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Strawberries
Strawberries

Strawberries

by Liberty Hyde Bailey

This material was taken from Liberty Hyde Bailey’s 1901 Cyclopedia of American Horticulture. The figure numbers reflect this reprinting. Please remember that these cost figures are 100 years old. It is indeed lamentable that several of the Strawberry varieties mentioned here are now extinct.

At one point in this writing they speak of a yield of 8,000 quarts per acre. At last summer’s west coast retail market value for strawberries the gross value per acre would be $23,840.00. Strawberries used to be an important crop in the state of Oregon, one which depended on school children and migrant labor. Changes in labor laws and immigration rules have cause the near disappearance of strawberries from this state. For the farm family willing to honor the value of labor intensity Strawberries offer great promise. SFJ


Strawberries
Fig. 2414. Strawberry plant ready for setting.

The Strawberry is an herbaceous perennial. It naturally propagates itself by means of runners that form chiefly after the blooming season. These runner plants, either transplanted or allowed to remain where they form, will bear the following year. Usually the plants will continue to bear for five or six years, but the first and second crops are generally the best. It is therefore the custom to plow up Strawberry beds after they have borne from one to three crops. The better the land and the more intensive the cultivation, the shorter the rotation. In market-gardening areas and in some of the very best Strawberry regions, the plants are allowed to fruit but once. The plants therefore occupy the land only one year and the crop works into schemes of short rotation cropping. The Strawberry delights in a rich, rather moist soil and a cool season. It can be grown in the cool part of the year in the South and thereby becomes one of the most cosmopolitan of fruits. The young plants may be separated from the parent and put into new plantations in August; but under average conditions in the North it is usually better to wait until the following spring, since the weather is likely to be too hot and dry in the late summer or fall. Plants that have not borne are best for setting. They are plants of the season: that is, plants which start in the spring of 1901 are fit for planting in the late summer or fall of 1901 or in the spring of 1902. These plants have many long, fresh, light-colored roots. Fig. 2414 shows such a plant, with the roots trimmed for planting. Fig. 2415 shows a plant that has borne. This plant bore fruit in 1900, and has thrown up a new crown in 1901. The old dead crown is seen on the right. The young growth is lateral to this old crown. The roots are relatively few and are hard and black. These plants sometimes make good plantations under extra good care, but generally they should be avoided. Pots are sometimes plunged under the new runners in June and July, and they become filled with roots by August or September. These pot-grown plants are excellent for fall setting in the home garden, but they are seldom employed in extensive commercial practice. Fig. 2416.

Strawberries
Fig. 2415. Old Strawberry plant, usually not desirable for setting.

In Florida, beds need to be reset annually, in September or October; plants set at this time produce a good crop in the following February, March and April. The plants may be produced at home, or they may be secured from the North. Excellent plants for Florida conditions are procured from North Carolina.

Strawberries
Fig. 2416. Pot grown Strawberry plant.

For the very finest berries, each plant is allowed a space or hill by itself, and cultivation is given both ways. For general commercial results, however, plants are generally set in narrow rows. The old method was to plant in rows 3 – 3½ feet apart and the plants from 12 – 15 inches apart in rows, keeping off the runners until late in July and then allowing the runners to grow and root at will, making a matted row. In this system some plants are almost on top of others, the roots barely in the ground, and they suffer in a season of drought. The rows are so wide that to pick fruit in the center it is almost necessary to crush fruits on the outside of the row. This system gives few large first-class fruits, and is now passing away. The up-to-date grower starts with the assumption that the largest and highest colored fruits are found on plants along the outside of the rows, and therefore he plans to have as many outside rows as possible. This he accomplishes by having his rows closer together and much narrower. The rows are made from 30 – 36 inches apart and the plants from 18 – 24 or even 30 inches apart in the rows, much depending on the prolificacy of the variety as a plantmaker. If the plants used for a new bed are strong and start into growth vigorously, the first runners are used, as it has been found that under most conditions the plants about twelve months old yield the greatest number of fine fruits. These first runners are usually “bedded in,” i.e., planted by hand, training them along the wide way of the rows, using from four to eight of the first runners and cutting off those growing later. This method of planting allows cultivation both ways until the runners start, retaining moisture and saving labor in hoeing.

Strawberries
Fig. 2417. Heavy mulching of Strawberry plants, as practiced in parts of the North.

Strawberries are usually mulched in the fall in order to protect them in the winter and early spring and to prevent the soil from heaving. In some cases the mulch is allowed to remain on the plants rather late in the spring, in order to retard the season of bloom. Sometimes the crop may be retarded a week or ten days by this means, and cases are reported in which it has been delayed with commercial results somewhat longer than this. The mulch is usually more necessary in regions of light and precarious snowfall than in those in which the snow blanket is deep and lies all winter. In regions of deep and continuous snowfall, a heavy mulch is likely to prove injurious. Experience has shown that the best mulch is usually some strawy material. Along the seacoast, salt hay from the tide marshes is much used. In interior places clean straw, in which there is no grain to sprout and to make weeds, is very largely employed. Fig. 2417. In the South, pine needles are used. Sometimes loose strawy manure is used, and the mulch adds fertilizer to the soil as well as affords protection. Under ordinary conditions the mulch is three or four inches deep over the plants after it is fairly well packed down. It is not always possible, however, to mulch as heavily as this, since the material is likely to be expensive when one has a large area. The mulch is usually applied late in the fall after the ground has frozen, and if the material is abundant both the plants and the intervening spaces are covered. In the spring the mulch is raked from the plants as soon as they begin to start. Some persons allow it to lie between the rows as a cover to retain moisture and to keep the berries clean. The most expert growers, however, prefer to take the mulch from the field and to till the plantation once or twice before the plants are in bloom. The material is sometimes returned and spread on the loose soil between the rows. In the northern prairie states, heavy mulching is essential. Professor S.B. Green advises for western Minnesota and Dakota a covering of at least six inches of straw. This mulch is easily provided, since straw is so abundant in that country that it is often burned as the readiest means of getting rid of it. When not mulched in that region, the plants are likely to be killed outright or to start with a very weak growth.

