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.
In the fall, ox before the setting in of winter, & mulching of half-decayed leaves or manure should be placed between the rows, coming close around the plants, leaving the crown or beart uncovered. This mulching prevents the plants from being drawn out and weakened, or destroyed by freezing and thawing in winter. We have sometimes covered the entire beds, plants and all, with newly fallen leaves; and by raking them off early in spring, the plants came out in fine order. In the same way we have covered with clean wheat straw, and found it answer well. In all the northern and western States, some winter protection is of great service, although not indispensable. In field culture, the earth might be plowed up to the plants, as is done with nursery trees, in such a manner as to afford considerable protection against the action of frost on the roots.
As soon as the fruit begins to attain its full size, and approach maturity, the spaces between the rows, which up to this time have been under clean culture, should be covered with straw, litter, or moss. This will serve the double purpose of keeping the fruit clean and retaining the moisture in 'the soil. When copious supplies of water are to be applied, which should be always done when practicable, stable litter is a good mulching, as the water poured on it carries down with it to the roots of the plants the fertilizing materials which it contains.
The application of water in abundance we must again recommend to all who want the finest fruit Bains are very good, but they can not be relied upon, and they always deprive the fruit of its flavor, while artificial waterings do not. On this account the French gardeners say that the Strawberry "prefers water from the well to water from the clouds." It is supposed that the electricity which pervades the atmosphere during our summer rains, affect the flavor of the fruit.
When the crop has been gathered, the mulching material between the rows should be removed, and the ground be forked over, so that if plants are wanted to form a new plantation, their growth will be encouraged. The same plants should not be relied upon for more than two crops. The labor of making a new bed, save the trenching of the soil, is no more than that of planting a plot of cabbages.
As to the season for planting, we would recommend the spring for large plantstions, because then there is comparatively no risk of failure. The amateur, however, who wishes only to plant a bed in his garden, may do it at any time that he can procure good plants. If the growth of runners is encouraged in July, after the fruit is gathered, good well-rooted runners may be had. about the first of September, or it may be sooner. The young plants nearest the parent plant should always be chosen, if possible. In planting during the month of August or September, rainy weather should be chosen, if possible; but it may be safely done even in a dry time, by using water freely. Water the plants well before taking them up, as it injures the roots very much to draw them out of dry ground; then water the soil thoroughly where they are to be set, before planting. A sprinkling will be of no use; it must go down deep, as a heavy rain would. Set the plants in the evening, and shade them a few days with boards set on edge, forming a sort of roof over them. Mulch them, too, with short litter; and it will be well, if the plants be large, to remove some of the lower and larger leaves.
Planting can be done safely in spring any time until the plants are in blossom - and all summer, for that matter, with proper care in regular order, it is true, but we hope so as to be understood. We are not writing a book, and can not enter into all the details with minuteness. We have said nothing of the soil, and will only remark that any good garden soil fit to produce culinary vegetables, or any good farm land fit for grain or root crops, will produce good Strawberries; but it must be deeply plowed, or trenched, say twenty inches at least, and liberally • manured with well-decomposed stable manure or a good compost The quantity of manure must vary according to the degree of natural fertility of the soil. In one case, a quantity equal to six inches deep all over the surface would not be too much; while in other cases, half that would be enough.
We would prefer not to make a Strawberry plantation twice on the same ground; but when, circumstances render it inconvenient to change, rows of young plants might be set, or allowed to establish themselves from the runners, between the old rows, which can then be turned under with the spade, and will serve to enrich the ground.
Now as to varieties. On this point there is room for a great diversity of opinion, and we can not hope to name a list that will be acceptable to a very large number of persons, at least in many parts of the country. Planters must have recourse to the best experience to be found in their respective localities; in the meantime we shall express our opinion of a few varieties, and let it go for what it is worth.
It happens that in this country the greater number of our most productive varieties have but one set of the organs of fecundation. A fruitful flower must have both pistils and stamens perfectly developed. The stamens are regarded as the male organs, and the pistils the female. When a flower has well-developed pistils, but no stamens, or imperfect ones, it must be impregnated by pollen from other flowers. Where a flower has no pistils, or has imperfect ones, it is utterly barren. A large number of our best American varieties - such as Hovey's Seedling, Burr's New Pine, McAvoy's Superior, Moyamensing, etc. - are wanting in stamens, and therefore foreign impregnation is necessary. In Europe this distinction is not observed to any extent, and all the English and continental varieties, as far as we know, are hermaphrodite. In this country very many of them fail from an imperfect development of the pistils, and are consequently barren, owing doubtless to the effects of climate and culture. It is not necessary that the two should be in close proximity; they are sure to get impregnated if in the same garden, as the pollen is carried about from one flower to another by insects. The beds of the different sorts may be kept entirely separate.
Mixing them up is a bad way, as the one outgrows and overruns the other, and they become so confused that nothing can be done with them. On this account many have grown tired of keeping up the distinction, and have resolved to cultivate hermaphrodite sorts only.
The following varieties are the best on the long list of those we have tested on our own grounds:
Burr's New Pine, Jenny's Seedling, Me Avoy's Superior, Hovey's Seedling, Moyamensing, Monroe Scarlet, and Crimson Cone. The finest flavored variety among these, is Burr's New Pine; the largest, Hovey's Seedling; and the finest and best for market. Jenny's Seedling and Crimson Cone. Hovey's Seedling in Western New York, and in many parts of the west, is a very moderate, and in many cases a poor bearer. We have had no crop so heavy the past season (when all bore well) as on the Monroe Scarlet.
Large Early Scarlet, Walker's Seedling, Iowa, Boston Pine, and Genesee. All these may be grown successfully for market, and are good without being first rate in flavor. We think much more of Walker's Seedling now than we did last season. It is very hardy, and a great bearer. It appears to be a seedling from the Black Prince. The Boston Pine is the most uncertain on the whole list; without good soil and culture, it fails entirely.
Beside the above list, we would recommend to amateurs, who are willing to bestow thorough cultivation and care on their plants, the British Queen, which, when well grown, surpasses in size, beauty, and excellence, any we have named. The Bicton Pine - a large and beautiful white variety, which ripens late. We have had a fine crop of it this season, although our plants being set last year were seriously injured last winter. Like all the foreign sorts, it needs protection, and a deep, rich soil, with abundant moisture. The Wood Strawberries - red and white - bear most profusely in all places, and last a long time; beside, they part freely from the calyx, and are therefore easily and rapidly picked, and their flavor is rich and agreeable to most people. In addition to these we. must mention the Bush Alpine (having no runners) - perpetual bearers, if kept liberally supplied with moisture. They deserve much more extensive cultivation than they now receive. With their assistance, we may enjoy Strawberries not one month only, but four months.