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OF THE PLANTS.
If we closely examine the varieties of any one species of the Strawberry, we find that they resemble each other in their general habits or manner of growth. No one at all familiar with these plants would ever mistake an Alpine Strawberry for one of any other of the well-known species, and even the Hautbois Strawberry, which, in some respects, resembles the Alpines, is sufficiently distinct to be easily recognized. There are varieties of the Wood or Alpine species that produce no runners, growing in clumps or stools; still the foliage plainly shows their origin, and, as we have no hybrids between the Alpines and other species, there is no difficulty in recognizing them wherever found. But with the North and South American species or Virginian and Chilian Strawberries the line of demarcation is not so easily determined as formerly, because they hybridize so readily that their specific characteristics have become almost obliterated in the cultivated varieties.
The Chili Strawberry in its wild state produces larger and milder flavored fruit than our common American or Virginia Strawberry, and probably for this reason it has been a favorite with the cultivators of the Strawberry in Europe, and nearly all of the noted varieties raised abroad are of this species. This is why so few of the European varieties, as they are termed, succeed in this country, having descended from a semi-tropical species. But in recent years the European and native sorts have been crossed and so thoroughly intermingled that it is only occasionally that we can detect the peculiar and distinct characteristics of either species in the common cultivated varieties.
Fig. 6 —VIRGINIA STRAWBERRY
In the old Triomphe de Gand Strawberry we have a pure descendant of the Chilian species, and in the Wilson's Albany and Charles Downing, pure native blood. The Wilson may be considered as a large representative of the Wild Strawberry of the Eastern States, and the Downing of the Western or of F. Virginiana var. Illinoensis.
Fig. 7 — CHILI STRAWBERRY
The varieties of our native species usually have long thread-like or wiry roots, which penetrate the soil deeply and spread widely in search of nutriment and moisture, while the roots of the pure Chilian varieties appear to be more fleshy, shorter and not so hard and firm.
Another peculiarity in the form and structure may be observed by an examination of the old and mature plants. In our native varieties, like the Downing and Boston Pine, they appear to remain low down in the soil — not inclined to push above the surface — dividing naturally, as shown in Fig. 6, while the Chilian varieties assume the form shown in Fig. 7, which is an exact representation — half natural size — of a three year old plant of the Triomphe de Gand. It will be observed, by examining the illustration, that all of the crowns are united to the main or central one, with little. inclination to separate from it. These elevated crowns contain the embryo fruit-buds, and the more they extend above the surface of the soil the more likely they are to be injured by the frosts of winter.
Varieties of this form of root or crown soon extend, so far above the surface that their new roots cannot, or at least do not, take a firm hold of the soil in sufficient numbers to supply the plant with nutriment.
There are many excellent varieties in cultivation that are inclined to assume this form of growth, and they require somewhat different treatment from those with shorter and. low-spreading crowns, as shown in Fig. 6. When the latter are cultivated in hills or single rows, the soil may be drawn up against the plants as their crowns protrude above the surface, covering the new lateral roots, thereby increasing the vigor and prolonging the life of the plants.
The three most common modes of propagation of the Strawberry are, viz., by seeds, runners and divisions of the crowns or stools. The first mode, or by seeds, is practiced mostly for the purpose of producing new varieties, but the wild plants of all the species reproduce themselves from seed with very slight variations, and it is only from the already improved varieties that we can expect to raise new ones of any considerable value. If, however, we fertilize the pistils of a wild plant with pollen from an improved one, we stand a fair chance of obtaining seedlings showing an advance upon the wild or parent plant. However, unless there is some special object in view — such as extreme hardiness, or the adaptation of a variety to a certain soil or situation — it is better to save seed from the improved sorts than to go back or resort to the primitive or wild species for a supply.
