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.
WITH particular reference to strawberries, I would advise to make a first experiment on a small scale, as a thousand plants, carefully managed, will yield as much as an acre neglected. Plant on the hill, or on the matted row system, as they will yield best in the long-run; either mulch your ground heavy enough to keep the weeds down and the soil mellow, or use the cultivator, harrow, roller and hoe, frequently, and be careful to do this always when weeds are small, and give a light winter covering to protect the hearts from the extreme frosts and to keep the berries clean when they mature. Handle them carefully at picking time, and last but not least be sure to find the best market and the right customer. It is a very great mistake to suppose the largest market the best; large markets are always overstocked in the height of the picking season, at which time none, except the very best of berries, will pay; but there are plenty of smaller markets all around you, as well as in the adjoining States there are hundreds of towns and villages, where no, or only a few, berries are raised, and in those your fruit will command a ready price; do not ship to a small market more than it can consume.
If five bushels are daily required do not send ten, as the net returns for the ten would not leave any margin on the five; but ship your surplus to some other market; and, above all, send only the very best of fruit; have your name attached to it, and your berries will gain after a while such a reputation that you can safely defy all competition.
What varieties to plant, will depend on your soil and your market; for distant shipment the list is very limited, while for home markets there are many sorts that will, with fair treatment, make ample returns. It is best not to rely on any one kind, however good it may be, as one is not always able to command a Sufficient number of pickers, or your markets may be glutted just at the time the bulk of your crop comes in.
For distant shipment, we have for earliest the Princess of Wales, which ripens a few days after the Downer's Prolific; it is firm, large, showy and of excellent flavor; though of foreign origin, it grows on the hill system, in a well enriched, heavy clay soil, strong and vigorous, is quite productive and commands a very high price in market, as it has to compete only with soft berries. But I would not advise its plant-ing, except where good culture is given; and I may mention here, that foreign varieties will do better, if annually renewed, a plan that is generally adopted on the continent, and I incline to think that our native sorts would likewise yield better returns, if this plan was adopted.
Next we have the Wilson Albany and Seth Boyden, maturing about medium season, both very productive on the matted row plan; the former yielding a larger amount of fruit; the latter, however, commanding a much higher price in market. The Seth Boyden is not reliable in light and sandy soil. Mr. Wm. Parry informs me that in 1871 the Seth Boyden surpassed any strawberry crop he ever raised, very perfect, large and productive; but this year he had ten acres of light, sandy soil in strawberries, all of which looked well until the fruit began to form, when the severe drouth set in and the Seth Boyden suffered most, the Chas. Downing least, while Wilson and Kentucky were only moderate crops. The Seth Boyden in my grounds has always given satisfaction, neither suffering from extreme heat or cold. Mr. Sam. Miller, of Missouri, and others attest to the same fact, and say it is with them all that is desirable in a strawberry.
For late market there is the Jucunda, wherever it does well, as in Belmont county and some other localities in this State, and the Triomphe de Gand, both requiring hill culture; the latter in compact, rich soil, well mulched, being one of the best paying varieties.
For home markets there are, besides, the Nicaise, which grown broadcast is of no account, but cultivated in hills yields a very early and large crop. I picked one season, from 500 stools, 830 quarts; berries are rather above medium size and of a peculiar, to most palates, very pleasant flavor.
Burr's New Pine, a great bearer in matted rows, annually renewed; its fine light color and excellent flavor, make it a favorite everywhere, and it will bring in Cincinnati twice as much as the Wilson, if the berries have been properly handled.
Chas. Downing, another large, bright red and regular shaped berry, having made many friends during the last two years, will only do well in stoots, but yields then heavily; rich sandy loam is its favorite soil, and Mr. Parry considers it his second best berry Lady of the Lake, an old favorite of mine, and worthy of more attention than it has thus far received, as it seems to stand neglect even better than the Wilson. Mr. Scott, of Massachusetts, for the last thirty years the most extensive strawberry grower in the New England States, has informed me that the Lady of the Lake yields with him, forty to fifty bushels more per acre than the Wilson, or about 200 bushels actual count, which averaged him $9.50 in Boston market.
Fillmore, which Mr. Knox used to style his second best berry, has to be kept in stools, and gives in strong, rich loam, an abundant crop of large berries.
Agriculturist does not succeed everywhere, but should be grown where it does.
