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Strawberry growing

Strawberry growingThe garden strawberries have come chiefly from the socaled Pine type of berries, which has been proved beyond question to have sprung from Fragaria chiloensis, a plant originally brought to Europe from Chile, but which is now known to be native to the western mountain regions of both North and South America. The first native strawberries to be brought under cultivation, however, were those of eastern North America, which belong to the scarlet class, the species being known to botanists as Fragaria virginiana.

This class, as has been stated, has contributed only sparingly to our present variety list. The wild berry of Europe, which has always been held in more or less esteem because of its ever-bearing tendencies, has likewise contributed only meagerly to the garden sorts of its native countries and none whatever to the American list. The burden of the industry rests upon the Chilean plant.

The garden strawberry is an American product. It adapts itself to a wider range of latitude and to greater extremes in environment than any other cultivated fruit. It is universally liked and is cosmopolitan in its adaptations.

Strawberry soil and its preparation - Whether or not it is for a market or home patch, the results secured will, in a general way, be measured by the adaptation of the soil. As the straw ferry contains a large amount of water and ripens at a time when a drought may be expected, the location selected should, so far as possible, provide a soil that is at least fairly retentive of moisture.

Equal care should be taken that it is so thoroughly drained, either naturally or artificially, that water will at no time stand upon the surface and that in a very short time after a rain, the level of the standin water will be at least two feet below the surface. It is commonly said that any good corn soil will answer for strawberries, but, while this is true, on account of the much greater value of the crop, more care should be taken that it is in a proper physical condition and supplied with the needed amount of plant food.

As a rule, the lighter sandy loams should be avoided, as the crop will be likely to suffer from lack of water, while the stiff clays can seldom be properly worked in the spring, and if neglected are likely to bake so that the plants suffer more from the lack of water than upon the lighter sands. In a general way, then, it will be seen that the heavier sand loams and the lighter clay loams are best adapted for this crop - though good, results will be obtained upon the lighter soils, if moisture can be provided.

Fair returns are often obtained upon a soil of a mucky nature, as the water is generally so near the surface that drouths will have no effect, but two difficulties are frequently met with upon this class of soils, the first being the danger of frosts while the plants are in blossom, and the other that the plants make a rank growth and fail to form the necessary fruit buds. Where the mucky soil is in a basin, entirely or nearly surrounded by higher land, the blossoms seldom escape the frost, but if so situated that the cold air can drain off upon a lake, or still lower land, the danger will be lessened.

After the land has been cropped for a number of years, the danger of the rank growth of plants will be greatly reduced, and if they are kept in hills, a good crop of fruit can generally be expected upon this kind of soil and, as there will be but little danger from drouth, the fruit will be large and will bring, the highest price.

In the home garden it is frequently impossible to find soil adapted to the growing of small fruits, and it will often pay to go to considerable expense in improving the physical condition of the soil. Where the soil is of a heavy nature, it, will often be possible to spread over the surface and mix with it an inch or more of sand or sandy loam; good results will also be secured by the use of fine coal ashes, either composed from stable or soft manure will also a liberal dressing of partially aid in loosening and lightening the soil.

If the soil is of too light a nature and it is not possible to add clay or heavy loam, the use of muck or wood ashes will have a beneficial effect, the former supplying humus and the latter tending to render the soil more compact. A soil improved in this way will be in good condition for other crops.

To precede the strawberries, a heavy clover sod is desirable, as this can be turned under and will not only provide a large amount of plant food, but it will so add to the humus in the soil that there will be far less danger from drouth. Sod land is not desirable, as it is generally deficient in humus and plant food and frequently contains insect larvae, which may rove destructive to the plants. Almost any of the hoed crops may be used for one year previous to setting, the plants and will leave the land in good condition for the strawberries, especially if it was heavily top-dressed with stable manure in the spring, or fall, previous to planting.

Few soils will give the best results without the use of manure or fertilizer of some kind, and if the manure can be applied to the land at least one year before it is to be used for the strawberries it will decompose and will be in a suitable condition to yield up this plant food.

Strawberry plants and planting - All strawberry growers are aware that it is only the plants formed by the runners that should be used for the new plantation; these have yellowish white roots, and can thus be distinguished from the older plants, which have a long stem at the lower end of which are black or brown roots and rootlets, many of which are dead or broken. If plants of good quality, which can be depended upon to give large crops, are desired, those selected for planting should have good crowns and well developed roots. As a rule only the first plants on the runners should be used, when the plants are allowed to layer freely a large number of weak sets are produced, and, although these will grow, they give a small yield and the practice, if persisted in, will result in the running out of the variety.

The best plants can be secured from fields that have been grown but one year and which have not as yet fruited. The practice of obtaining plants from old plantations, although used by many persons, is not a good one, as continued fruiting cannot fail to sap the vitality of the plants and the runners produced by them will not give as good results as those from young plants. Whatever method of digging the plants is used, whether by spade, fork or potato hook, care should be taken that they are not exposed to the drying action of the sun or wind, and as soon as dug they should be placed in baskets, boxes or bags, and after being moistened should be put where they can be kept fresh and prevented from wilting.

Dealers in strawberry plants, when picking up the plants after they have been dug, generally remove the dead or diseased leaves and runners, and at the same time straighten out the roots and the remaining leaves. The plants are then tied in bundles or packed in baskets or boxes. Sometimes the operation of trimming and bunching the plants is not done in the field, as it is found easier to do this in a packing shed, or other place, where the work can be done in the shade and the danger of the wilting of the plants lessened. Even though one is merely digging a few plants for home use, the removal of the leaves and runners and the straightening out of the roots should not be neglected.

Sometimes the setting of the plants is necessarily delayed until late in,the season, when, if the air happens to be dry, there will be great danger of the wilting and perhaps the killing of the plants from the heat and dryness of the soil and air. Under these conditions it will be advisable to cut off the leaves except one or two of the smaller ones, as by thus reducing their surface the evaporation will be lessened. When plants have been purchased and have become dry or heated in the bundles, it will be advisable to untie the bundles and either place them in water up to the crowns in some cool shady place, or to heel them in, so that the soil will be in contact with roots of each plant, in moist soil where they can be shaded and occasionally sprinkled. In a few days the plants that have not been killed will recover, and it will be possible to throw out those that have been spoiled. In this way the labor of planting will be lessened and there will be no vacant places in the rows from the use of injured plants.

While it will not be best to pursue this course when large areas are to be set, any one having only a small plantation will find it advisable to put out the plants when the condition of the soil and
atmosphere favor their growth. If they can be set just before a shower, or as soon as the ground is in suitable condition afterwards, their growth will generally be assured. Some go so far as to recommend the digging of the plants in the early morning, keeping them in a cool, moist cellar until late in the afternoon and then putting them out. Where this can be done there is undoubtedly a benefit from it, as, the plants will contain much more moisture in the morning than when they have been exposed to the heat of the sun during the day, and by planting them in the early evening they will be less likely to wilt the following day than when the planting is done in the morning.