prevents the growth of weeds, and finally acts as a mulch to keep the soil from drying in hot weather. Although strawberry beds will remain in bearing for a number of years, the fruit is always largest and finest the first season of bearing, gradually getting smaller as the plants get older, hence it is desirable to provide for a succession, if not every year, at least every second year. For garden culture in this, as in all other fruits, it is unwise to use any but fully tested varieties, three or four of which are sufficient.