Strawberries
Fig. 2418. Sexes of Strawberry flowers. At the left, a perfect flower; at the right, a pistillate flower (lacking stamens); in the middle, stamens few.

Strawberry flowers may be either perfect or imperfect, and the nature of the flower is characteristic of the variety. In some kinds, the flower is perfect or hermaphrodite (having both stamens and pistils) and is consequently self-fertile. In others it is pistillate, producing no pollen, and requiring a pollen-bearing variety to pollinate it. Fig. 2418. There are no varieties bearing only staminate or sterile flowers. The perfect-flowered varieties differ greatly in the amount of pollen they produce. Some, as the Crescent and Glen Mary, bear so few stamens that they are practically pistillate or sterile. Any variety will fertilize any other variety if it bears sufficient pollen and if the two kinds bloom at the same time. When planting pistillate varieties, every third row should be a pollen-bearing kind. The horticultural bearing of the sexual characters of the Strawberry flower seems to have been first clearly explained in this country by Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati. When many of the akenes or “seeds” of the Strawberry are not fertilized or are killed by frost or other means, the berry fails to develop at that point and a “nubbin,” or imperfect berry, is the result. Fig. 2419. Nubbins are usually most abundant late in the fruiting season, when the pollen supply is small and when the plants are relatively exhausted.

Strawberries
Fig. 2419. Strawberry Nubbin.

The cost of growing an acre of Strawberries under commercial conditions in Oswego County, New York (which is one of the leading Strawberry centers of the North) is approximately as follows:

Rent of land, two years$11.00
Plowing and fitting6.00
Plants15.00
Setting plants4.00
Cultivation16.00
Straw for winter and fruiting mulch15.00
Labor – hoeing, pulling weeds, etc10.00
Total cost$77.00

Many growers raise berries at a much less cost, and a few exceed this sum especially when located near a large town where rents are high; but it would be safe for one about to engage in Strawberry-growing to figure close to this total, aside from the cost of fertilizer.

Strawberries
Fig. 2420. Wilson Strawberry.

New varieties of Strawberries are raised from seed with the greatest ease. The generations of Strawberries are short and new varieties soon find favor. The varieties change so frequently in popular estimation that it is impracticable to recommend a list of them in a work like this. The first great American berry was the Hovey. Perhaps the most popular single variety has been the Wilson (Fig. 2420), now practically extinct. The accompanying pictures (Figs. 2421-2425) show types of American Strawberries.

Strawberries
Fig. 2421. Gandy Strawberry.

The common garden Strawberries are the progeny of Fragaria Chiloensis, native to the Pacific coast of America, and first introduced to cultivation from Chile nearly 200 years ago. In Europe the Alpine and Hautbois types of Strawberries (F. vesca and F. moschata) are highly prized as dessert fruits. These are sometimes grown in this country by amateurs, but they are unknown to commercial Strawberry culture. The native Fragaria Virginiana, everywhere common in fields in eastern North America, gives little promise under cultivation. It usually runs strongly to vine, at the expense of fruit-bearing.

Strawberries
Fig. 2422. Haverland Strawberry.

There are several serious fungous diseases and insect pests of the Strawberry. The fundamental treatment for all these is to fruit the bed but once, or at most but twice, and to grow succeeding crops on other land, cleaning up the old plantation thoroughly after the last fruiting. Short, quick and sharp rotations and clean culture do much to keep all enemies in check.

Strawberries
bottom – Fig. 2423. Bomba Strawberry.
top – Fig. 2424. Belmont Strawberry.

Culture of Strawberries. – (The following article was written for the Editor some ten years ago by the late J.M. Smith of Green Bay, WI, long known as one of the most expert Strawberry-growers. It has never been published. Mr. Smith was born at Morristown, NJ, Jan. 13, 1820, and died at Green Bay, Feb. 20, 1894. – L.H.B.)

Strawberries
Fig. 2425. Shuster Gem Strawberry.

The Strawberry will grow and thrive in all parts of the United States where any fruit will grow, and yet, strange as it may seem to young readers, fifty years ago it was scarcely known except as a wild fruit. The writer has no recollection of ever seeing more than one small bed of Strawberries cultivated before he was 25 years old. In boyhood he often accompanied his father to the New York market, yet he never saw cultivated Strawberries in that market before 1840, though there were probably a few before that time. It is probable that there are now more Strawberries carried to New York every fair day during their season of ripening than had ever been seen in that city during its entire history previous to 1840.

