Strawberries are hardy, perennial herbs grown throughout the United States and inmost parts of Canada and in Alaska. They grow best in cool, moist states, and, with special treatment, strawberries can be grown in the hot Gulf States. Although cultivated in Europe since about the sixteenth century, the straw-berry was not truly popular as a fruit until the advent of the Hovey seedlings, grown in the vicinity of Boston about 1840. These are thought to have been developed from the species F. vesca, which is responsible for the late-bearing qualities of many of today’s ever-bearings. F. chiloensis and F. virginiana were also used in developing modern varieties.
Strawberry Planting and Culture
Strawberries may be grown in any soil which is not too alkaline, too dry or in need of drainage. Best soil is alight, rich loam with plenty of humus and a pH factor between 5 and 6.
If strawberries are to be planted in the spring, prepare their bed the previous fall on a plot which has been cultivated for two years. This will be free of the beetle grubs and wire-worms which may infest soil in which sod has recently been turned.
A site which slopes slightly is best for perfect drainage. Water must never be allowed to stand on a strawberry patch during the winter. A southern slope will encourage early blossoming and earlier fruit but this may not be desirable in areas where late frosts often nick the flower buds, unless protection can be during such emergencies.
First cut out damaged or diseased roots. The hole dug for each plan, should be large enough to hold the roots without crowding. A mound of soil is heaped in the center of the hole, and the plant seated or the mound with roots pressed firmly into the soil all around the base of the mound. Each plant should be set so that the soil level will naturally cover all the roots, but will not cover any of the small leaves which are beginning to develop in the crown. The hole should be half-filled with soil. Pour water in to wash the soil around the roots. Then fill the rest of the hole and firm the soil around the plants. A berry box or basket may be inverted over the newly set plant to prevent drying during the first few days. From beginning to end of the planting operation, the roots should never be exposed to sun or drying winds. If the day is sunny, the plants should at all times be shaded. A damp layer of sphagnum moss or a piece of wet burlap may be placed over the receptacle containing the plants to prevent drying. Remove one plant at a time. Soil should be kept moist for several days after the plants are set system, by the stone-mulch system, or by a combination of some of the above systems with the permanently mulched garden system.
With this system many commercial growers plant entire fields each spring for the following spring’s production. After bearing, the plants are plowed under and new plantings are made again the following year. Plants are set 18 to 42 inches apart in rows three to 4 1/2 feet apart, depending upon how many runners the particular variety can be expected to make, and what type of cultivation will be used. Most of the runners are permitted to grow during the first season, with only the fruit buds being removed to strengthen the plants. A mat is formed which may be straightened and maintained at the desired width by cultivation. For case in harvesting, the best width is three feet or less. Twin matted rows are sometimes made six to 24 inches apart, with wider paths between one pair of twins and the next.
This system is most often used for varieties which are slow to send out runners and produce daughter plants or for any variety when especially fancy fruit is desired. Because of the extra work involved, the system is not widely practiced. The daughter plants are spaced at definite distances by covering selected runners with soil until the desired number of daughter plants is obtained for each mother plant. Either later formed runners are removed as they appear or all surplus runners are removed at one time.
In the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, region, spacing is used rather extensively. Mother plants are set about 12 inches apart, and two runner series are allowed to form, one with three and the other with four daughter plants.