To obtain seed it is only necessary to select the ripe berries, and either crash the pulp and spread it out and dry it with the seeds, thus preserving both, or the fruit may be crushed and the seeds washed out. The sound good seeds will fall to the bottom, and the pulp and false ones remain on the surface, from which both may be readily removed. I have found seed preserved in the dried pulp of the Strawberry remain sound and good for several years, and, if it is to be kept for any considerable time, I should much prefer to have it preserved in the pulp than to have it removed or washed out, but the berries should be thoroughly dried and then put away in paper bags as usually practised with clean seeds. I have received dried Strawberries from Europe that were several years old, the seeds of which, when soaked and washed out, sprouted almost as readily as fresh ones.
My usual practice in raising seedling Strawberries has been to gather the largest and best berries, then mix them with dry sand, crushing the pulp between the hands and so thoroughly manipulating the mass that no two seeds will remain together. Then set away the box containing the sand and seed in some cool place until the following spring. Then sow the sand and seed together either in some half-shady situation in the garden, or in pots, boxes or frames. The soil in which the seed is sown should be of a light texture, to prevent baking of the surface after watering. The seed should be scattered on the surface, and fine soil sifted over them to a depth of not more than one-quarter of an inch, or less than one-eighth. Apply water freely with a watering pot or garden syringe, using a fine rose in order that the water shall fall on the surface in the farm of spray instead of a stream, as the latter is likely to wash out the seed. By keeping the soil moist the plants will usually appear in two to four weeks after sowing, and, if sown under glass or in warm weather, in less time.
If the plants do not come up so thickly as to be crowded, they may remain in the seedbed during the entire season, but usually it is better to transplant them into rows in the open ground where they can have more room for development. All runners should be removed the first season in order to secure as vigorous growth of the original plant as possible. The following season the plants will bear fruit, when the best and most promising may be preserved and the others destroyed. It must not, however, be expected that a one-year-old seedling is a fully developed plant, and for this reason it is well to preserve all which give promise of excellence.
If the seed is sown as soon as it is removed from the freshly-gathered fruit in summer, it will sprout in two or three weeks, and produce plants with several well developed leaves before the end of the season, and, if given protection the first winter, they will make a vigorous growth the next, and become somewhat larger plants than those raised from seed sown in the spring of the same year. It is best to give the seedlings some protection in cold climates in order to secure their full development.
When the plants come into bloom they should be carefully examined, and those with pistillate flowers — as these will usually be the least numerous — marked so that they will be known when the fruit is ripe. When a variety has been raised that promises to be valuable, the plant should be carefully lifted during rainy weather and set out by itself for propagation.
The plants may be removed from the seedling bed or rows soon after the fruit is mature, or its character fully determined if carefully lifted, and then given plenty of water and shaded a few days after re-planting. It is not at all difficult to raise new varieties, but to obtain one. worthy of propagation and dissemination is quite another matter, and the chances are not more than one in a thousand of obtaining a new variety from seed equal to the best of the old ones now in cultivation. It is well enough, however, for every person who has the time to spare and inclination to experiment, to try, because there is not only a chance of producing varieties better than any now in cultivation, but in addition the pleasure of watching one's own seedlings grow and bear fruit.
Propagation by Runners. — This is the natural method of propagation of all the species and varieties except the Bush Alpines. The first runner produced on a plant in summer is usually the strongest and best for early removal, but those that are produced later in the season on the same runner are equally as good when of the same age and size. Certain theorists have, however, claimed that the first plant formed on a runner near the parent plant was naturally stronger and better in every way than those following or produced later, but long experience has not proved this to be true. If the second, third or fourth plant should happen to thrust its roots into richer soil than the first one, they will become the larger and stronger plants before the end of the season. To insure the rooting of the young plants, the surface of the soil should be kept loose and open, and if a top dressing of fine old manure can be applied just before or at the time the runners are pushing out most rapidly, it will greatly facilitate the production of roots.