The introduction of Hovey Seedling about 1834 or 1835, and of the Jersey, or, as it was sometimes called, the Early Scarlet, a few years later, marked a new era in Strawberry culture. These were great improvements over the common wild fruit previously seen in the market; but is was not until the introduction of the Wilson, about 1854, that it became possible for almost every one who owned a small plot of land to have a supply of berries for himself and friends during the berry season. This modest little plant completely revolutionized Strawberry growing. Its fruit was much larger than any other then in cultivation, being also very firm and able to bear transportation much better than any other, and it seemed to be perfectly at home in nearly every soil and climate from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, and from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to all these qualities, it was marvelously productive. Soon after this, new varieties began to appear in numbers greatly exceeding anything ever before known. This progress has been kept up until the present time, and each succeeding year many new varieties are brought to notice. The increase in the cultivation of this fruit was not rapid until 1855, when more attention began to be paid to it than ever before. Since the close of the Civil War the increase has been almost beyond belief, except to those who are familiar with its history.

Strawberries
Fig. 2426. Leaf-blight of Strawberry.

Strawberry Soil. – If he could always choose, the writer would select a dark sandy loam, rather damp than dry, but this is by no means an absolute necessity, as Strawberries will grow in almost any soil, unless it be dry sand or an undrained bed of mulch. Any soil that will grow a good crop of corn or potatoes will grow a fair crop of Strawberries. This remark will apply throughout the United States; and not only that, but Strawberries will grow in some places where the nights are too cool and the seasons are too short for corn to ripen. Hence but few need have any fears about their success on account of climate, latitude or longitude. The richer the soil the larger the crop, hence the necessity of making it rich by extra manuring.

The first thing is to be sure that the land is thoroughly drained, as it is impossible to make Strawberries do even fairly well with the roots in land that is filled with water. Underdraining is not always a necessity, but good surface-draining is, and no land should be set with plants until it is so prepared that it can be thoroughly surface-drained and kept so. If the land is at all inclined to be wet, it will pay well to have it thoroughly underdrained, in addition to the surface-draining.

Next comes the preparation of the soil. The writer prefers spring setting. He has sometimes done well with setting in August or early in September, but has never failed in spring setting. As early as the land is fit to be worked, put on about twenty fair-sized two-horse loads of manure per acre and plow it in; then top-dress with as much more fine, well-rotted manure, and harrow it in thoroughly. If fine manure cannot be obtained, it would be better to plow all the manure under, as coarse manure on top of the beds would be an annoyance, and cause more or less trouble the entire season. Whether the manure is wholly or partially plowed under, the land must be made fine and mellow before putting in the plants.

Strawberries
Fig. 2429. Strawberry field in Wisconsin.

Setting the Plants. – The plants should be taken from beds that were set the previous season, if possible. Use a common six-tined manure fork and take up a lot of the young plants, being sure to get only the runners of the previous fall. Pick them out of the loose earth, taking off all the old dry leaves, and if they have long, nice, light-colored roots (throw away all others), clip off about one-third of their length. Fig. 2414. Be careful not to let the sun shine on the roots for any length of time. During some of the hot sunny days of our spring weather, even ten minutes’ exposure to the sun would damage them so much that one should hardly dare risk setting them out. Mark off the beds in rows two feet apart each way. For this we use a marker made just like the common hand hayrake with the headpiece of pine or some other light wood, and about 12 feet long, the teeth set two feet apart and sloping a little backwards instead of forwards as in the common hayrake. With this a man should mark an acre in a half day, and do it easily. If the ground is still a little heavy, as it is likely to be if it is a clay soil, let a man go ahead with a hoe and strike it into the earth where the plant is to be set and loosen it so that it will be perfectly mellow. A boy follows with the prepared plants, and drops one at each crossing of the marks. He is followed by the setters, of whom there should be two to work to best advantage. They go on their knees between two rows, pick up the plants with the left hand and at the same time, with the fingers of the same hand, spread the roots into a fan shape, while with the fingers of the right hand the ground is opened sufficiently to allow the fan-shaped roots of the plant to go down in a perpendicular manner into the earth; then bring back the earth around the plant and, doubling up both hands, press down the earth firmly around the newly set plant. The crown of the plant when set should be a very little lower than the surrounding earth. Be careful not to have the crown covered with earth, as that would damage it. All this can be done by men with a little experience in a small part of the time taken to write it out, but one must remember that the doing of this work well or ill will make the difference between success and partial failure. The writer has several men who will set half an acre a day, and do it easily and well. If the weather is dry and warm, it will greatly aid the young plants if half a pint of water is put around each one.

When the beds are filled with plants, run through them with a hand-cultivator before they come into bloom. This may not be necessary, but in most cases it will be. If the plants start nicely, they will soon be in full bloom, but they must not be allowed to bear fruit this summer. Go through the beds and pinch off all the blossoms, and see that there are not stray plants among them of a different variety. The beds must be kept clean, free from weeds, and well cultivated as often as they require it. In July the runners will start. Before the runners take root they should be trained around the parent plant like the spokes of a wheel, having the parent plant for its center. Simply lay them out in equal distances around the parent plant and throw sufficient earth upon them to hold them. Otherwise the runners are likely to come out on one side and make almost a solid mass of roots on that side and few or none on the other, the result being that the crop the following season will not be as large or of as good quality as when they have been properly tended. This is about all there is to be done until the ground freezes for winter, when the plants should be covered with marsh hay. Straw is as good, provided it is free from weeds and grass seed, but it is sometimes impossible to obtain such straw. In covering the plants, merely hide them from sight. There are two objects in view: first, to protect the plants from the many sudden changes in our winter weather, and, second, for spring protection. During the thawing days and freezing nights in the early spring, the ground is likely to become “honeycombed.” The top of the ground is a little raised from its natural position, and the plants are lifted up and their roots broken off in the frozen earth beneath. To avoid this danger, leave the cover upon the plants until all freezing nights are over. Some growers recommend leaving the cover on and allowing the plants to work their way through it. The writer has tried this plan, but the crop was only half of that obtained when the cover had been taken off and the ground kept cultivated. Better take the cover off, haul it away and stack it for another winter’s use.

