This section of the book is from the Guide To Hardy Fruits And Ornamentals book, by Thomas Joseph Dwyer, published in 1903.
"Queen of the Small Fruits." My life has been more closely associated with the Strawberry than with any other fruit. At this period and after a protracted and uninterrupted experience of thirty-five years the reference to this fruit always brings back pleasant memories of my boyhood days; the reader will therefore, I trust, be considerate and indulgent with me, if I transgress here, and for the moment lay aside the original purpose of this work to recall some of my early reminiscences.
It was in 1865 when I was nine years of age that I first saw abed of cultivated Strawberries. At that time I was employed grazing cows along the public highway, our own cow and any of the neighbor's that were willing to pay my father twenty-five cents a week per head for my services. Whilst thus engaged, and sitting on a stone wall in front of the small fruit farm of Mr. John Sutherland (long since gone to his reward) I was attracted by this bed of Strawberries in their early stages of development. It is perhaps needless for me to state that my interest was increased each day as the fruit began to color and turn red, and that I found it very convenient to graze the cows in that particular section of the road, and when asked for an explanation I answered that the grass was knee high there and the cows wanted to stay there all the time, but the fruit ripened and such heaps of it lay there it seemed to me that every plant was producing five quarts. Now, Mr. Sutherland was an average good citizen, honest neighborly, stern and feared by the boys. Dare I ask him for some of those Strawberries? No, 1 was afraid of him, and the best I could expect would be a few berries with a command to get myself and cows away from there. Ho would not turn me loose in that patch to help myself, of that I was sure. After debating the question with myself for two days, a little on what I then considered the great sin of stealing in this way and quite considerable on what seemed more important, the fear of getting caught, the evil impulses conquered. I watched a favorable opportunity, climbed over the wall and helped myself, and reader, you know what that means if you are acquainted with the capabilities of a nine year old boy in a strawberry patch in the beginning of the fruiting season. I came out filled and unmolested. I pass this spot quite frequently now and am always reminded of this incident, but must confess that I have never yet experienced any remorse, nor have I done any penance for this impudence; on the other hand, that small bed of strawberries awakened in me an enthusiasm and interest for this fruit that has never faltered, but has increased each year. A few years later I was employed on the small fruit farm of the late E. P. Roe pulling weeds and picking strawberries. I at once became intensely interested in this fruit and after the fruiting season knew all the varieties on the place by name as well as their individual characteristics, but the moral of my story is yet to be briefly told. For the past twenty years since I have been in the nursery business for myself, fruiting each season from five to ten acres of strawberries, it has been an easy matter for me to deal kindly and patiently with the small boys and girls who have been caught in the fields helping themselves by eating and even gathering in baskets and otherwise The worst thing that ever happened to any of them for this liberty was a slight reprimand by some one else in authority.
* Preparation of the Soil
-- This should be done in the same thorough way as recommended for the fruit trees,and if possible we should be even more particular to have the ground in the most perfect condition; we should not stop plowing and harrowing until we are sure that all the soil, top, middle and bottom, is thoroughly and finely pulverized. This is of absolute necessity SQ that the small roots may have every favorable opportunity to take hold and at once establish themselves in the ground.
It has been my experience that many people defer planting the strawberry for the reason that they think, in order to be successful with it they must have some especially favored land, situation or location. This is a great mistake. The strawberry may be grown to perfection on any land that will produce a crop of potatoes, corn, peas or other vegetables. Ground that has been used for vegetables or fruit is the best for the strawberry. Almost any soil will answer, but we must remember that the best results are obtained from a dark, rich loose soil with a clay sub-soil. When grown on land of this kind the fruit is always larger, of better color and flavor besides the plants mature their full crop when thus grown Strawberries should not be planted on newly ploughed sod ground nor in land that water remains on after a rain. Such land bakes and consequently the soil is coarse and lumpy. Then, of course, it is -- next to impossible to cultivate such land as it should be. There is no single requirement in connection with trees, plants and vines of such supreme importance as the careful, intelligent and best preparation of the soil for the strawberry, with perhaps the possible exception of the asparagus, no fruit is so unsatisfactory and unprofitable when neglected or partially cared for. On the other hand, there is no other tree, plant or vine that is grown in the soil that will respond as liberally to good treatment as the strawberry. No one not well acquainted with their possibilities would think of believing what these plants are capable of producing when grown, cultivated and fruited under favorable conditions. Statements are misleading, deceptive, and often unreliable, particularly when we are not familiar with all the circumstances; therefore we hesitate to relate here in detail some of our pleasant experiences and surprises with the strawberry, lest perchance we might create in the minds of our readers too sanguine expectations from their prospective plantings of this fruit. We will state, however, and without fear of contradiction, that the progressive, up-to-date fruit grower, one who has a thorough knowledge of the needs and requirements of this plant, can one year with another, with a good fair average market and other things being equal, get a net profit of two hundred and fifty dollars from an acre of strawberries. It may seem perhaps, a superfluous waste of time, and space for me to remind my readers who have their own gardens of the importance of growing their own fruit. No home garden is complete or properly furnished without a liberal bed of this luscious fruit. All should have at least three varieties: early, intermediate and late, in order to lengthen the season. Aim to have fruit for every meal for six weeks -- you can accomplish this purpose without much trouble.
