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.
After so complete a record of Strawber-ries as Mr. Fuller has given in his " Small Fruit Culturist," just published, it may be counted as presumption to write another word; but we have two reasons for so doing. One is, that all our readers may not buy and read Mr. Fuller's book; the other, that it is a duty devolving on us, as editors and publishers of a leading, or we may say the leading and oldest, horticultural journal, with one exception, in the States, to record from time to time our views of progress, and assert any ideas we may entertain, even although they run counter to some of our best writers.
An observation and practice of over thirty years convinces us that Mr. Fuller is right when he says: "No one kind of soil is equally well adapted to every variety;" but we may go further, and say that while this is correct, yet due preparation of a soil will adapt it to more varieties than perhaps would otherwise be accredited to it. And while a deep rich sandy loam may be called uthe best soil, all things considered," we have our doubts if it be so, when stronger and more clayey soils have been perfectly prepared. With Mr. Fuller again we agree, that not one acre in a thousand in this country is properly prepared. We 13 know of and have recently been over perhaps one hundred acres of vines, and not an acre among them had anything more in the way of preparing the gronnd than is given by our most slovenly farmers in preparing land for corn. And again, field after field that we have visited had received but one partial cultivation and hoeing this spring, and as the berries commenced ripening, grass, sorrel, and weeds were the leading features of growth that at a first glance met the eye.
One little patch of ground, of about one-quarter acre, which we visited, had last fall been thoroughly prepared, first by deep plowing and sub-soiling, and at the same time covering under a good dressing of manure. Then when planting came, the ground was furrowed out by a one-horse plow, run twice in the furrow, turning it each way, and as deep as the horse could draw it; then in the bottom was spread a layer of half-rotted stable manure, the soil turned back again, raked down smooth, and the plants set out, some the last of July, and some the last of August, all runners kept off; and as winter came on, say about the 20th November, the ground was mulched two inches deep with tan-bark. Up to the time of blooming this spring, the bed was gone over, and every runner that showed was pinched back. The result is, that a show of fruit and a perfect ripening thereof greeted the owner, fully repaying and overpaying for all care and labor. The proprietor proposes, as soon as the fruiting time is over, to rake off his tan-bark, mulch, and then run a subsoil-plow between his rows as deep as he can; then let runners be guided into the intervening distance, but only just enough to re-form his bed, and as soon as they are established, put spades and Paddies to turning under the old plants - then rake down the whole smooth, keep it hoed, and again in November put on his mulch.
With such preparation of ground we believe many kinds of strawberries that now only receive rough culture, and still rougher comments on their values, might be shown to be almost as desirable as their originators deemed them. At any rate, we must urge on all who are about to make new strawberry beds, a remembrance that soil, provided it is not a stiff, hard, yellow clay, is not so absolutely important as the preparation thereof, and that while we have recorded a case where manure was used, and profitably, it is not. always a requisite, as many of our rich, deep loamy prairie grounds and river bottom lands would be father injured than benefited thereby, or, m other words, the manure would be a useless expense and trouble. Understanding the general principles, or that the strawberry roots deep, good common sense must then guide as to the condition of the soil, and its want of manure or otherwise.
And now one word about plants, and the time of setting. While we prefer the spring, because naturally that is the growing season, there is no difficulty in forming good beds or plantations of strawberries in August or September, provided the ground is thoroughly prepared and the plants come to hand in good order. If the plants are in your own grounds, and you have only to remove two hundred feet or so, then, of course, you can keep the roots from drying, and prevent exhaustion thereof, as you should do by clipping off all the fully developed leaves; but if you are to obtain your plants from a distance, bargain first that the dealer shall either take them up early in the morning, or on a cloudy day, that he shall clip away all the fully developed foliage, and finally, that every root shall be packed with moss next it - not a bundle put up and a little moss and grass or hay on the outside. We have had plants by mail, in packages, and in many ways, and when one understands just how to manage them, most can be saved; but when plants are received and then turned over to a common laborer to plant out, the buyer had better pay double price for his plants packed as we have described, than receive them gratis in the ordinary manner.
Nurserymen and plant-growers have run the price of plants down to a nominal sum, hardly paying for the labor of digging. Let them now either charge for the packing or else add to the price of plants.
Having received the plants, the careful cultivator will take each plant singly, and with a pair of shears clip all brown, or dead, or broken roots back to fresh, clean fiber. Mr. Fuller advises taking a bunch in hand and cutting all at one clip; but while this may do for large plantations, or varieties of little cost, whoever has a choice plant had best examine its roots and cut away only such as are brown or injured.
When planting, after the ground is all ready, a horse and light one-horse plow run along the line and opening a furrow will much facilitate the work, and enable the planter to spread his roots well and rapidly. The iron rake afterward passed along will rapidly level in the furrow.