This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
As the season is at hand when many persons will plant Strawberries, I hope I shall not be thought to offer unnecessary advice, if I make a few suggestions on Strawberry culture. On most horticultural topics, the mass of your readers have less rather than more practical knowledge, than is generally attributed to them. They need instruction "line upon line." I know this has been and is still the case with myself.
One of the first requisites for the successful culture of the Strawberry, is a deep soil. If you can devote to it only a small patch of ground, a rod or two square, do not begin by raising a bed above the adjacent ground or walks, rather let it be lower; as another requisite in the cultivation of this fruit is sufficient moisture, and when the bed is raised the plants suffer from every drouth. As a general rule, it will be best to select for this fruit the lowest part of your garden. Many of your readers must have observed that Strawberry plants have a great tendency to "get up in the world;" anting them in the lowest part of the garden, they not only get more benefit from he rains, but the natural washing down of the soil will counteract the tendency I are mentioned.
No manure, unless thoroughly decomposed, should be applied within six inches of he surface of the soil for several months before planting your Strawberries, as the rynes8 occasioned by this manure will seriously injure your plants.
If your bed is small, and you wish to raise the largest possible quantity of fruit om it, and will give it the necessary attention, set the plants about four inches apart rows a foot asunder, three rows making a bed, There should be a walk two feet ide between the beds. In this method the runners must be cut off, and the earth ept loose between the rows. The weeds will also trouble you, but with proper atten-on a large amount of fruit may be gathered.
You may thin out your bed by removing the old plants, after a sufficient number young plants have struck root to serve for the next year. Or, you may, immedi-tely after the fruit is gathered, spade in alternate strips of three feet wide, and when lese strips have become covered with young plants, spade in the old ones; and so mew your bed annually. I am here recommending what others have frequently ecommended.
For three varieties to cultivate in this manner in this region, I should choose Burr's Tew Pine, an early variety, of good size, excellent flavor, and very productive; fcAvoy's Superior, a large, productive, and good berry; and, as a fertilizer, as well i an excellent berry and very productive, the Large Early Scarlet But if you wish or Strawberries that will "take care of themselves,9' or require little attention, plant Crimson Cone, Cincinnati Hudson, and especially Dundee, with a few Large Early Scarlets as fertilizers, and let them run over the ground. There are of course many ther excellent varieties beside those I have mentioned, and among them may be amed a new kind originated at Rochester, N. Y., called Monroe Scarlet. I have sund it a .good fruit, a vigorous grower, and uncommonly productive.
If instead of a small patch in the garden, you have a quarter or an eighth of an ere to be planted, put your plants two in a place, in hills eighteen inches or two feet part, and the rows two feet and a half apart. Cultivate as you would corn, cutting p the runners as you would weeds.
For mulching, especially when the plants are in drills or rows, as first mentioned, have tried nothing so good or so clean as straw cut short as for feed; and when it ecays, it is of value to the soil instead of being injurious, like tan. As a top-dress-lg, in addition to leached ashes, use leaf-mold or rotted turf. Swamp muck or peaty arth, dried and mixed with sand, is an excellent top-dressing where the soil is clayey.
Your correspondent "T.," in the Horticulturist for June, asks for information relative o the value and use of tan-bark for mulching Strawberry plants, and as a winter cov-ring for them. A few years since, tan was extensively used in this vicinity, both for overing Strawberries and as a mulch for dwarf Pears and other trees and shrubs, in onsequence of the commendations of your predecessor, Mr. Downing, and of the [ualities attributed to it by Prof. Mapes. The latter gentleman, I think, asserted that "tannic acid is a specific manure for Strawberries," improving their flavor if not their size. Indeed, I think something was said about toads being able to distinguish Strawberries where tannic acid had been used, from others. But tan here has had its day, and its use is now universally "voted a nuisance." As a mulch for Strawberries, it is a dirty article, when wet staining the dresses of females while picking the berries. For a winter covering it is no better, to say the most of it, than straw, forest leaves, or saw-dust, either of which can usually be as easily procured as tan. If used as a winter covering, it is much more trouble to remove it in the spring than straw or leaves.
As to its effects on the soil, if spaded in, on a stiff clay, it may not, as you suggest, "do any harm," w,hile on all other soils I believe it to be decidedly injurious.
As to potash, of which "T." speaks, I believe it is pretty generally understood that leached ashes, if not used too freely, form a good top-dressing for Strawberries, affording all the potash they usually need. Sulphate of ammonia will undoubtedly promote the growth of the plants, but will not necessarily increase very greatly the crop of fruit I am in the habit of saving all the soot from my chimnies and stove-pipes, on account of the sulphate of ammonia contained in it. This I apply to Strawbefry plants and other things, as I judge necessary.
So subject is our climate to drouth, I think no crop would pay better for irrigating than Strawberries; and the cultivator who has water that he can use in this way, will find it to his account in so doing.