01 July 2011

The Strawberry


It is so difficult to buy in the open market a good strawberry, well ripened and well gathered, that every one who has even a small garden should have a few rods of land devoted to the growth of this delicious berry. On a good soil it is not difficult to grow fifty quarts to the rod, and when properly managed it requires but little labor.

Select that part of the garden which will stand the drought the best, and have it far enough from the border to plough between, thus preventing the grass roots from running among the plants to their injury. Set the plants the last week in April, if the ground is in fair condition.  Prepare the soil by harrowing in a liberal quantity of well decomposed barn manure, ground bone composed of from  three to four percent of nitrogen, and from twenty-three to twenty-five percent of phosphoric acid; also muriate of potash marked eighty percent potash.

Apply of the ground bone twelve pounds to the square rod, and four pounds of the muriate of potash; or in the place of the muriate of potash apply two peck of wood ashes.

Set the plants in rows four feet apart, and eighteen inches in the row.

In selecting varieties use your own judgment, as far as  possible, and select one that suits your particular taste.  To do this, the fruit of the different varieties should be tested the year previous to that in which the plants are wanted.

Keep the plants well cultivated the first year, and let them grow in matted beds.

As soon as the ground begins to freeze in the autumn cover the plants with pine boughs, cornstalks, or any course hay: never forgetting that the strawberry is an evergreen plant and will not bear close covering, but the air must circulate between the mulch and the plants, or the leaves will be killed.

When freezing weather is over in the spring remove the mulch and clean out between the rows, so there will be a good path to walk in while picking the fruit. But little more will need to be done except to gather the fruit when ripe.

For home use, let the fruit be on the vines until perfectly ripe, and gather about an hour before it is wanted for the table.

When gathering for home use, always leave the hulls on the plant, as this is the only ways a perfectly ripe berry can be hulled without injuring it.  Strawberries thus grown and gathered are as much better than the common market strawberry, as the Concord grape is better than the wild, sour grape.

When the fruit is gathered, plough the vines under and plant some late crop. It is best to set a new bed every year; the fruit is better, the labor is very much less, and the garden is kept in better condition. 



The old-timers evidently looked at smaller sections of land area in terms of rods. A rod is a distance of 5.5 yards, or 16.5 feet. When the almanac writer speaks of planting a few rods of strawberries, I assume he is speaking of square rods, and a square rod would amount to 272.25 square feet.

As someone who spent most of my working career in the building trades, I like to think of how many 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood there are in 272.25 square feet. It comes out to 8.5 sheets. That doesn't seem like a whole lot of space for 50 quarts of strawberries.

I think it is interesting to note that a few rods of strawberries are recommended for people with "small" gardens. 


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