Pot Plants. — In the last few years what are called "pot-grown plants" have become very popular among amateur cultivators, who may desire to purchase a few plants and have them in the best possible condition to insure rapid growth and early planting. To accommodate this class of buyers our Strawberry growers have made these pot-grown or layered plants a distinct feature of their business. In propagating plants by this mode small two or three-inch flower pots are filled with rich soil and then plunged in the ground, around the old stools and in such positions as will admit of placing a young plant while attached to the runner in each, or on the surface of the soil in the pot so that the new roots will penetrate it. When the new plants have produced a sufficient number of roots in these pots to form a somewhat compact mass or ball of the earth within, they are carefully separated, the pots lifted, and either sent to the purchasers in the pots or knocked out, and each plant rolled up separately in a piece of paper or some similar material.
Plants that have become well established in the pots in time for planting out early in the fall will often yield a moderate crop of fruit the following season, which the amateur cultivator may value far more highly than the professional who raises fruit for market. Pot-grown plants cost more than those raised in the ordinary way, and they are worth more, especially to persons who are anxious to test a new variety or see Strawberries ripening in their own garden.
This mode is seldom practiced except with the Bush Alpines, which do not produce runners. To propagate these varieties the old stools should be lifted early in Spring and divided, leaving only one or two crowns to a plant. If the old or central stems are very long, the lower or older part may be cut away, leaving only the upper and younger roots attached. In setting out again, the crown of the plant should be just level with the surface of the soil in order that new lateral roots may spring out above the old ones on the central stalk or stem.
AND ITS PREPARATION.
In its wild state the Strawberry is found growing in a great variety of soils, from the rich alluvial deposits along rivers, up to the sand hills and even bleak rocky ridges of Alpine regions. But as the largest species and varieties are found growing in the richest soils, so in cultivation we will ever find that large fruit, and this in abundance, can only be secured by supplying a corresponding amount of nutriment. New soils, free from weeds and noxious insects, are certainly preferable to old, worn and badly infested; but as the Strawberry grower can seldom have his choice in such matters, he must use such as he has and overcome natural obstacles with artificial remedies. A rather light soil or what would be called loamy soil, is preferable to heavy clay, or the opposite extreme as seen in sand and gravel. But natural defects can usually be remedied, for the stiff cold clay can be improved by underdraining and subsoiling, also by adding vegetable matter in large quantities. The main point to be observed is to secure a good depth of soil with good drainage and plenty of nutriment for the plants. Next in importance after supplying what may be termed the substantial elements in the form of nutriment comes moisture, for the Strawberry plant will use an immense amount if it is obtainable, but stagnant water at the roots or a constantly water-soaked soil are conditions to be avoided. A soil that will allow the water falling in the form of rain to pass down through it in a few hours, and still hold enough in suspension to keep it moist for weeks, is a proper one for the Strawberry, whatever may have been its original nature or condition.
Land that will produce a good crop of corn or potatoes may be considered in a fair condition for Strawberries, provided that it is not so situated as to be in danger of flooding during the time of the usual overflow of streams in winter and spring. But the Strawberry requires a deeper soil than corn, and this may be readily secured by deep plowing, or what is better, turning over the surface soil shallow, and following with a subsoil plow, and in this way avoid bringing the poorer subsoil to the surface. The land, if naturally hard and compact, should be cross-plowed in the same way, and, if manure is to be applied at all, let it be spread over the surface before the first plowing, in order that it may become well mixed and intermingled with the soil before the plants are set out, that is, if ordinary kinds of composts or barnyard manure are used. When commercial manures are employed they are usually applied in the form of top, dressings at the time of setting out the plants, or at various times afterwards as the plants may show the need of more stimulants and nutriment.