-- If stable manure is to be used, and the ground previously used for some annual crop is in good fair fertility, it should be applied at the rate of ten to twelve tons to the acre, broadcasting it over the ground directly before the plowing. Unleached wood ashes is very desirable and valuable and it may be used at the rate of two tons to the acre, broadcasting it over the ground before the last harrowing. Then any good complete manure like the Mapes Fruit and Vine manure can be used at the rate of one ton to the acre, spreading it over the ground like the wood ashes before the last use of the harrow. But this is not all; no matter which one of the above three best manures you use directly after your plants are set out you should apply a little dressing around each plant. We prefer the complete fertilizer for this purpose and at the rate of six hundred pounds to the acre. Wood ashes is next best for this purpose and should be used at the rate of twelve hundred pounds per acre. Whatever is used should be applied in a ring near to and around the plant. Thus applied they are very beneficial, as the plant food will soon reach the roots with the rain or tillage and start them growing at once. Hen manure mixed with three parts soil can also be used as a top dressing for Strawberries, at the rate of two tons of the mixture to the acre used as a top dressing before harrowing. Muriate of potash and nitrate of soda can also be used as a top dressing for the strawberry. In using nitrate of soda be cautious in applying it when the foliage is wet from rain or dew.
* How to Plant
-- For field culture the plant should be set four feet apart between the rows and two feet apart in the rows, requiring about five thousand five hundred plants to the acre. By planting in this way you can form a matted row about twenty-two inches in width which will give you ample room for the cultivator at all times; then for the finest and largest fruit the plants in this matted row should be thinned out to six inches apart. This is not as large or expensive a job as it seems at first thought, and will repay for the trouble; this is the ideal system of fruiting the Strawberry for profitable results. We get fully one-third more fruit this way than in the hill system, which means to keep all runners removed from the parent plant, thus forming it into a large stool. When grown in this way for field culture the plants should be set three and one-half feet apart each way, and they can then be cultivated both ways from the beginning to the end of the plantation. The removing of these runners as they appear is quite a troublesome and expensive work, so that the expense of cultivation is about the same: with both systems. However, under the / hill system we are perhaps a little better fortified against a severe drought, especially when the plants are in bloom and during the fruiting period for the reason that we can cultivate quite close to the plants and preserve the needed moisture. Still this can be done quite as efficaciously with the matted row system as heretofore described.
* For Garden Culture
-- Where the tillage is to be done entirely with hand labor the plants can be set two and one-half feet apart between the rows and one foot apart in the row. You can adopt either the matted row or the hill system as you prefer for the home garden.
Prepare a muddle composed of fine manure and water. Dip the roots of the plants in it, and be sure that all the roots are moistened. Heel them in the ground near where you are to plant them, and if the sun is very warm cover the leaves with hay, straw or sea grass. Avoid planting on a windy day; ten minutes wind is worse on the roots of plants than one hour's sun. Only drop a few plants in advance of the planter. Set the plant so that the crown shows above the surface. The Strawberry is divided into two classes -- the perfect flowering kinds, that can be fruited alone or with others, and the imperfect or pistilate varieties that require pollination by the perfect or staminate class. There is no other objection to the imperfect plants; many of our best strawberries belong to this class, and as a rule they are the most perfect sorts. However, the flavor is rather inferior. You can use the line or marker to plant by. Set the roots straight down. Draw the soil around the plants with the hands, and so firm the soil around them that the leaf of the plants will break in two before the plants will allow themselves to leave their places. Should the ground be dry, or the sun very warm, use any mulching material at hand (that will admit of light and air) to shade the plants for a few days, or until you have rain.
-- We do not recommend watering, except in extreme drought at the time of planting, but when it is done it should be applied at the rate of one pint to the plant. First make a shallow basin about the plant then use the water in this basin, and when it has worked its way down to the roots draw the soil back in this basin; in this way you will trap the moisture and retain it where it is needed; then if the entire plant can be protected from the sun for a few days so much the better. Watering as ordinarily practiced by sprinkling the surface of the ground, leaving it exposed to the hot rays of the sun, the ground cracking open about the plants and making it possible for the roots to be injured by the weather, is positively detrimental to the welfare of the plant.