Some growers recommend that the mulch be retained in order to keep the berries from being soiled. If the plants grew last season as they should have done, they have by this time nearly or quite covered the ground, and the leaves and fruit-stems will so support each other that there will be very few berries in the dirt unless it rains almost constantly. When there are open spaces of any size, and the fruit is likely to get into the dirt, it is well to put back a little of the mulch after the thorough cultivation of the spring is done. For the spring dressing, wood ashes are to be preferred. If unleached, they should be applied at the rate of not less than 50 bushels to the acre. Twice that amount should be used if the ashes have been leached. If ashes are not to be had, put on well-rotted stable manure at the rate of about 20 wagon-loads per acre. The spring cultivation consists of pulling out by hand all the weeds that can be found among the plants and then hoeing over all the open spaces large enough to accommodate a common broad hoe. Do not work the ground more than half an inch deep, for the roots have much work to do within the next few weeks.

Now it is time to begin to count the cost. We will consider the land worth $200 per acre:

Expense of an acre of Strawberries up to picking time. Interest and taxes $15.00 Plowing, harrowing and surface-draining 5.00 Value of 11,000 plants at $5 per 1,000 55.00 Manure, 60 loads, at $1 per load 60.00 Marking ground and setting plants 4.00 Summer cultivation 8.00 Training runners around the plants 3.00 Winter covering and cost of putting it on 6.00 Taking off winter cover, and spring cultivation 5.00 Total $161.00

In a very dry and unpropitious year, the yield on the writer’s place was 7,136 quarts, or 223 bushels per acre; the gross receipts in cash were a few cents over $500 per acre. In the year 1886 the yield was over 8,000 quarts, or something over 250 bushels per acre; and the gross receipts $633 per acre. These were both hard years for Strawberries. In 1875 exactly one-quarter of an acre yielded 3,571 quarts, or 111½ bushels, of marketable fruit. The average price was 12 cents per quart. In 1876 one-fourth of an acre yielded a fraction less than 100 bushels. These were both favorable seasons for berries. But we will take the first mentioned crop for our estimate, as it was the poorest of the four. The boxes and crates cost a fraction less than $7 per 1,000 quarts; picking, packing and carrying to the depot not to exceed $15 per 1,000:

The story of an acre of Strawberries in an unfavorable season. Gross receipts $500.00 Cost of growing the crop 161.00 Picking, crating and marketing (7,136 quarts) 157.00 318.00 Net profits above expenses $182.00

These receipts are by no means the only ones from the land for the two years. For many years past the writer has been in the habit of planting other early crops between the rows of Strawberries after they are set. For instance, in the spring a plot of five acres is set with Strawberries. As soon as the Strawberries are set plant between the rows (which are two feet apart) a large lot of onion sets and lettuce. One may sow part of the land with radish seed and another part with cabbage seed for late cabbage, and thus fill the ground with quick growing plants that will be off before the runners need the ground.

Strawberries
Fig. 2427. Fancy packing of Strawberries, each quart wrapped in paper; a picking stand on the left.

Marketing. – A home market is the best if one can have it, although it is a well-known fact that but few Strawberries are eaten in the neighborhood where they are grown. Along the Gulf coast, Strawberries begin to ripen in February and are at once shipped north, and the consumption continues until 46 degrees north latitude is reached; hence the necessity of a variety that will bear shipping. If we all had cooling-houses for berries, and refrigerator cars to ship the fruit in, almost any variety would bear more or less transportation; but as most growers have neither, the berries much be picked as soon as colored, and some varieties before they are fully colored. Before the writer had a cooling-house, he placed the cases in rows on the floor of a general packing house, and then placed ice along upon the floor between the cases. This did fairly well, but not as well as the present cooling-house, which is a very plain cheap building 12×14 ft. and about 12 ft. high. The sides are covered with common sheathing paper and boards, with an air chamber of four inches. The floor overhead is covered with zinc to prevent its leaking, and it is a little sloping to one corner, where a pipe catches the water as the ice melts, and carries it from the building. It has an open space of nearly 12 inches all around the building, which lets the cold air pass below, where the fruit is. There are six tiers of shelves, one above the other all around the room below. Upon the floor above the ice is placed, and on the shelves below are the cases of fruit. About 50 degrees is the best temperature to keep the fruit; if much lower than this, it is found that the fruit will not keep so long after being removed from the cooler. It is best not to throw fruit on the market, but to try to have it so good that it recommends itself. Endeavor to have it engaged to the retail grocers in advance. Then there is but one profit between the consumer and the grower.

  • J.M. Smith

Strawberries
Fig. 2428. A prolific row of strawberries, the fruit resting on a mulch.