Manures. — The Strawberry is not so capricious as to refuse nutriment in almost any form when presented to its roots, but the quantity and quality may be varied according to circumstances. On the rich prairies of the Western States, or on newly-cleared land in the East, no manure may be necessary in order to secure a heavy crop of fruit, but the plants require nutriment in abundance, and, if it is not natural in the soil, we must place it there in some form. As for the kind of fertilizer to use, I have never, as yet, found anything to excel thoroughly decomposed barn-yard manure. On light, warm, sandy soils I prefer cow manure to that of the horse, as it is of a cooler nature, but if manure from barn yard or stables is left in the yard until it has become well rotted, or is composted with muck, leaves and similar materials, it may be used on sandy soils, and in liberal amounts without danger of over stimulating the plants. Bone dust, superphosphate of lime, sulphate of ammonia, muriate of potash, and wood ashes, may all be used where the land is poor or extra stimulants are needed to force the growth and increase the size of the fruit.
AND WHEN TO PLANT.
While it is perfectly practicable to transplant the Strawberry at any and all seasons of the year — except when the ground is hard frozen and covered with snow — still there appear to be certain months during which this operation may be performed with less labor and more uniform success than during any other of the twelve. In warm climates, as in our Southern States, the best time for setting out the plants is late in the autumn or at almost any time during the winter, but the earlier the better, in order to secure the benefits of the cool moist weather during which the plants become well established and in condition for growth at the approach of warm weather in spring. But in cold climates late fall planting will, in most instances, result in a total loss, as the frosts of winter will lift the plants from the soil and destroy them. The two seasons most favorable for planting the Strawberry in cold climates are early fall, or from the middle of August to the first week in September and early in the Spring. Fall planting, however, of the Strawberry is not generally practiced in the Northern States except by amateurs and with pot-grown plants. But in this matter of transplanting much depends upon the season; if there is an abundance of rain during the summer, strong, well-rooted plants may be obtained in August or by the first of September, and if these are set out, and the weather continues favorable, they will become well established by the time cold weather sets in, and the following season make a much better growth than if the planting was delayed until spring. But favorable seasons are so uncertain that autumn planting is not a general practice among those who make Strawberry culture a specialty.
Fig. 8 —YOUNG STRAWBERRY PLANT.
When transplanting in the spring, the half-dead leaves should be removed and the roots shortened one-third or one-half their length. In Fig. 8 is shown a terminal plant on a runner as taken from the ground. A, the runner connecting it with the parent plant. B, the tip of the runner which would have extended and produced another plant had it not been checked by frost.
C — D, the cross line showing the point at which the roots should be cut. This pruning or shortening of the roots causes the production of a new set of fibres from. the severed ends. It also causes other roots to push out from near the crown, and if a plant thus pruned be taken up in a few weeks after planting, its roots will appear somewhat as shown in Fig. 9. This pruning of the roots is not so generally practiced as it deserves to be, especially with plants that have been out of the ground for several days, or until the roots are withered or have commenced to decay at the ends. No matter how carefully the plants are taken up, some of the fibres will be broken off, and it is much better to sever all the roots with a clean cut than to plant them with ragged and broken ends. Roots pruned in this way are more readily spread out when placed in the ground again than when left intact or of full length.
Fig. 9 — PLANT WITH ROOTS PRUNED.
Selection of Plants. — Young runners of one season's growth are best, and old plants should not be used for transplanting, if it can be avoided. But, if a variety is scarce and valuable, the old stools may be taken up and pulled apart, and the lower end of the central stalk cut away as recommended for the Bush Alpines, and then set out again, planting deep enough to ensure the emission of new roots above the old ones.
MODES OF CULTIVATION.
The cultivators of the Strawberry are not all of one opinion in regard to the best mode of cultivation either in the field or garden; consequently, we hear much about raising Strawberries in hills, rows, matted beds, annual renewal systems, etc., all of which may give good results, with productive varieties and on rich soils.
