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.
"What kind of Strawberry shall I plant ? is a question as often asked as it is answered by advising to use those sorts most in favor with the parties questioned. I have raised many thousand seedlings, cultivated over one hundred and thirty varieties, carefully testing their character and qualities, have collected reliable information on the subject, of persons in different localities, and have come to the conclusion that the Wilson and Triomphe de Gand give, of all the native and foreign varieties, the greatest satisfaction in the largest portion of our country. I also find that for forcing under glass no sorts are superior to these two.
Every season brings us new seedlings, "truly splendid, superlatively magnificent," and each claimed to be "the Strawberry." Even old varieties, which perchance suit a very limited locality, are dished up in the full glory and capacity of our language as beyond anything ever seen or heard of; and pictures of the berries, as large as the space on the paper will allow, head the columns of praise, and are sent all over the country in order that no one may be deprived of an opportunity to secure so valuable a prize.
To satisfy myself what could be done in this style of "humbug," I prepared a bed twelve by twelve feet, in a peculiar way, and planted the La Constante, twelve by twelve inches apart, and by watering with liquid manure, shading during midday, etc., I produced astonishing results. Besides a quantity of smaller berries, I took from this bed one hundred and thirty-five, measuring from four to five and a quarter inches in circumference, all very fine and handsome-looking fruit. I must confess that this little plot put all my other varieties decidedly in the shade, and many visitors could hardly believe their own eyes; still, there were the facts. Now, this La Constante is of medium size only, can not endure in most localities our sun and heat, and is not suitable for general cultivation. But had I visited some of our fruit committees, and desired their opinion, they could in all honesty but have certified that the result before their eyes was certainly beyond anything ever seen before. Their certificate could then have been published all over the country. The result would have been orders for thousands of La Constante plants, and hosts of disappointed purchasers.
Let me name a few of my favorite sorts besides the Wilson and Triomphe de Gand, and afterward give my mode of cultivation.
Agriculturist may gain by further trial, at least some portion of the value put upon its quality and character. Berry, good size, fair flavor; plant, hardy; flower, perfect.
Russell, flowers pistillate; productive.
And fair flavor; not very handsome, and, must be planted near perfect flowering varieties.
Brooklyn Scarlet, perfect flowers, hardy plant, handsome berry, and good flavor; not over-productive.
Lady Finger, good flavor, hardy, fair cropper, perfect plant.
Fig. 147. - Agriculturist.
Durand's Seedling promises well, but should be tested in many locations before being recommended for general cultivation.
Austin Shaker Seedling, large and handsome; no flavor.
Green Prolific, truly prolific, of large size, fine appearance, but sadly deficient in flavor.
Jucunda - if the experience of others with this variety is the same as my own, it will soon be laid upon the shelf.
New Jersey Scarlet, medium size only, and flavor nothing to boast of.
Ripowan, fruit good size, not over abundant; no flavor.
French's Seedling, of good size and flavor, and prolific. I think it more suitable for the South than other localities.
Scotch Runner, a very valuable variety, particularly when planted closely in rows.
Fig. 148. - Russells Prolific.
The fruit is not large, but of good flavor; not firm enough for transporting long distances; but it will grow and bear well without particular care where other varieties would fail.
To raise strawberries in perfection requires well and deeply worked soil, containing as much thoroughly vegetable matter as practicable. Leaf mold, wood ashes, charcoal dust, and sods are well adapted for the purpose. Fresh stable manure should never be used.
A location exposed to the full sun is most desirable. My experience has taught me that the fall, say September and October, is the best time to set out plants; the month of August is generally too dry. I find the runners more thrifty, and the young plants to become sufficiently established to endure the winter and yield a good crop the following season.
Many advise an elaborate method of planting, by making spacious holes and a little mound in the center, and then the roots spread out carefully over it. All this I think a useless waste of time. I have planted thousands of strawberry plants, and have lost but a very small portion. I take a short but thick dibble; two inches in diameter, make a hole, and after trimming the roots with a sharp knife or shears, I set the plant in the hole, close the soil tightly around the roots with both hands, pressing the plant firmly down at the same time, so that the heart or crown remains uncovered. By selecting a cloudy day, or after a good rain, for planting in this manner, the plants will grow vigorously. For small plantations I find beds four feet wide, with paths of eighteen inches between, the most suitable arrangement. Three rows, twelve inches apart, are planted in each bed, the plants eighteen inches apart in the row, arranged in this form:
Fig. 149. - Brooklyn Scarlet
Fig. 150. - Durand's Seedling.
All parts of the bed can thus be reached for picking the berries, pulling the weeds, and managing the runners. For field culture the rows should be three feet apart, and the plants twelve inches distant in the rows. This space gives ample room for the use of the plow and cultivator when needed; and the fruit can be gathered with facility. Late in the fall all runners are removed, the soil between the plants loosened, and all weeds destroyed. A dressing of compost is then forked in, if needed, and after a good frost, about the beginning of December, or even later, according to the season, the whole beds are covered one inch deep with salt hay. Straw, as it usually comes from the threshing machine, will answer if salt hay can not be procured. This covering is not to be removed until June, after all the berries are gathered. All runners are to be removed before fruiting. After the crop is over, a rake is used freely among the rows, and the runners are allowed free scope until late in the fall. The plants are allowed to bear three seasons, and are then destroyed.
By making a new bed every year the rotation will be complete.
Fig. 151. - Green Prolific.
Fig. 152. - Jucunda.