BERRIES AND SMALL FRUITS
Besides the tree-fruits discussed in the preceding chapters, there is another class which should be represented in every home garden--the berries and small fruits. These have the advantage of occupying much less room than the former do and are therefore available where the others are not.The methods of giving berries proper cultivation are not so generally known as the methods used with vegetables. Otherwise there is no reason why a few berry and small fruit plants should not be included in every garden of average size. Their requirements are not exacting: the amount of skill, or rather of attention, required to care for them is not more than that required by the ordinary vegetables. In fact, once they are well established they will demand less time than the annual vegetables. Of these small fruits the most popular and useful are: the strawberry, the blackberry, dewberry and raspberry, the currant, gooseberry and grape. The strawberry is the most important, and most amateurs attempt its culture--many, however, with indifferent success. This is due, partly at least, to the fact that many methods are advocated by successful growers, and that the beginner is not likely to pick out _one_ and stick to it; and further, that he is led to pay more attention to how many layers he will have, and at what distance he will set the plants, than to proper selection and preparation of soil and other vital matters. The soil should be well drained and rich--a good garden soil being suitable. The strawberries should not follow sod or corn. If yard manure is used it should be old and well rotted, so as to be as free as possible from weed seeds. Potash, in some form (see Fertilizers) should be added. The bed should be thoroughly prepared, so that the plants, which need careful transplanting, may take hold at once. A good sunny exposure is preferable, and a spot where no water will collect is essential. The plants are grown from "layers." They are taken in two ways: (1) by rooting the runners in the soil; and (2) by layering in pots. In the former method they are either allowed to root themselves, or, which gives decidedly better results, by selecting vines from strong plants and pushing them lightly down into the soil where the new crown is to be formed. In the second method, two-inch or three-inch pots are used, filling these with soil from the bed and plunging, or burying, them level with the surface, just below where the crown is to be formed, and holding the vine in place with a small stone, which serves the additional purpose of marking where the pot is. In either case these layers are made after the fruiting season.
SETTING THE PLANTSIn using the soil-rooted layers, it is generally more satisfactory to set them out in spring, as soon as the ground can be worked, although they are sometimes set in early fall--August or September--when the ground is in very good condition, so that a good growth can at once be made. Care should be used in transplanting. Have the bed fresh; keep the plants out of the soil as short a time as possible; set the plants in straight, and firm the soil; set just down to the crown--do not cover it. If the soil is dry, or the season late, cut off all old leaves before planting; also shorten back the roots about one-third and be sure not to crowd them when setting, for which purpose a trowel, not a dibble, should be used if the condition of the ground makes the use of any implement necessary. If so dry that water must be used, apply it in the bottom of the hole. If very hot and dry, shade for a day or two.
METHODS OF GROWING SMALL FRUITS AND BERRIESI describe the three systems most valuable for the home garden: (1) the hill, (2) the matted row, and (3) the pot-layered. (1) In the hill system the plants are put in single rows, or in beds of three or four rows, the plants one foot apart and the rows, or beds, two or three feet apart. In either case each plant is kept separate, and all runners are pinched off as fast as they form, the idea being to throw all the strength into one strong crown. (2) In the matted row system the plants are set in single rows, and the runners set in the bed at five or six inches each side of the plants, and then trained lengthways of the row, this making it a foot or so wide. The runners used to make these secondary crowns must be the first ones sent out by the plants; they should be severed from the parent plants as soon as well rooted. All other runners must be taken off as they form. To keep the beds for a good second crop, where the space between the rows has been kept cultivated and clean, cut out the old plants as soon as the first crop of berries is gathered, leaving the new ones--layered the year before-- about one foot apart. (3) The pot-layering system, especially for a small number of plants, I consider the best. It will be seen that by the above systems the ground is occupied three years, to get two crops, and the strawberry season is a short one at best. By this third system the strawberry is made practically an annual, and the finest of berries are produced. The new plants are layered in pots, as described above. The layers are taken immediately after the fruit is gathered; or better still, because earlier, a few plants are picked out especially to make runners. In either case, fork up the soil about the plants to be layered, and in about fifteen days they will be ready to have the pots placed under them. The main point is to have pot plants ready to go into the new bed as soon as possible after the middle of July. These are set out as in the hill system, and all runners kept pinched off, so that a large crown has been formed by the time the ground freezes, and a full crop of the very best berries will be assured for the following spring. The pot-layering is repeated each year, and the old plants thrown out, no attempt being made to get a second crop. It will be observed that ground is occupied by the strawberries only the latter half of the one season and the beginning of the next, leaving ample time for a crop of early lettuce, cabbage or peas before the plants are set, say in 1911, and for late cabbage or celery after the bed is thrown out, in 1912. Thus the ground is made to yield three crops in two years--a very important point where garden space is limited.
