This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Handsome forms are as desirable in fruit as in ornamental trees. No winter pruning will do this exclusively. It may furnish the skeleton - but it is Summer pinching which clothes the bones with beauty. A strong shoot soon draws all its nutriment to itself. Never allow one shoot to grow that wants to be bigger than others. Equality must be insisted on. Pinch out always as soon as they appear, such as would push too strongly ahead - and keep doing so till the new buds seem no stronger than the others. Thus the food gets equally distributed.
When the strawberry crop is about to ripen, mulch with clean straw, to prevent rain soiling the fruit. Short grass from the lawn is often used; but it mildews as it decays, and detracts from the flavor of the fruit. Hot suns increase flavor, and strawberry tiles were once in fashion to put around the hills, which, by absorbing heat, added greatly to the fruit's rich quality. All that we have said of strawberries supposes them to be fruited on the hill system, with the runners kept off. Those who desire the best results, will grow them no other way; but many grow them very successfully in beds, believing that though they may not have as many large fruits, they have a greater weight in proportion to the labor bestowed.
Where water can be commanded, there is nothing so profitable as to well soak the soil about small fruits; first about the time that they have set their fruit. Much of the value of this operation, however, will depend on the nature of the soil. The advantages are least in a tenacious, and greatest in porous soil. It is said that an animal derives most benefit from food when it is hungry before it begins to eat; it is certainly so with plants. Water applied to soil already wet is an injury; and water never has so telling an advantage on vegetation as when every leaf is about to wither up for the want of it. A plant that never seems to want water is in a very doubtful condition in regard to its health.
To keep fruit varieties healthy we must watch every symptom of disease, and promptly check it. The strawberry particularly is liable to a disease called "burning in summer." This is a fungoid disease; it only propagates in a very high temperature, and the best guard against it is a partial shade. Where a bed of strawberries is liable to this disease, the best plan is to have a few rows of corn planted at intervals across the beds, to guard against the hottest of the sun's rays. The grape and the strawberry are excellent crops to have together for the reason that the grape trellisses give a little shade to the strawberries, while the strawberries make a dry and cool surface, which is so much appreciated by the vine. Where spotted leaves appear on any plant, arising from mildew or rust, it will be well to pluck them off immediately. It will often keep it from spreading badly.
In sowing seeds it is well to remember that though the soil should be deep and finely pulverized, a loose condition is unfavorable to good growth. After the seeds are sown, a heavy rolling would be a great advantage. The farmer knows this, and we have often wondered that the practice never extended to garden work.
In the cultivation of garden crops, the hoe and rake should be continually at work. Weeds should be taken in hand before they are barely out of the seed-leaf, and one-half the usual labor of vegetable gardening will be avoided. Hoeing or earthing up of most garden crops is of immense advantage in nearly every case. One would suppose that in our hot climate flat culture would be much more beneficial; but a fair trial, say on every other row of a bed of cabbages, will show a great difference in favor of the earthed-up plants. It would be easy to explain the reason of this, but in this column we try to confine ourselves to "hints," and leave reasons to our other departments.