We have much talk in books and papers about the best methods of renewing old plantations. But the experience of growers each year strengthens the belief that more than two crops from the same plantation should not be attempted. The first and second crops are in all respects satisfactory with ordinary care, and grass and weeds can be kept out with comparative ease. On the other hand, if the third and fourth crops are gathered, it is with added expense and much reduced yield of less perfect fruit for home use or market. It is much less expense and trouble to set out a new plantation than to clean out an old one, and at best we cannot get the yield of the matted rows secured the first two years.
Plowing under the plants after the second crop is picked adds much humus and plant-food to the soil, which will give quick growth to a crop of cow-peas to be plowed under late in the fall. If necessary on account of restricted space, the ground can again be planted with strawberries the next spring. But repeated crops on the same ground should not be attempted for the third time without giving a period of at least two years to the growing of other crops.
In about all the States small fruit-growers and gardeners combined practice the system of turning under the plants after picking one crop. The plants are set in rows only three feet apart, and matted rows established the first season about one foot wide. The next spring the crop is picked and the plants turned under for a crop of late vegetables the same season.
With this plan the ground is kept rich and weed-growth is kept down with comparatively small expense. Those with little experience would decide that this plan is not a wise one, as the second crop is usually as good as the first. But the gardener is pleased with it, as weeds have no chance to get established and insects and fungi do more damage the second year than the first. Again : the gardener knows that the expense of setting out a new plantation on clean mellow ground is a small item when compared with fighting weeds and grass in a two-year-old plantation.
The hill system of growing is practised with such large fruiting varieties of the Chilian class as Brandywine, Cumberland, Jesse, and Sharpless, that form large compact plants with comparatively few runners. They are planted three feet apart with plants one foot apart in the rows. All runners are cut as they appear and cultivation is kept up regularly. In autumn the whole surface is mulched lightly. In the spring this is left around the plants to keep the fruit clean. After the second year new plants are allowed to root between the old ones, which are taken out when the new ones become strong. With this plan the rows are often kept up for several years. The plan is found profitable for the fancy market. As Fuller says: "One strong stool with plenty of room for its roots will give more and larger fruit than twenty plants that are crowded."
Where the one-year system is carried on commercially, with high culture and manuring, it largely takes the place of the hill system, with large varieties grown for those who are willing to pay an extra price for a fine article.