CULTIVATIONWhatever system is used--and each has its advocates--the strawberry bed must be kept clean, and attention given to removing the surplus runners. Cultivate frequently enough to keep a dust mulch between the rows, as advocated for garden crops. At first, after setting, the cultivation may be as deep as three or four inches, but as the roots develop and fill the ground it should be restricted to two inches at most. Where a horse is used a Planet Jr. twelve-tooth cultivator will be just the thing.
MULCHINGAfter the ground freezes, and before severe cold sets in (about the 1st to the 15th of December) the bed should be given its winter mulch. Bog hay, which may be obtained cheaply from some nearby farmer, is about the best material. Clean straw will do. Cover the entire bed, one or two inches over the plants, and two or three between the rows. If necessary, hold in place with old boards. In spring, but not before the plants begin to grow, over each plant the mulch is pushed aside to let it through. Besides giving winter protection, the mulch acts as a clean even support for the berries and keeps the roots cool and moist.
INSECTS AND DISEASEFor white-grub and cut-worm see pages elsewhere in the text. For rust, which frequently injures the leaves so seriously as to cause practical loss of crop, choose hardy varieties and change bed frequently. Spraying with Bordeaux, 5-5-50, four or five times during first season plants are set, and second season just before and just after blossoming, will prevent it. In making up your strawberry list remember that some varieties have imperfect, or pistillate blossoms, and that when such varieties are used a row of some perfect-flowering (bi- sexual) sort must be set every nine to twelve feet.
BERRY AND SMALL FRUIT VARIETIESNew strawberries are being introduced constantly; also, they vary greatly in their adaptation to locality. Therefore it is difficult to advise as to what varieties to plant. The following, however, have proved satisfactory over wide areas, and may be depended upon to give satisfaction. Early crop:--Michel's Early, Haverland, Climax; mid- season crop:--Bubach No. 5, Brandywine, Marshall, Nic. Ohmer, Wm. Belt, Glen Mary, Sharplesss; late crop:--The Gandy, Sample, Lester Lovett. The blackberry, dewberry and raspberry are all treated in much the same way. The soil should be well drained, but if a little clayey, so much the better. They are planned preferably in early spring, and set from three or four to six or seven feet apart, according to the variety. They should be put in firmly. Set the plants in about as deep as they have been growing, and cut the canes back to six or eight inches. If fruit is wanted the same season as bushes are set, get a few extra plants--they cost but a few cents--and cut back to two feet or so. Plants fruited the first season are not likely to do well the following year. Two plants may be set in a place and one fruited. If this one is exhausted, then little will be lost. Give clean cultivation frequently enough to maintain a soil mulch, as it is very necessary to retain all the moisture possible. Cultivation, though frequent, should be very shallow as soon as the plants get a good start. In very hot seasons, if the ground is clean, a summer mulch of old hay, leaves or rough manure will be good for the same purpose. In growing, a good stout stake is used for each plant, to which the canes are tied with some soft material. Or, a stout wire is strung the length of the row and the canes fastened to this--a better way, however, being to string two wires, one on either side of the row. Another very important matter is that of pruning. The plants if left to themselves will throw up altogether too much wood. This must be cut out to four or five of the new canes and all the canes that have borne fruit should be cut and burned each season as soon as through fruiting. The canes, for instance, that grow in 1911 will be those to fruit in 1912, after which they should be immediately removed. The new canes, if they are to be self-supporting, as sometimes grown, should be cut back when three or four feet high. It is best, however, to give support. In the case of those varieties which make fruiting side-shoots, as most of the black raspberries (blackcaps) do, the canes should be cut back at two to three feet, and it is well also to cut back these side shoots one-third to one-half, early in the spring. In cold sections (New York or north of it) it is safest to give winter protection by "laying down" the canes and giving them a mulch of rough material. Having them near the ground is in itself a great protection, as they will not be exposed to sun and wind and will sometimes be covered with snow. For mulching, the canes are bent over nearly at the soil and a shovelful of earth thrown on the tips to hold them down; the entire canes may then be covered with soil or rough manure, but do not put it on until freezing weather is at hand. If a mulch is used, it must be taken off before growth starts in the spring.