* When to Plant
-- The ordinary layer Strawberry plants can be planted in the Spiring just as soon as the ground is dry enough to handle -- the earlier the better. We have the months of March and April to plant in. When the conditions are favorable they can be planted the first week in May, but the plants are quite advanced at this late season, and it is a risky undertaking to set them at this time, and we would not think of recommending this late planting, particularly in any large way. Plant as early as possible. Spring set plants should never be permitted to bear fruit the same year they are planted. Remove all fruit stalks as soon as they appear, then the plants will preserve their vitality and grow strong and vigorous for the coming season's fruiting. The Strawberry can be planted again any time after August first until the later part of November, which is a very good time to set them out. When they are planted during the months of August and September they will bear a nice lot of fruit the season following without injury to the plants. Pot Grown Plants can be planted to good advantage any month in the year that you can prepare your ground for them except during the months of June and July. These plants will produce choice, fine fruit the first fruiting season after they are set out. They are, of course, more expensive than the ordinary ground layer plants and are intended for and principally used by those with small private gardens, or those who are in a hurry to get fruit as early as possible after planting.
-- Use the cultivator and hoe for this purpose always. Strive to kill the weeds before you can see them. It will cost but little more to cultivate an acre of Strawberries than it will to cultivate an acre of potatoes or corn, providing of course, the work is done at the proper time. Keep the ground free from weeds. If you do this you will give the proper cultivation. We plow between the rows as early in Spring as the ground is fit to work, and use the cultivator as often afterwards as is necessary to keep the ground mellow, right up to the time when they are in bloom. In fact, we have often run the cultivator between the rows after the fruit was ripe. This Spring cultivation. increase both the size and yield of the fruit. If you have a matted row about twenty-two inches wide you have the very best row for fruit, and will have ample room for horse and cultivator between the rows. In the small garden bed this tillage can be done with the spade and hoe.
-- This is essential to the best results, as it keeps the ground moist and the fruit clean. It should be practiced always in the small planting for home use and in fact by all who make a business of producing the choicest and most attractive fruit that at all times will be clean and free from the soil after heavy rains during the fruiting period. This mulching should be placed directly under the plants; it is not necessary to cover the cultivated land between the rows with it. However, it is beneficial to do this and when we have plenty of material it is recommended. Apply this mulch directly before the fruit ripens or just as soon as the berries begin to show color directly after the last tillage of the plantation, which should he as late as possible. This mulch should be about one inch in thickness, or just sufficient to cover the ground from view. Many materials are used for this purpose, such as wheat, rye and oat straw and newly cut grass, which should be used in its green state directly as soon as cut. Grass is the most convenient article to use when it can be procured, and it is almost always available. A load of it judiciously distributed will cover a surprisingly large area of ground.
* Winter Protection
-- One of the most important things necessary for a good crop of fruit is the protection of the plants during the winter, and more especially during the Spring months this is necessary to prevent the plants from heaving during the frequent freezing and thawing at this season of the year. In changeable Winter weather, such as we have had for several years past, we are liable to lose our entire crop of fruit for neglect of this protection. Many materials are used for this purpose, but positively the best covering is horse manure. As soon as the ground becomes frozen you can drive on the beds and cover the plants well from view and let it remain on the plants in the Spring until very late. Strawberries need both food and covering and I know of no better way of supplying these needs at one and the same time than to cover them with this manure. "Yes, horse manure will bring weeds, the greatest blessing we have. Plants choked by weeds always remind me of the crying babe in the cradle; both need care, attention and nursing." Nature, always provident and generous, comes to relieve them by fortifying them, to ask for what they want. Straw of any kind is also good for Winter protection and is used largely for this purpose; evergreen boughs also are very desirable in a limited way for the small bed; these, like straw, necessitates removal again in the Spring, making considerable labor, whereas when horse manure is used it needs only to be removed to the cultivated ground between the rows and with plow and cultivator be incorporated with the soil. Be sure to let this covering remain on the plants until all danger of frost is past in the Spring. Do not be deceived by a day or two of premature warm weather in the early Spring and assume that Summer is here and uncover your plants, regretting it afterwards. Always remember that these plants will not be injured by covering, even if the weather is a little warm, the worst that can possibly happen is to retard the ripening of the fruit. It is better to be on the safe side and not uncover until the season is well advanced. If we seem to be dwelling unnecessarily long on this matter, which is of supreme importance, it is to guard our readers against losses from repetition along these lines that have frequently come to our observation in the past -- severe financial losses that could and should have been averted with a little knowledge and forethought.
-- Can be applied, if needed, in the early Spring, directly after the plants have been uncovered, by broadcasting it over the rows in the quantities per acre as recommended heretofore.
* Rust on Strawberries
-- This comes from various causes. Land that has been used continuously for strawberries for a number of years is almost sure to produce it. The only remedy then is to plow the plants under and use the land for a year or two for other crops. Then rust comes from an excessive wet season or from long and protracted drought. We should spray with the Bordeaux Mixture or the Ammoniacal Copper Carbonate Solution. We must not use these sprays during the fruiting season, but in the early Spring, or as soon as the crop has been harvested. To guard against rust we must in the beginning select our stock of plants from young, vigorous beds that are used exclusively for propagating purposes and not from worn out old plants or beds that have been fruited for several years and consequently of low vitality and vigor.