But different varieties often require a different mode of culture in order to obtain the largest yield and the largest berries. The large, coarse-grown varieties of the Chili species, or the hybrid between these and the Virginia Strawberry, succeed best when grown in hills or single rows, and they are usually quite unproductive if the plants are permitted to run together and become in the least crowded. The Triomphe de Gand, Jucunda, Champion, Agriculturist and Lennig's White are well-known varieties of this type; while others, such as Charles Downing, President Wilder, Green Prolific and Manchester, will yield well either in narrow rows or wide beds, and where the plants become matted.
In the "hill system" the plants are usually set out in rows about three feet apart, and the plants eighteen inches to two feet apart in the row. The ground is kept thoroughly cultivated among the plants daring the entire season, and all runners removed as soon as they appear, or at least once a week. This treatment will insure very large and strong plants, with numerous crowns or buds, from which fruit-stalks will push up the following spring. In cold climates and where the plants are likely to be exposed to alternate freezing and thawing, or to cold winds during the winter, they should be protected by a light covering of hay, coarse manure, or some similar material — just enough to protect the crowns from injury but not enough to prevent freezing. In the spring the materials used for protection may be removed, and the plants given a good hoeing or a cultivator run between the rows to soften up the soil, which may have become hard and compact during the winter; but this cultivation in the spring will depend somewhat upon the character of the soil, for, if it is light and of a sandy nature, it will not be necessary, but it will certainly do no harm and may prove of great benefit to the plants. After the beds are cleared up and before the plants come into bloom, the entire surface of the ground should be covered with long straw or some similar material as a mulch to keep the soil moist and the fruit clean when it ripens. It is almost a waste of time to undertake to raise the large varieties in hills without mulching the plants, for the largest berries are almost certain to become splashed with soil during heavy rains.
When grown in single rows the plants may be set about twelve inches apart in the rows, and for garden culture the rows should be about three feet apart, but for field culture I prefer to allow a little more space between the rows, or four feet, but the distance may be varied according to the habit of the plants — some of the rank-growing varieties requiring more room than those of a medium growth, but it is much better to allow the plants plenty of room than to have them crowded.
During the first season the plants must be given good cultivation, and the more the soil is stirred among them the better, provided the roots are not disturbed by the implements employed in this work. In the field a one-horse cultivator is the best implement to use for keeping the soil loose and free from weeds between the rows, and, while the hoe may be used early in the season to stir the surface about the plants, it will have to be abandoned later on when the runners push out, for these are to be allowed to take root in the row, and form a bed about one foot wide, and all that extend out beyond this may be cut off or torn up with the cultivator. Some cultivators allow the runners to take root over a space of eighteen to twenty-four inches wide, leaving just room enough between the narrow beds to give a path in which to stand in gathering the fruit the following season. It is doubtful, however, if any more fruit will be obtained from a larger number of small plants than from less but of a stronger and more vigorous growth, as they are more likely to be, if restricted to a narrow row.
If protection in winter is necessary — and usually it is in our Northern States — it should be given as soon as the ground begins to freeze in the fall or early winter. If applied before the weather has become cool and the nights frosty, there is danger of the plants sweating and bleaching. Still, it is not well to delay covering up until snow falls and prevents it.
Coarse, strong manure from the stable or barnyard, scattered along over the crowns of the plants, makes an excellent winter protection, but as such material contains many weed seeds, it should be employed only on beds that are to be plowed up after fruiting the ensuing season. In fact, it will seldom pay the cultivator to clean out an old weedy plantation, for it costs less to set out a new one.