Strawberry Culture in the South. – If any fruit is at home in the South it is surely the Strawberry. It heads the list of small fruits, and, admitting as competitors tree and vine fruits, it easily holds the place of first importance. Among the many things that commend the Strawberry favorably to southern land-owners who would grow fruit for home use or for market are the following: its comparative freedom from disease and insect enemies; the ease with which it adapts itself to different soils and varied conditions of climate; the small cost attending planting and cultivation; the enormous yields possible from well-selected soils properly treated; and the fact that, aside from being the first fruit to ripen, it seldom, if ever, fails to reward the painstaking grower with an ample harvest to cover all cost for attention bestowed.

While good results are had from settings made at almost any time of the year, November and February are the months during which plantings may usually be made with the least risk. In some sections, especially near the Gulf, plantings are frequently made during rainy spells in late summer and early fall. At such times it is neither a difficult nor a very expensive process to shift plants with earth adhering to the roots to nicely prepared soil near the old beds. From good stands on newly prepared beds secured as early in the season as August or September, and with a long fall and mild spells during winter favoring vigorous plant growth and development of fruit-buds, the grower may reasonably expect the following spring one-half to two-thirds of a crop.

Being a water-loving plant and a liberal feeder, especially during fruiting season, the Strawberry accomplishes its best work in a soil capable of taking in the largest quantity of water and of holding during protracted drought the greatest amount of moisture within easy reach of the plant. This ideal Strawberry soil is found in the rather compact deep clay loams over the well-drained clay subsoils so abundant in most of the South Atlantic and the Gulf states.

As to fertilizers, much depends on the kind of soil and treatment. Where the cereals are benefited by the use of certain fertilizers, such plant-food may be safely and profitably used for Strawberries. It is better to fertilize heavily the crop that precedes Strawberries than to apply in large quantities to land occupied by this plant. In no case should heavy applications of strongly nitrogenous fertilizers be made just before the blooming period nor during the hot summer months. In the first instance, an over-vigorous vine growth at the expense of fruit will be the result; in the second, the plant is rendered too tender and too sappy to resist the long and sometimes hot and dry summers. The southern cow-pea is possibly the best crop to precede the Strawberry. This leaves the ground clean, mellow and in the very best condition for any crop that follows.

The soil is usually prepared in slightly elevated rows or beds 3½ – 4 feet broad. In making summer and early fall plantings with the view of securing a large yield the following spring, plants are set only 8 or 10 inches apart along the line of the row. The distance in the row for spring plantings ranges from 12-30 inches, depending on the tendency of varieties set to multiply runners. For heavy yields the properly matted row is best. In the ideal matted row each plant should be 5-7 inches distant from its nearest neighbor, and a space of 18-24 inches along the top of the rows should be so occupied with plants. Season, soil and treatment at the hand of the cultivator greatly modifies the degree of success in securing this ideal stand. Where irrigating facilities are to be had, the desired results may be obtained with certainty. In spite of the best effort on the part of the grower, however, varieties like Michel, Downing and Cloud may set too many plants during wet season. In such cases any runners that encroach on the spaces between rows are treated as weeds, and such places along the line of the rows as become too thickly matted should be properly thinned on the advent of cool fall weather.

With spring setting, cultivation begins shortly after plantings are made. The plow, cultivator and hoe are the implements most used, and these are employed in cultivation often enough to keep the ground in good tilth and free from weeds. Cultivation usually ceases early in the fall. Any weeds that interfere with the proper development of plants or fruits from this time until the end of fruit harvest are pulled out or clipped off with sharp hoes without breaking the surface soil. Very little winter protection is necessary. It is well to delay mulching until after midwinter, or until there has been sufficient cold to drive insects into winter quarters. On clay soils inclined to heave during frosty weather a thin covering of barnyard litter or of short straw (pine straw is excellent) laced around and between rather than over plants is of advantage. For keeping fruit clean and, at the same time, adding almost, if not quite, its purchase value in plantfood, nothing is better than cottonseed hulls. It is a fact worthy of note that as one goes south the picking season lengthens. Florida, southern Louisiana and other sections near the Gulf frequently begin shipping late in January or early in February and continue to market berries for four or five months. In latitude 32 degrees the writer has during several seasons in the past twenty-five years shipped Strawberries from about April 1 to July 1. In latitude 34 degrees the picking season rarely lasts more than five or six weeks.

In recent years the rapid strides made in methods of picking and packing, in the construction, loading and icing of fruit cars, in shortening the time between grower and consumer, and in vastly better markets and of reaching all classes of consumers in the several markets, – all these things have made southern-grown Strawberries common in almost every city, town and village in more northern latitudes.

  • A.B. McKay

To the foregoing advice may be added a sketch of some of the rotation practices in Georgia. Four systems of rotation exist: the annual, biennial, triennial, and what may be termed the perennial or permanent system. These terms are frequently, though quite unnecessarily, confused, and some growers, while practicing, technically, a biennial rotation, call it annual, because they establish a new plat annually, although each plat, when plowed under or destroyed, is two years old.

