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 our last two numbers we gave some extracts on Strawberry Culture from Dr. Grant's Landmarks. We now make an extract from Mr. Fuller's Strawberry Culturist) giving his views in regard to the time and mode of planting.
"Choose cloudy weather for planting, if possible. Draw a line where you are to put the row of plants, keeping it a few inches above the ground, so that you may plant under the line; that is much better, than to let the line lie on the ground, for then it will be in the way of the transplanting trowel; spread out the roots evenly on every side; cover them as deeply as you can without covering the crown of the plants; press the soil down firmly around them with the hands.
"If the weather should prove dry, give them a good soaking with pure water (no mere sprinkling will do) as often as they require it, which will be as often as the foliage droops. The rows should be two and a half feet apart, the plants one foot apart in the rows. When pistillate varieties are used for the main crop, then overy fifth row must be planted with a hermaphrodite variety, for the purpose of fertilizing the pistillates. Pistillate varieties will not bear alone, nor will they bear a full crop of perfect berries unless abundant supplies of perfect flowering varieties are placed in close proximity. Let no weeds grow among them, and stir the soil as often as possible; the oftener the better. We know that some cultivators assert that there is much injury done to the roots by frequent hoeing; but we have never found the plants as much injured by hoeing or forking among them as they were by neglecting to do either.
"Take off all runners as they appear, so that all the strength of the plant shall be concentrated, and not distributed among several, as a dozen small plants will not produce as much or so fine fruit as one good strong one. When plants are wanted, make a separate plantation for that purpose.
"At the approach of winter, the entire surface of the soil, plants and all should be covered with straw, hay, or some similar material, to the depth of one inch; the object being not so much for the purpose of keeping out the frost as to prevent the frequent freezing and thawing during the early part of winter and the approach of spring. So soon as the plants start in the spring, the covering should be pushed aside, so as to allow the plant to grow up through it. The question is often asked, whether it is necessary to cover the hardy varieties in this locality during the winter? and if we should judge from the difference in the. appearance of the plants in the spring, we might doubt the expediency of such a practice; but I have found it highly beneficial to cover all varieties, having tried several experiments, the results of which were, that on an average we obtained about one quarter more fruit when the plants were covered than when they were not.
"The embryo fruit buds are formed in the fall, and are often injured during the winter and spring, and of course if there are but a few fruit stems put forth, there is but little call on the plant to support them, and consequently the leaves have more food.
"Usually the plants, grow strong or weak in proportion to the quantity of fruit they bear. This would often lead cultivators to suppose, from the luxuriant growth of the plants, that covering was of no benefit, if not positively injurious.
"Keep off all runners at all times, and pull up all weeds that come through the mulching. No stirring of the soil is needed if a good depth of mulch is sustained. It will generally be necessary to add a small quantity of mulch every fall, depending, of course, upon the nature of the material used. Salt hay is a material that is much used near New York, and it is cheap, lasting, and is easily applied; but straw, hay, carpenters' shavings, leaves, tan-bark, etc., are all good. Strawberry plantations that are kept well mulched, and freed from weeds and runners, will last for many years, depending, of course, somewhat, upon the variety planted and the nature of the soil.
"On very dry or sandy soil it is well to mulch the ground very soon after the plants are set out, or so soon as they take root in the soil, as there is but little danger of being troubled with weeds the first season, and the mulch keeps the earth moist, a thing which it is very difficult to accomplish in any other way.