Bed or Matted System. — In this mode two or three rows are planted in beds four feet wide, and the . plants allowed to cover the entire surface until they form a close mat or bed; hence the name. One or two crops are taken and then the plants are plowed up as usual when cultivated in rows. But, by thinning out occasionally, the beds may be kept in a moderately productive condition for several years, especially with some of the more slender growing of our native varieties. Some cultivators, who raise Strawberries for market, adopt what may be called an annual system, setting out plants in spring either in single rows or narrow beds, giving them extra care during the first season, then, after the fruit is gathered the next summer, the beds are plowed up. This mode necessitates the making of a new plantation annually. On very rich soils and with the larger varieties — which generally command the highest price in market — this system is no doubt an excellent and profitable one. But amateurs and others, who have only a limited space to devote to this fruit, will prefer either the hill or row system, because, by devoting a little more labor to cultivation and removing the runners, the beds may be kept in good condition for fruiting a half dozen years. By an occasional top-dressing of old and well rotted manure, and forking in the materials used for protecting the plants and a mulch, the soil will be kept in fine condition for insuring a vigorous growth of plants. Old beds, however, are usually more likely to be infested by noxious insects than new ones, in addition to weeds, such as white clover, which are difficult to eradicate without disturbing the roots of the plants.
Planting. — The surface of the bed or field to be planted should be made smooth, level and free from lumps and stones. If it is uneven and there are many little hillocks and depressions, as are naturally left after plowing, the plants will follow these undulating lines, and some will be buried too deep and others have their roots exposed after the first heavy shower.
Always choose a cloudy day for planting, and it is far better to heel the plants in for a few days and give them a little water and shade than to set them out in dry weather. Draw a line where you are to set a row of plants, keeping it a few inches above the ground, so that you may plant under it instead of along one side. Use a transplanting trowel for making holes for the reception of the roots, and these should be spread out evenly in all directions, or spread apart, so that they will lie against one side of the hole made with the trowel Cover the plants as deep as possible without covering the crowns, and then press the soil down firmly around the roots. Some cultivators use a small wooden dibber for planting, merely making a round hole in the soil into which the roots are thrust all in a clump. Plants may live under such treatment, but careful planting with a trowel is far the best mode. If the weather should prove dry after planting, watering will, of course, be beneficial; but is only practicable on a small scale, as in gardens, or where it may be necessary to save some new and choice variety.
Where pistillate varieties are raised for the main crop then every fourth or fifth row should be planted with some hermaphrodite or perfect flowering variety, which blooms at or about the same time as the pistillate.
If the plants are cultivated in wide beds, then about every third one should be planted with some perfect flowering sort to supply pollen to the pistillate plants. But, as I have said elsewhere, there is no need of, or good reason for, cultivating these imperfect flowering varieties at all, and, unless one should appear better than any as yet known, they might all be discarded without loss to either cultivators or consumers of this fruit.
To Raise Extra Large Fruit. — First of all secure plants of varieties known to grow to a large size, then plant in rich soil, remove the runners as soon as they appear, keep the weeds down, stir the surface of the soil frequently, apply water as often as necessary, which will be at least twice a week in dry weather, also give liquid manure occasionally; in fact, force the plants to make a strong and vigorous growth. In the fall, or at the approach of cold weather, cover the plants with hay, straw, or some similar material, and in the spring remove it and spade or fork up the ground between the rows, after which spread over the ground sufficient mulch to keep the soil moist even during the time of drought. Under such treatment extra large berries may usually be produced. The cost of raising fruit by such modes of cultivation is, of course, seldom taken into consideration, and it really ought not to be any more than any other amusement devised for our own pleasure or that of our friends.
Of course, it is not to be supposed that large and fine fruit cannot be raised without extra and expensive modes of cultivation, but I have yet to learn of an instance where "astonishing" large Strawberries have been produced without a corresponding outlay in manure, labor and care.
CULTURE AND FORCING.
It often occurs that Strawberries ripening out of season are far more valuable than those maturing in the usual or natural season. Ripe Strawberries in mid-winter or even a month or two in advance of the crop ripening out of doors, always command an extra price in our markets; and, if a person does not care to raise fruit to sell, he may take pride in having them on his own table out of the regular season.
It is not at all difficult to raise Strawberry plants in pots and force them into fruiting at almost any season as desired, provided a person has a greenhouse, pit or hot-house in which the plants may be stored and forced with artificial heat during cold weather.