To illustrate: A plat planted in July, August or September makes a good, strong growth by winter along the isotherm of the Carolina and Georgia coast, where summer planting and the system of annual rotation are almost exclusively practiced. In fact, the plant continues to grow, especially under ground, through the entire winter, setting in the spring a heavy and profitable crop, which is marketed. The plat is seldom worked out, but used to reset another plat in the late summer, and then turned under. Such a rotation is strictly an annual one. Logically, it could be nothing less, nothing more. If, however, this plat were cultivated through the season following its crop, suffered to bear a second crop the next spring, then used as before to reset a succession plat and turned under. Such a rotation is strictly an annual one. Logically, it could be nothing less, nothing more. Equally as logical would it be to call the rotation biennial had the plat been planted in November – instead of July, August or September – cultivated through the following summer and carried into the next year, bearing its main crop – its “money” crop – the second spring. The fact that its first crop was light and scattering would not make the rotation an annual one; for the essence of the difference between an annual and a biennial rotation consists in the plat, in the first instance, flowering but once, while in the second instance it passes two flowering seasons. In the first case, no cultivation is given after fruiting; in the second the plat is cultivated after fruiting, or after the fruiting season, whether it fruits or not. These two distinctions cause a rotation to fall under the head of biennial even when the plat is set out as late as February or March, cultivated through the summer following and fruited the next spring.

The biennial rotation (though often under the erroneous title of annual) is much the most common, and is almost universally employed, except on the coast, where the light, sandy soil, the humid climate and more regular rainfall render summer planting on a large scale an economic possibility. This, the stiff clay soil of the interior, the drier atmosphere and uncertain rainfall of early autumn, render impracticable. It is hence more economical to reset than to cultivate on the coast, especially as its comparatively subtropical climate conditions tend to produce a vigorous development of the summer- or fall-planted plat by the following spring. But, while the biennial rotation is recommended for the interior of the state, it must not be understood that a new plat is to be established only every two years. The plat runs through two seasons, it is true, but a new one must be set out each year.

If strawberry growing was commenced in 1899 under a biennial rotation, and the planting effected in November of each year, the following diagram would illustrate the necessary succession of plats:

Strawberries
  • 1899
    • No. 1, planted November, 1899.
  • 1900
    • No. 1, fruited lightly spring, 1900; cultivated through season of 1900.
    • No. 2, planted November, 1900, from new purchased plants.
  • 1901
    • No. 1, fruited main crop, spring, 1901; plowed under November, 1901, after resetting No. 3.
    • No. 2, fruited lightly spring, 1901; cultivated through season of 1901.
    • No. 3, planted November, 1901, from runners of No. 1
  • 1902
    • No. 2, fruited main crop, spring, 1902; plowed under November, 1902, after resetting No. 4.
    • No. 3, fruited lightly, spring, 1902, and cultivated through season.
    • No. 4, planted November, 1902, from runners of No. 2.

And so on, indefinitely. In this way, while each plat runs two years, that is, biennially, a new plat is reset every year, that is, annually; yet the rotation must of necessity be termed biennial, though only one marketable crop results. And this would be equally true for a similar rotation where the planting was done in February or March instead of November, although no crop – not even a light one – could be obtained the same spring. Of course, if a plat is reserved for resetting, after it has borne its main crop, it must be cultivated, more or less – at least by hand weeding – to prevent it from becoming too foul during the second summer; but the process of thinning out and the careful cultivation necessary for a crop expected to make a paying return in fruit, are eliminated.

The triennial rotation is followed when two “main” or “money” crops are secured from a plat before its abandonment, and the perennial system when the plat is suffered to bear as long as it proves profitable.

The “matted row”system stands successfully the test of practical experience in the South. “Stool culture,” however perfect or ideal in theory, can be made profitable only under exceptional conditions. Under ordinary circumstances it cannot resist the crucial test of a prolonged drought.

  • H.N. Starnes

Strawberry Culture on the Plains. – The fact that the Strawberry has been growing wild from time out of mind in the prairie regions of North America suggests that it may be cultivated there with success, and the thousands of car-loads of delicious berries annually produced in those regions are positive proof of it. The Strawberry did not grow naturally in all sections or soils, but chiefly in the moist creek and river bottoms and along the margins of the woodlands. The cooler climatic conditions of the northern sections are more conducive to the growth of wild Strawberries than those in the South; for instance, the prairies of Minnesota grow more thrifty and larger berries than those of Texas. Under cultivation the Strawberry is somewhat subject to the same conditions as when growing naturally, but the principle of conservation of moisture by tillage has enabled man to do much that nature could not, in growing Strawberries. Water is most essential, in the culture of this fruit. The soil should not be wet, but it must be moist or the plants will not thrive; nor will they bear fruit abundantly or of good size and quality with a meager supply of water. During the fruiting season there is a heavy draft upon the plants for water with which to fill the berries to their proper size. Over most of the Plains region there is a sufficient amount of rainfall to produce good crops of Strawberries in ordinary seasons, provided proper care be given to tillage. Nearly all the failures to grow reasonably good crops are due to neglect of this all-important matter. The drier the climate or the season the more heed should be given to tillage.

The mere setting of plants and giving them ordinary care is not sufficient for the production of a really profitable Strawberry crop in the open prairie country. It may suffice where the rainfall is not only abundant but regular; but where the rains are fitful and often very scant, especially in the latter part of the summer, this will not do. The tillage should not be deep, but very frequent. Once each week during the growing season will be sufficient. The finer the surface soil is pulverized, the less water will escape from the subsoil, and this is the principal point to be attained so far as the purposes of tillage are concerned. Rich soil is beyond doubt one of the prime requisites of Strawberry culture. This is not difficult to find in most parts of the prairie regions. Some of it lies too flat for the best results and some is too steep, but very little is either too stiff or too sandy.

