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- The Home Acre - 20/28 -

plants or leave among them injurious seeds. Light stable-manure is often objected to for the reason that employing it is like sowing the ground with grass-seed. If the plants had been allowed to grow in matted beds, I would not use this material for a winter covering, unless it had been allowed to heat sufficiently to destroy the grass and clover seed contained in it. I have seen matted beds protected with stable-manure that were fit to mow by June, the plants and fruit having been over run with grass. No such result need follow if the plants are cultivated in a single line, for then the manure can be raked off in early spring--first of April in our latitude--and the ground cultivated. There is a great advantage in employing light manure if the system I advocate is followed, for the melting snows and rains carry the richness of the fertilizer to the roots, and winter protection serves a double purpose.

We will now consider the proper management for the second year, when a full crop should be yielded. I know that many authorities frown upon cultivation during the second spring, before plants bear their fruit. I can not agree with this view, except in regard to very light soils, and look upon it as a relic of the old theory that sandy land was the best for strawberries. Take the soil under consideration, a sandy loam, for instance. After the frost is out, the earth settled, and the winter covering raked off, the soil under the spring sun grows hard, and by June is almost as solid as a roadbed. Every one knows that land in such condition suffers tenfold more severely from drought than if it were light and mellow from cultivation. Perennial weeds that sprouted late in the fall or early spring get a start, and by fruiting-time are rampant. I do advocate EARLY spring cultivation, and by it I almost double my crop, while at the same time maintaining a mastery over the weeds.

As soon as the severe frosts are over, in April, I rake the coarsest of the stable-manure from the plants, leaving the finer and decayed portions as a fertilizer. Then, when the ground is dry enough to work, I have a man weed out the rows, and if there are vacant spaces, fill in the rows with young plants. The man then forks the ground lightly between the rows, and stirs the surface merely among the plants. Thus all the hard, sodden surface is loosened or scarified, and opened to the reception of air and light, dew and rain. The man is charged emphatically that in this cultivation he must not lift the plants or disturb the roots to any extent. If I find a plant with its hold upon the ground loosened, I know there has been careless work. Before digging along the row the fork is sunk beside the plants to prevent the soil from lifting in cakes, and the plants with them. In brief, pains are taken that the plants should be just as firm in the soil after cultivation as before. Let the reader carefully observe that this work is done EARLY in April, while the plants are comparatively DORMANT. Most emphatically it should not be done in May, after the blossoms begin to appear. If the bed has been neglected till that time, the SURFACE MERELY can be cultivated with a hoe. When the plants have approached so near to the fruiting, the roots must not be disturbed at all. EARLY cultivation gives time for new roots to grow, and stimulates such growth. Where the rows are sufficiently long, and the ground permits it, this early loosening of the soil is accomplished with a horse-cultivator better than with a fork, the hoe following and levelling the soil and taking out all weeds.

My next step during the second season is to mulch the plants, in order to keep the fruit clean. Without this mulch the fruit is usually unfit for the table. A dashing shower splashes the berries with mud and grit, and the fruit must be washed before it is eaten; and strawberries with their sun-bestowed beauty and flavor washed away are as ridiculous as is mere noise from musical instruments. To be content with such fruit is like valuing pictures by the number of square inches of canvas! In perfecting a strawberry, Nature gives some of her finest touches, and it is not well to obliterate them with either mud or water. Any light clean material will keep the fruit clean. I have found spring rakings of the lawn--mingled dead grass and leaves--one of the best. Leaves from a grove would answer, were it not for their blowing about in an untidy way. Of course there is nothing better than straw for the strawberry; but this often costs as much as hay. Any clean litter that will lie close to the ground and can be pushed up under the plants will answer. Nor should it be merely under the plants. A man once mulched my rows in such a way that the fruit hung over the litter on the soil beyond. A little common-sense will meet the requirement of keeping the berries well away from the loose soil, while at the same time preserving a neat aspect to the bed. Pine-needles and salt-hay are used where these materials are abundant.

Make it a rule to mulch as soon as possible after the plants begin to blossom, and also after a good soaking rain. In this case the litter keeps the ground moist. If the soil immediately about the plants is covered when dry, the mulch may keep it dry--to the great detriment of the forming berries. It is usually best to put on the mulch as soon as the early cultivation is over in April, and then the bed may be left till the fruit is picked. Of course it may be necessary to pull out some rank-growing weeds from time to time. If the hired man is left to do the mulching very late in the season, he will probably cover much of the green fruit and blossoms as well as the ground.