The plants to be forced may be of either one or two seasons' growth. If strong plants are desired and such as will produce a number of fruit-stalks, small young plants should be potted in the spring, using four or five inch pots for this purpose. The pots containing the plants should be plunged in the open ground, and where water can be given as required, and all runners removed as soon as they appear, also flower and fruit stalks. In June or July shift the plants into eight-inch pots, using very rich and compact soil. A few pieces of broken pots or old sods should be placed in the bottom of the pots for drainage, but the ball of earth about the roots must not be broken when transferring from the smaller to the larger pots. Give water to settle the soil in the pots, then plunge the pots in a frame where they will continue to grow without check until the approach of cold weather.
Plants wanted for an early crop may be brought into the house in November, as it will take from ten to twelve weeks from the time they are placed in the house before ripe fruit can be obtained. The pots may be plunged in tan or some similar material in the forcing house or merely placed on the benches or shelves, but more care is required in giving water, if the pots are exposed, than when plunged in tan or soil.
If a succession of crops is desired, then only a portion of the plants should be brought in at one time.
The temperature of the house should be only moderate at first, but increased gradually as the plants commence to grow and the fruit stems appear, when it should range from 65 to 75 degrees during the day and about ten degrees lower at night.
The plants will be benefited if syringed or watered overhead once or twice a week until they come into bloom; then omit it until the fruit is set, after which it may be continued as before. While the plants are in bloom, admit as much air as possible without lowering the temperature to a dangerous. degree, and, as there will be neither wind or insects to scatter the pollen, it is usually necessary to scatter it artificially. This can be done very rapidly with an ordinary camel's hair brush or pencil, lightly touching the stamens and pistils as each flower becomes fully expanded. This is not necessary with every variety, but a larger and more uniform crop will usually be secured if practised on those fruiting most freely in the house.
The plants that are kept for forcing later in the season should be stored in a cold frame or pit, where they will remain in a dormant state until ready for use.
Plants of one season's growth or those struck in pots during the summer will answer well for forcing in winter. The plants will not be as large as older ones, or produce as many berries, but, as they are smaller, a greater number can be forced in a given space. The first or earliest runners should be selected for this purpose, and a three or four-inch pot plunged in the ground underneath, or if roots have formed on the young plant when the pots are set in place, they may be thrust into the pot and good soil filled in about them. These pot-grown plants should be lifted early, or about the first of October, and shifted in to five or six-inch pots, filled with very rich compost and plenty of drainage — thenceforward treated as advised for older stock.
Such pot-grown plants may be fruited in the windows of an ordinary dwelling, provided the temperature does not fall below 40 or 45 degrees at night. The best varieties of the Strawberry for the purpose, however, are the Monthly Alpines, as they will thrive in a lower temperature than those of other species, and, with ordinary care, will continue to bloom and bear fruit all the year round. Fruit is not produced in any great abundance at any one season, but, the crop being a continuous one, it amounts to a pretty fair quantity during the year. As an ornamental window or greenhouse plant there are very few bearing edible fruit worthy of more care or attention than the Monthly Alpine Strawberry.
Nearly all of the perfect flowering varieties succeed when forced under glass, but the largest and most prolific are to be preferred, because size and quantity are properties sought more than high flavors in a Strawberry "out of season." An eminent English authority (G. W. Johnson) in referring to that subject in a work published some forty years ago, very truly says that "no plant is more certain of producing a good crop, when forced, than is the Strawberry, if properly treated; and none will more assuredly disappoint the gardener's hope, after a fair promise, if he adopts the too common error of forcing too fast." The Strawberry naturally blooms in the spring when the nights are cool and the day temperature far lower than later in the season; consequently, a high temperature is neither required nor beneficial to plants when first placed in the forcing house. Air should be admitted freely during the night, and the temperature kept low until the plants come into bloom, then an increase of several degrees is admissible, but at no time is a very high temperature required.