The Strawberry is especially adapted to field culture. As the Plains country slopes up to the Rocky Mountains the climate becomes drier until there is so very little rain that nothing but a scant native vegetation will grow without irrigation. The soil is for the most part rich enough for Strawberries, and where water is applied in proper quantity as fine berries can be grown as in any part of the humid region. As a matter of fact, there seems to be more certainty in growing Strawberries under such conditions than in regions where the crop must depend upon rainfall. Some varieties that are usually a failure because of their deficient root-system, such as Jucunda, are thus enabled to flourish to such a degree as to be among the most profitable. Whatever may be said of other parts of the continent of North American, it is an indisputable fact that the Plains region is very good for Strawberries. Good judgment in the selection of proper locations and the right varieties, thorough preparation of the soil and good culture will be abundantly rewarded.

  • H.E. Van Deman

The Strawberry on the Pacific Coast. – California conditions include both those most favorable and most trying for the growth of Strawberries. There are situations where, through local topography and proximity to the ocean, winter temperatures are very seldom too low for the growth and fruiting of the plants and where, by summer irrigation to maintain this continuous activity of the plants, it is possible to gather fruit every month in the year. This fact is not, however, made of much commercial account, nor is it widely true that one can have Strawberries all the year round in the open air. It is true, however, that even on the lowlands, where the commercial crops are chiefly grown, the winter is so mild that Strawberries begin to ripen in shipping quantities as early as March and by proper cultivation and irrigation the fruiting is continued until late in the autumn, and the grower has therefore a very short closed season. The trying condition for the Strawberry is found in the long, dry summer, which enforces dormancy as early as June on light loams in the more arid localities of the interior. Such soils become dry and hot to a depth of several inches in spite of surface cultivation and cause the dwindling and death of a shallow-rooting plant like the Strawberry, unless frequent irrigation is begun in time. This trouble is less acute on more retentive soils in regions of lower summer temperature and greater rainfall, and plants in such situations may survive the summer dormancy, but it is true that everywhere in California and even in the more humid states on the north that Strawberry-growing without irrigation results either in failure or only partial satisfaction and the venture is seldom to be commended. It is, however, so easy, usually, to secure the small amount of water necessary for home production, and the plant when fairly treated is so highly productive, that a general exhortation to Strawberry- growing on an irrigation basis is fully warranted.

There are several species of Strawberries indigenous to California, and they are of both littoral and alpine types. Some interest has been shown in development of cultural varieties from these sources, but no commercial significance has as yet attached to them. The varieties chiefly grown are different from those popular at the East. New varieties from the eastern states and from Europe are freely tried, but few are successful and they retain local popularity after abandonment in their birthplaces. A striking instance of this fact is the continued popularity of Longworth Prolific, Sharpless, Monarch of the West, Wilson Albany, etc. Longworth has survived more than thirty years’ continued growing. Other popular varieties are Melinda, Jessie, Triomphe de Gand, Brandywine, Marshall, Lady Thompson, etc. An English variety, Laxton Nobel, has been largely planted in southern California but not always successfully, though it does well near the coast. The Arizona Everbearing is par excellence drought- and heat-resistant and is constantly increasing its area in interior situations. It has endured neglect which has actually compassed the death of other varieties. The Australian Crimson is a popular market variety in southern California, of which the first plants came from the southern hemisphere, but it has some appearances of being a re-named American variety.

The growth of Strawberries is almost wholly in matted rows, the rows usually occupying low ridges only sufficiently elevated to allow the slightly depressed intervals to serve as irrigation ditches and as walks during picking. The slight elevation of the plants also assists in surface drainage, when heavy rains fall during the early part of the fruiting season, and this promotes early growth and fruiting of the plants. Where the soil is too coarse to permit free rise of water from the depressed ditches the conditions are reversed and low levees are made to inclose blocks of plants which are irrigated by flooding the inclosures. In the chief commercial regions a fine loam is used and irrigation from the small ditches on both sides of the ridges, which are about 2 feet wide, is the ruling method. Nearly level land is selected and grading is done before planting to reduce dry knolls and fill low places so that the water will flow slowly and will evenly moisten the whole field. Subirrigation by tile has been often advocated but never has been employed to any extent.

One of the chief Strawberry-shipping districts in central California is characterized by a shallow loam underlaid by an impervious indurated clay or hard pan, which prevents the percolation of the irrigation water and enables growers to maintain a large acreage by means of the small water supply secured by windmills. In this case water is applied very frequently, even oftener than once a week in some cases, but the total amount for the season is small. Quite in contrast to this is the growth on light, deep loams where water sinks so rapidly that the plants suffer, although water is almost constantly running in the ditches. In such cases mulching and sprinkling are the price of success, and these are too costly except on a small scale for home supply. The largest producing districts have soils midway between the extremes above noted; viz., deep, retentive loams, situated rather low in the valleys and with irrigation available either by ditch system or by wells both flowing and pumped. The pump wells require usually only a short lift, and abundant water if secured cheaply by the use of modern pumps and motors.

In addition to supplying the home markets, which are very good, California Strawberry-growers find a good outlet for the fruit all through the region west of the Missouri river. Southern California supplies the southern portion of this district, while the growers in central California, chiefly near Florin in Sacramento County, make large shipments eastward as far as Colorado and northward to all the great interior states and to Oregon, Washington and British Columbia before the locally grown fruit in those regions is available.

