This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
In the failure in the case of our Strawberries generally this year out of doors, there will always remain something as a cause that we have not yet fathomed. We may attribute it to the soil, and we may attribute it to the previous season, which was hot and dry, together with the late continual rains, which produced a second growth, which might not have got properly ripened; but these circumstances - that is, soil and season - no doubt, had all to do with it. Some soils will only produce very good crops on the same piece of ground for three or four years successively - and so, I believe, will ours; whereas, again, others will produce to twice as long a period without any great diminution of the crop. The influence of locality, using the plainest term, has to do with this matter; although, no doubt, the kind of Strawberries grown exerts also a powerful influence, as has already been remarked by able writers in the 'Gardener! of the present year. Keen's Seedling, although a first-rate Strawberry generally, has proved itself to be much short of the mark in some places, as it has with us this year, for we have not had a single good fruit of it.
Comparing this state of matters with what I knew some years ago with the same kind, it may be considered as something astonishing; for on the same piece of ground that my father so successfully grew his Hollyhocks, in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, some years ago, and which some of your readers may still remember, was a good patch of Keen's Seedling Strawberry, which produced good crops of fruit for about ten years in succession, to my knowledge. The plants had no more done to them than keeping them clean - taking off the rough of the runners in the autumn, and in winter spreading a thick covering of half-rotten manure all over the ground, over the crowns as well as between the rows. The difference between these two examples (similar ones to which many no doubt already know) just shows the difficulties that gardeners sometimes have to try to overcome in different places; and to get over this difficulty, it would, I venture to state, be a good plan for every gardener who can, to try to prove a lot of different kinds of Strawberries, himself selecting the best, without relying too much at first upon popular recommendations.
Not willing to do away with Keen's Seedling altogether this year for forcing, as I have been told it has done well here, I have given it a fair trial as one of our main kinds; and to make surer of success, I got some marl from a little distance to mix along with the soil for potting, our loam here being apparently rather too open. I hope that I have not been wrong in this little speculation. We have about a quarter of an acre of ground under Strawberries, and, as a whole, few could look better as far as health is concerned; for the foliage looks well, the plants are strong and fully developed, but they are without that hard "bone" in them that is apparently necessary to insure fertility. We have about a dozen kinds, and enough of these to form some idea of their individual merits. I will tabulate the notes I made a few weeks ago, so that you may see at a glance the respective merits of each, giving the most productive place in the order mentioned.
A good crop, and the best in every respect we have bad.
Nearly an average crop.
Had a good show of blossoms, but these mostly imperfect, and only a very few good fruit.
Very few good fruit.
Only a few fruit, some of which were large-sized. Her Majesty, Adair, Empress Eugenie, Admiral Dundas, Dr Hogg, Keen's Seedling. - Almost all worthless.
These Strawberries were mostly all planted 1869, and, with the exception of Dr Hogg, there was from one to four good long rows of each, from which fair estimates could be taken. Taking all in all, for size of fruit President was the best.
It may be urged that this is not a fair year for taking notes of the respective merits of the different kinds of Strawberries, but I hope a few facts as they have occurred may be useful.