The larger varieties, such as Sharpless, Miner's Prolific, Seth Boyden, Cumberland Triumph, and American Agriculturist, are all excellent sorts for forcing, especially when extra size berries are an object.
In Europe forcing the Strawberry is practised more extensively than in this country, but the demand for this fruit out of its natural season is constantly increasing, and will, no doubt, continue to increase for many years to come. Twenty-five years ago the Strawberry season in our large cities scarcely extended beyond a period of six weeks, but now it is nearly six months, for ripe Strawberries come North from the Gulf States before the frost has left the ground in the Northern, and before these two early berries reach us from the South, those raised by forcing houses may be found in limited quantities in our fruit stores. Of course, this early or forced fruit commands a high price, but those who are able and willing to pay for such luxuries should be, and are usually, accommodated.
Almost any ordinary greenhouse may be used as a forcing house for the Strawberry, provided it is so constructed that the plants can be placed near the glass. If the plants are placed several feet below the roof or glass, they are likely to be drawn, as it is termed, the leaves and fruit-stalks growing tall and slender. Low houses are, therefore, better for this purpose than high ones, and even low-walled pits, heated by brick flues or earthen pipes, answer well for forcing the Strawberry.
Until within the past decade or two the Strawberry was rarely injured — at least not to any extent — by either insect or disease. But as its cultivation is extended it naturally encounters a greater number of enemies. Probably the most destructive pest is known under the common name of White Grub, or larva of the May Beetle. There are, however, over sixty distinct species of the May Beetle inhabiting the United States, but, as their habits are very nearly the same, they may for all practical purposes be considered as one. There is scarcely a mile square of good arable land in the United States that will not yield to the careful collector at least a half dozen species of Lachnosterna or May Beetles. They are more or less abundant in the Gulf States, and northward to Canada; thence westward to California and along the entire Pacific coast. These insects are usually more abundant in grass-lands, prairies, meadows and pastures than elsewhere, as the principal food of the grubs is the roots of grass and small herbs like the Strawberry. They sometimes become so abundant in meadows and pastures that, if such land is plowed up and planted with Strawberries, the grab will destroy every plant almost as soon as it is put into the ground. As these insects remain in the grub stage two or three years, they consume a large amount of food, and they appear to prefer the roots of the Strawberry to those of the common kinds of grasses.
Owing to the wide distribution of these insects, and their almost universal presence in old meadows and pastures, these lands should be avoided whenever possible. If broken up and cultivated for a year or two, or until the grubs have passed into the beetle stage, there can be no objection to such lands if otherwise adapted to the Strawberry. The female beetles usually resort to uncultivated fields to deposit their eggs; consequently they are not likely to become very abundant in those that are constantly kept under cultivation.
The Strawberry worm (Emphytus maculatus) is occasionally very abundant and destructive. It is a small, slender, pale-green worm about five-eighths of an inch long, attacking the leaves, eating large holes in them at first, but eventually entirely denuding the plant of foliage. Dusting the plants with lime when the leaves are wet with dew, or with Paris green, will usually check this pest.
In Canada And some of the Western States an insect known as the Strawberry Leaf-Roller is occasionally quite abundant and destructive. It is the larva or caterpillar of a small and handsome moth, the Anchylopera fragaria. It is quite probable that Paris green would be an effective remedy and might be safely used after the fruit was gathered in summer.
There are also several species of beetles that attack the crowns and stalks of the Strawberry, and the common Strawberry Crown-borer (Tyloderma fragaria) attacks the embryo fruit-stalks in the spring, thereby destroying the most important organ of the plants. The only remedy known is to immediately plow under the plants and destroy the grubs while in an immature stage. In my own experience, however, I have never, as yet, encountered an insect enemy of the Strawberry which could not be readily vanquished by clean cultivation and frequent renewal of the beds on plantation.