THE BLACKBERRYThe large-growing sorts are set as much as six by eight feet apart, though with careful staking and pruning they may be comfortably handled in less space. The smaller sorts need about four by six. When growth starts, thin out to four or five canes and pinch these off at about three feet; or, if they are to be put on wires or trellis, they may be cut when tied up the following spring. Cultivate, mulch and prune as suggested above. Blackberries will do well on a soil a little dry for raspberries and they do not need it quite so rich, as in this case the canes do not ripen up sufficiently by fall, which is essential for good crops. If growing rank they should be pinched back in late August. When tying up in the spring, the canes should be cut back to four or five feet and the laterals to not more than eighteen inches. Blackberry enemies do not do extensive injury, as a rule, in well- cared-for beds. The most serious are: (1) the rust or blight, for which there is no cure but carefully pulling and burning the plants as fast as infested; (2) the blackberry-bush borer, for which burn infested canes; and (3) the recently introduced bramble flea-louse, which resembles the green plant-louse or aphis except that it is a brisk jumper, like the flea-beetle. The leaves twist and curl up in summer and do not drop off in the fall. On cold early mornings, or wet weather, while the insects are sluggish, cut all infested shoots, collecting them in a tight box, and burn.
BLACKBERRY VARIETIESAs with the other small fruits, so many varieties are being introduced that it is difficult to give a list of the best for home use. Any selections from the following, however, will prove satisfactory, as they are tried-and-true:--Early King, Early Harvest, Wilson Junior, Kittatinny, Rathburn, Snyder, Erie.
THE DEWBERRYThis is really a trailing blackberry and needs the same culture, except that the canes are naturally slender and trailing and therefore, for garden culture, must have support. They may be staked up, or a barrel hoop, supported by two stakes, makes a good support. In ripening, the dewberry is ten to fourteen days earlier than the blackberry, and for that reason a few plants should be included in the berry patch. Premo is the earliest sort, and Lucretia the standard.
RASPBERRYThe black and the red types are distinct in flavor, and both should be grown. The blackcaps need more room, about three by six or seven feet; for the reds three by five feet will be sufficient. The blackcaps, and a few of the reds, like Cuthbert, throw out fruiting side branches, and should have the main canes cut back at about two and a half feet to encourage the growth of these laterals, which, in the following spring, should be cut back to about one-third their length. The soil for raspberries should be clayey if possible, and moist, but not wet.
RASPBERRY ENEMIESThe orange rust, which attacks the blackberry also, is a serious trouble. Pull up and burn all infested plants at once, as no good remedy has as yet been found. The cut-worm, especially in newly set beds, may sometimes prove destructive of the sprouting young canes. The raspberry-borer is the larva of a small, flattish, red-necked beetle, which bores to the center of the canes during summer growth, and kills them. Cut and burn.
RASPBERRY VARIETIESOf the blackcaps, Gregg, McCormick, Munger, Cumberland, Columbian, Palmer (very early), and Eureka (late), are all good sorts. Reds: Cuthbert, Cardinal (new), Turner, Reliance, The King (extra early), Loudon (late). Yellow: Golden Queen.
CURRANTSThe currant and gooseberry are very similar in their cultural requirements. A deep, rich and moist soil is the best--approaching a clayey loam. There need be no fear of giving too much manure, but it should be well rotted. Plenty of room, plenty of air, plenty of moisture, secured where necessary by a soil or other mulch in hot dry weather, are essential to the production of the best fruit. The currant will stand probably as much abuse as any plant the home gardener will have to deal with. Stuck in a corner, smothered in sod, crowded with old wood, stripped by the currant-worm, it still struggles along from year to year, ever hopefully trying to produce a meager crop of poor fruit. But these are not the sort you want. Although it is so tough, no fruit will respond to good care more quickly. To have it do well, give it room, four or five feet each way between bushes. Manure it liberally; give it clean cultivation, and as the season gets hot and dry, mulch the soil, if you would be certain of a full-sized, full-flavored crop. Two bushes, well cared for, will yield more than a dozen half-neglected ones. Anywhere north of New York a full crop every year may be made almost certain.
PRUNING CURRANTSBesides careful cultivation, to insure the best of fruit it is necessary to give some thought to the matter of pruning. The most convenient and the most satisfactory way is to keep it in the bush form. Set the plants singly, three or four feet apart, and so cut the new growth, which is generously produced, as to retain a uniform bush shape, preferably rather open in the center. The fruit is produced on wood two or more years old. Therefore cut out branches either when very small, or not until four or five years later, after it has borne two or three crops of fruit. Therefore, in pruning currants, take out (1) superfluous young growth; (2) old hard wood (as new wood will produce better fruit); and (3) all weak, broken, dead or diseased shoots; (4) during summer, if the tips of the young growths kept for fruiting are pinched off, they will ripen up much better-- meaning better fruit when they bear; (5) to maintain a good form, the whole plant may be cut back (never more than one-third) in the fall. In special situations it may be advisable to train the currant to one or a few main stems, as against a wall; this can be done, but it is less convenient. Also it brings greater danger from the currant-borer. The black currant, used almost entirely for culinary or preserving purposes, is entirely different from the red and white ones. They are much larger and should be put five to six feet apart. Some of the fruit is borne on one-year-old wood, so the shoots should not be cut back. Moreover, old wood bears as good fruit as the new growth, and need not be cut out, unless the plant is getting crowded, for several years. As the wood is much heavier and stronger than the other currants, it is advisable gradually to develop the black currants into the tree form.