After the berries have been picked, the remaining treatment of the year is very simple. Rake out the mulch, cultivate the soil, and keep the plants free of weeds and runners as during the previous year. Before hard freezing weather, protect again as before, and give the plants similar treatment the following spring and summer. Under this system the same plants may be kept in bearing three, four, and five years, according to the variety. Some kinds maintain their vigor longer than others. After the first year the disposition to run declines, and with the third year, in most instances, deterioration in the plant itself begins. I would therefore advise that under this system a new bed be made, as described, every third year; for, it should be remembered, the new bed is unproductive the first year. This should never be forgotten if one would maintain a continuous supply of berries, otherwise he will be like those born on the 29th of February, and have only occasional birthdays.

If the old bed is just where you wish, and has been prepared in the thorough manner described, it can be renewed in the following manner: When the old plants begin to decline in vigor--say the third or fourth spring--a line of well-decayed compost and manure from the cow-stable a foot wide may be spread thickly down between the rows, dug under deeply, and young plants set out just over the fertilizer. The old plants can be treated as has already been described, and as soon as they are through bearing, dug under. This would leave the young plants in full possession of the ground, and the cultivation and management for three or more years would go on as already directed. This course involves no loss of time or change of ground for a long periods. If, however, a new bed can be made somewhere else, the plants will thrive better upon it. Unless there are serious objections, a change of ground is always advantageous; for no matter how lavishly the plot is enriched, the strawberry appears to exhaust certain required constituents in the soil. Continued vigor is better maintained by wood-ashes perhaps than by any other fertilizer, after the soil is once deepened and enriched, and it may be regarded as one of the very best tonics for the strawberry plant. Bone-meal is almost equally good. Guano and kindred fertilizers are too stimulating, and have not the staying qualities required.

As has been intimated before, the strawberry bed may often be so located on the Home Acre as to permit of irrigation. This does not mean sprinkling and splattering with water, but the continuous maintenance of abundant moisture during the critical period from the time the fruit begins to form until it ripens. Partial watering during a drought is very injurious; so also would be too frequent watering. If the ground could be soaked twice a week in the evening, and then left to the hardening and maturing influence of the sun and wind, the finest results would be secured. I am satisfied that in most localities the size of the berries and the number of quarts produced might be doubled by judicious irrigation.

The system given above applies not only to sandy loam, but also to all varieties of clay, even the most stubborn. In the latter instance it would be well to employ stable-manure in the initial enriching, for this would tend to lighten and warm the soil. Care must also be exercised in not working clay when it is too wet or too dry. Mulch also plays an important part on heavy clay, for it prevents the soil from baking and cracking. One of the best methods of preventing this is to top-dress the ground with stable- manure, and hoe it in from time to time when fighting the weeds. This keeps the surface open and mellow--a vital necessity for vigorous growth. Few plants will thrive when the surface is hard and baked. Nevertheless, if I had to choose between heavy clay and light sand for strawberries, I should much prefer the clay. On the last-named soil an abundant winter protection is absolutely necessary, or else the plants will freeze entirely out of the ground.

The native strain of cultivated strawberries has so much vigor and power of adaptation that plenty of excellent varieties can be grown on the lightest soil. In this instance, however, we would suggest important modifications in preparation and culture. The soil, as has been already shown, must be treated like a spendthrift. Deep plowing or spading should be avoided, as the subsoil is too loose and leachy already. The initial enriching of the bed should be generous, but not lavish. You cannot deposit fertilizers for long-continued use. I should prefer to harrow or rake in the manure, leaving it near the surface. The rains will carry it down fast enough. One of the very best methods is to open furrows, three feet apart, with a light corn-plow, half fill them with decayed compost, again run the plow through to mix the fertilizer with the soil, then level the ground, and set out the plants immediately over the manure. They thus get the benefit of it before it can leach away. The accomplished horticulturist Mr. P. T. Quinn, of Newark, N. J., has achieved remarkable success by this plan.

It is a well-known fact that on light land strawberry plants are not so long-lived and do not develop, or "stool out," as it is termed, as on heavier land. In order to secure the largest and best possible crop, therefore, I should not advise a single line of plants, but rather a narrow bed of plants, say eighteen inches wide, leaving eighteen inches for a walk. I would not allow this bed to be matted with an indefinite number of little plants crowding each other into feeble life, but would leave only those runners which had taken root early, and destroy the rest. A plant which forms in June and the first weeks in July has time to mature good-sized fruit-buds before winter, especially if given space in which to develop. This, however, would be impossible if the runners were allowed to sod the ground thickly. In principle I would carry out the first system, and give each plant space in

The Home Acre - 20/28

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