Green Prolific, yielding in hills a very large crop; it has averaged with me, some seasons, two quarts to the stool, and is, on account of its color, very saleable in market.
The Green Prolific; the only variety which will live and give satisfaction in the warm, sandy soil of our Miami Bottoms, where neither the Wilson nor any other sort ever outlived a single season; it will no doubt do as well in other similar localities.
Kentucky, which in matted rows, hill or broadcast, seems to do equally well; and in appearance, size and flavor, a most excellent berry. I picked this season from a bed of 1,200 feet - plants covering the bed - which had not been worked or manured for three years, over four bushels of the largest berries.
These varieties are named in the order of their maturity, commencing with the earliest; some of them will, of course, do better in one locality than another, and every grower has to find out by experiments on a small scale, which are the best for his own region or soil, taking always in consideration that the largest berries, of a bright red color, sell best. Whoever has the great desideratum of the strawberry vine, a well drained, rich, deep, and above all, a moist soil, can grow any variety to perfection, and with him the small, wild berry of the fields would almost rival the Seth Boyden or Dr. Warder.
Most of the varieties named will do equally well for the home garden. Lovers of fine fruit, however, should not do without the Lennig's White or the President Wilder; and for the epicure, who does not mind time, labor or cost, there are numerous other sorts, combining the highest standard of excellence, size and flavor, that satisfy the most fastidious palate.
But my list of varieties would be incomplete without mentioning the Ida and the General Meade, and more particularly so, the first. Mother earth seems to grow them spontaneously for those of her favorites who like to reap without sowing. Let those who are afflicted with this failing, try the Ida. Plant it close enough for the run-ners to cover the ground the first season, and they will afterwards take care of the weeds themselves.
And now a few words about new seedling varieties, some of which promise a bright future:
1. The Col. Cheeney I saw, for the first time, in fruit last summer, at Barnesville, in what I consider one of the regions best adapted to small fruit culture in our State, of which fact our Belmont county friends, I am happy to add, seem to be fully aware; the berries on exhibition were extremely large, of fine showy appearance, fair taste, but rather soft. In productiveness, the Col. Cheeney appears to rival the far-famed Mr. Nioaise, as the berries were few and far between; it certainly took a great many plants to fill a few quarts. I suppose the plant to be pistillate, as by far the larger number of berries were small and knotty and of no earthly account.
2. Black Defiance, raised by Mr. Durand from the Green Prolific and Triomphe. It is a strong, healthy grower, and seems to have many good qualities; but with mo the fruit stems are so short that the berries cannot be kept clean; this, however, may be a defect in the soil, as it is highly spoken of in the Eastern States.
3. Monarch of the West; plant very strong and healthy, fruit large and handsome. I learn from Mr. William Parry that it is the largest and finest strawberry he has; foliage remarkably strong and vigorous, standing the past hot and dry summer without injury, when the Wilson and other sorts were nearly ruined. The fruit is firm, delicious and handsome, selling at $1 per quart in Philadelphia, when the Wilson is selling at 25 cents.
4. Matilda; a seedling from Triompho de Gand, a large, handsome, strawberry, firm and quite productive.
Mr. G. S. Tulles recommended it as a market berry, though deficient in flavor, while Mr. Charles Downing, who has repeatedly visited the original plantation, speaks very highly of it; and says that the Matilda (according to his taste) will class very good or best: the berries sell about one-third higher than Wilson's, while there is only a little difference in the yield.
5. And last, but not least, the Dr. Warder; if this berry will show during the next- six years as bright a record as- it has through the past (and I have no doubt it will), then it cannot fail to occupy as prominent a position among strawberries as its godfather, our noble president, so deservedly occupies amongst horticulturists. In another year we will hear more from it, as it is being largely planted in New Jersey, Missouri, Kentucky and other States for market purposes.
The actual yield with me of 200 feet on the matted row plan, without winter covering as manure, was two bushels and twelve quarts of such berries as I exhibited here in Zanesville, and other localities, without counting what was taken off by visitors.
To show the relative value of strawberries in market, I may mention that the following varieties ranged, on the same day, in Cincinnati, at Fifty cents for Juounda.
Forty cents for Triomphe de Gaud and Seth Boyden.
Thirty to thirty-five cents for Kentucky and Agriculturist.
Twenty cents for Chas. Downing.
Ten to fifteen cents for Wilson's Albany.