The states of Oregon and Washington in their areas lying west of the Cascade mountains have conditions excellently suited to the growth of the Strawberry. Their conditions more nearly resemble those in the eastern states than any other part of the coast. The cooler weather and more abundant moisture give a better spring season than that of California, but the season is on the whole much shorter because of the longer winter. Irrigation is also necessary in most places for continued fruiting during the summer. The most famous district is Hood River, Oregon, where arid conditions east of the Cascade mountains are modified by western influences which reach through the gap in these mountains where the Columbia river flows through. Irrigation is regularly employed and a large commercial product grown. The varieties chiefly grown in this region and in adjacent parts of Washington and Idaho are of local origin, the Hood River (Clark Seedling) and Magoon Seedling being widely approved. Jessie, Sharpless, Wilson, Haverland, Crescent, Cumberland, Jucunda and Parker Earle are also commended by growers in the northwestern states.

  • E.J. Wickson

Strawberries
Fig. 2430. The forcing of Strawberries under glass.

The Forcing of Strawberries for a Winter Crop has not as yet become of any great commercial importance in North America. Some gardeners grow a few potted plants for either Christmas or Easter decoration. Very few, if any, commercial growers are forcing Strawberries exclusively to any profitable extent. The few Strawberries that are forced are grown either in pots or planted out on benches. The former method is the one generally employed. There are several good reasons for this, some of which are: first, the confinement of the roots; second, the ability to ripen the crowns in the fall; third, the control of fertilizers and liquid manure; fourth, the privilege of having the crop grown in several houses at one time or brought from a coolhouse into heat; and fifth, the opportunity to supply particular demand of the potted plants or their fruits. The first expense of the pot method is considerably more than when the plants are grown in the benches, but after the pots are once purchased the cost of each method should be about the same.

The pot method as practiced at Cornell University is about as follows: As early in the spring as possible large plants are set in well-enriched soil. The first strong runners made by these plants are secured and potted. Numerous 2- or 3-inch pots filled with good soil are plunged to the rim along the Strawberry row. The runners are trained to these pots, and a small stone is placed on each runner to keep it from growing beyond the pot. When the pot is filled with roots the young plant is cut from the parent stock, the pots lifted and taken to the potting shed or other convenient place, where they are at once shifted into the fruiting pots (usually a 6-inch pot). The soil used at this time should be three parts fibrous loam and one of good sharp sand. This potting soil should have mixed with it bone-flour or dissolved rock at the rate of about one pint to two bushels of soil. Ample drainage should be given, as through the season of ripening the crowns and the following forcing period a large quantity of water must be given and none should be allowed to stand around the roots.

Strawberries
Fig. 2431. A good winter Strawberry plant in bloom.

The pots should then be plunged to near the rim in some coarse material, preferably coal ashes, which, if deep enough to extend from four to six inches below the plunged pots, will prevent the earthworms from entering the pots. The use of a frame in which to plunge the pots is recommended for protection against heavy rains or early frosts. Attention to watering is all that will be necessary through the growing season. Late in September or early in October the pots will be filled with roots and the plants will have attained their full growth. At this time larger and firmer crowns will be had by careful attention to watering and subsequent drying off to almost the wilting stage than by watering the plants up to the time of freezing weather. The drying process seems to represent the late fall season and causes the plant to store up material in the crowns at an earlier period. At the coming of cold weather the soil in the pots may be allowed to freeze. It is very desirable that the soil be on the dry side before freezing, for if the ball of earth is wet there is danger of breaking the pots when the cold becomes intense. The period of forcing from the time the frozen plants are brought in until the ripening of the fruits will be about eight weeks. The time will vary slightly under different conditions of heat and sunlight. When first brought in, the plants should be cleaned of all dead or diseased leaves. The pots should be plunged to near the rim in some material that will retain moisture, e.g., tan bark or coal ashes. The benches or shelves should be as near the glass as convenient. For the first few days the house should be held at about 35 degrees, with little if any rise through the day. After a week a rise of 10 degrees may be given. At the end of the second week 50 degrees at night, with a rise of 10-15 degrees through the day, will be about right.

Strict attention must be given to syringing the foliage every pleasant day. Keep the walks wet until the time of blossoming. This moisture keeps down the red spider. At blossoming time the house should be allowed to dry out, and a free circulation of air should be maintained through the middle of the day, in order to ripen the pollen. It is necessary to pollinate each flower by hand. The pollination may be done in the middle of the day while the houses are dry. A small camel-hair brush is useful for distributing the pollen. A ladle or spoon should also be provided in order to carry the surplus pollen. The surplus pollen may be used on varieties that are pistillate or do not have pollen enough to set their own fruits. Six to eight fruits are enough for a 6-inch pot. When these are set the remaining flowers should be cut off, in order that the entire strength of the plant may go to swelling the chosen fruits. After swelling begins, liquid manure should be given. During the first week give one dilute application. After this give two applications a week, increasing the strength of the manure liquid each time. Well-rotted cow manure or sheep droppings furnish good material for this purpose. When the fruits are coloring the liquid manure should be withheld and only clear water given. As they swell, the fruits will need support, and the best method of furnishing this is probably by using small-meshed window-screen wire cut into suitable squares. These squares may be laid on the pot, under the clusters of fruits. They hold the fruits away from the sides of the pots, protect them from any water or liquid manure that is given the plants, and enhance the beauty of the potted plant. After one fruiting, the plants are worthless.

  • C.E. Hunn