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.
"When is the proper time, or rather the best time, to plant strawberries?" is a question we are often asked. We have no hesitation in recommending the spring - the month of April, or the beginning of May, in the north, as the surest. The plants at that season are well-rooted, and there is scarcely the slightest risk of a failure. If the ground has been well prepared, and they are well. attended to during the season, a fair crop may be had the following spring. By planting in August or September, a crop may be had a year sooner, but it will necessarily be a light one, and there is a great risk on account of the warm and dry weather so prevalent in these months. To plant at this season with success, the plants must be well rooted, and the ground thoroughly wet with rain or otherwise before planting. To plant in dry earth, and sprinkle after planting, is a mere waste of plants and time. Amateurs who have the plants on their own grounds, should take the strongest runners as soon as rooted and transplant them into a shaded, cool border, and there allow them to remain until well fixed in the ground, when they can be taken up in a moist time with some earth about the roots and transferred to their permanent situation; the greater certainty of this method will amply repay its extra expense.
Even when plants are purchased, it will generally be found safer to plant them temporarily in a cool border until re-rooted, and then remove them with earth to the open, permanent beds.
A very common error is to plant too close; sufficient space should be left for the proper cultivation of the soil, and for passages to and from the plants. In gardens, we prefer planting in narrow beds, each containing about three rows, a passage of two and a half feet between each bed, and twelve to fifteen inches each way between the plants. In extensive field-culture these spaces would not be sufficient; three to three and a half feet space between the beds, and eighteen inches between the plants would be little enough.
Now as to kinds. Varieties of strawberries have lately grown so numerous, that it is really embarrassing for the amateur to make a selection; it is the more so, too, on account of the variety of opinion given respecting the qualities of varieties. One says, Hovey's Seedling is the best; another, the Burr's New Pine; another, McAvoy's Superior, or something else. In England, as in this country, varieties have increased to a wonderful extent Keen's Seedling, that at one time was the most popular variety in Great Britain, is now, although highly prized, in a great measure superseded by the British Queen, the great strawberry of England. We observe that it took nearly all the prizes at Chiswick on the 9th of July last. Myatt's Surprize took one premium, and a new seedling named Prince Alfred was described as large and handsome. The Elton,Eitley's Goliah, Cuthill's Black Prince, and Alice Maude are all fine English sorts, but none of them prove valuable here. Our climate seems in some way or other to prevent the perfect development of the floral organs; as the fruit seldom sets well. We have tried nearly all the English varieties of note, and find them of no value for profitable culture.
The Bicton Pine, a large white variety, promises to be worthy of a place in amateurs' collections - desirable for its color, especially. We have had it bear two seasons, on a small scale, and it has quite come up to our expectations. Hovey's Seedling has for several years been the "British Queen" of this country. It is a magnificent fruit, but is uncertain, producing heavy crops in some seasons and localities, and failing totally in others. This has been its history from its first dissemination to the present time. While we would not dispense with it, even in a small collection, there are many others on which we would rather place our dependance for a large crop. Burr's New Pine and Large Early Scarlet are productive, good sorts. The Iowa is an immense bearer (a staminate), but small; Burr's Columbus is a great bearer, and a showy, good fruit; Burr's Ohio Mammoth is a magnificent fruit, pale colored, like the New Pine; but although the fruit show well on the plants, they do not bear picking long.
Black Prince bears enormous crops with us every year, and the fruit, though generally of indifferent quality, is pretty good when fully ripe; Walker's Seedling is a good variety, quite conical, and as dark almost as the Black Prince. Our seedlings, Monroe Scarlet and Genesee, have borne abundant crops.
McAvoy's Superior* having been awarded the $100 prize at Cincinnati, excited considerable expectation, and now it seems to be very variously estimated. Mr. Pardee, in our last number, gave the result of his trial. Our specimens were scarcely so fine as his, yet we consider it a prolific, good variety. It has one defect - it does.
*See Frontispiece not fill up perfectly. It is bright colored, and of good flavor, though not first rate. At Boston, it appears, from Hovey's Magazine, that all the Cincinnati varieties have proved inferior. McAvoy's Superior, Mr. Hovey says, "is the best flavored of the four, but far inferior to many of the older varieties." Longworth's Prolific is a good bearer, but it is superior in nothing to some of the older sorts. We learn that at Pittsburg the McAvoy's Superior has proved almost a failure in every case where it has been tested. The old vexed question of sexes has been revived latterly, but it is a mere waste of time to discuss such a question. It is very well understood, and has been for fifty years, that no variety wanting in stamens will bear a crop by itself. In Europe, the Hautbois have been examples of this kind. Variations and defects in the sexual organs, so-called, are much more frequent in this country, and in the case of some forms a permanent characteristic. Where pistillate sorts are planted, therefore, a small proportion of staminates must accompany them.