ENEMIES OF THE CURRANTThe worst of these is the common currant-worm. When he appears, which will be indicated by holes eaten in the lower leaves early in spring, generally before the plants bloom, spray at once with Paris green. If a second brood appears, spray with white hellebore (if this is not all washed off by the rain, wipe from the fruit when gathered). For the borer, cut and burn every infested shoot. Examine the bushes in late fall, and those in which the borers are at work will usually have a wilted appearance and be of a brownish color.
VARIETIES OF CURRANTSRed Dutch, while older and smaller than some of the newer varieties, is hardier and not so likely to be hurt by the borer. London Market, Fay's Prolific, Perfection (new), and Prince Albert, are good sorts. White Grape is a good white. Naples, and Lee's Prolific are good black sorts.
THE GOOSEBERRYThis is given practically the same treatment as the currant. It is even more important that it should be given the coolest, airiest, location possible, and the most moist soil. Even a partially shaded situation will do, but in such situations extra care must be taken to guard against the mildew--which is mentioned below. Summer mulching is, of course, of special benefit. In pruning the gooseberry, it is best to cut out to a very few, or even to a single stem. Keep the head open, to allow free circulation of air. The extent of pruning will make a great difference in the size of the fruit; if fruit of the largest size is wanted, prune very close. All branches drooping to the ground should be removed. Keep the branches, as much as possible, from touching each other.
GOOSEBERRY ENEMIESThe currant-worm attacks the gooseberry also, and is effectively handled by the arsenate of lead, Paris green or hellebore spraying, mentioned above. The great trouble in growing gooseberries successfully is the powdery mildew--a dirty, whitish fungous growth covering both fruit and leaves. It is especially destructive of the foreign varieties, the culture of which, until the advent of the potassium sulfide spray, was being practically abandoned. Use 1 oz. of potassium sulfide (liver of sulphur) to 2 gals. water, and mix just before using. Spray thoroughly three or four times a month, from the time the blossoms are opening until fruit is ripe.
GOOSEBERRY VARIETIESOf the native gooseberries--which are the hardiest, Downing and Houghton's Seedling are most used. Industry is an English variety, doing well here. Golden Prolific, Champion, and Columbus, are other good foreign sorts, but only when the mildew is successfully fought off.
THE GRAPENo garden is so small that there cannot be found in it room for three or four grape-vines; no fruit is more certain, and few more delicious. If it is convenient, a situation fully exposed to the sun, and sloping slightly, will be preferable. But any good soil, provided only it is rich and thoroughly drained, will produce good results. If a few vines are to be set against walls, or in other out-of-the-way places, prepare the ground for them by excavating a good-sized hole, putting in a foot of coal cinders or other drainage material, and refilling with good heavy loam, enriched with old, well rotted manure and half a peck of wood ashes. For culture in the garden, such special preparation will not be necessary--although, if the soil is not in good shape, it will be advisable slightly to enrich the hills. One or two-year roots will be the most satisfactory to buy. They may be set in either fall or spring--the latter time, for New York or north, being generally preferable. When planting, the cane should be cut back to three or four eyes, and the roots should also be shortened back-- usually about one-third. Be sure to make the hole large enough, when setting, to let the roots spread naturally, and work the soil in well around them with the fingers. Set them in firmly, by pressing down hard with the ball of the foot after firming by hand. They are set about six feet apart.
GRAPE PRUNINGAs stated above, the vine is cut back, when planting, to three or four eyes. The subsequent pruning--and the reader must at once distinguish between pruning, and training, or the way in which the vines are placed--will determine more than anything else the success of the undertaking. Grapes depend more upon proper pruning than any other fruit or vegetable in the garden. Two principles must be kept track of in this work. First principle: _the annual crop is borne only on canes of the same year's growth, springing from wood of the previous season's growth_. Second principle: _the vine, if left to itself, will set three or four times the number of bunches it can properly mature_. As a result of these facts, the following system of pruning has been developed and must be followed for sure and full-sized crops. (1) At time of planting, cut back to three or four eyes, and after these sprout leave only one (or two) of them, which should be staked up. (2) Following winter (December to March), leave only one cane and cut this back to three or four eyes. (3) Second growing season, save only two canes, even if several sprout, and train these to stake or trellis. These two vines, or arms, branching from the main stem, form the foundation for the one-year canes that bear the fruit. However, to prevent the vine's setting too much fruit (see second principle above) these arms must be cut back in order to limit the number of fruit-bearing canes that will spring from them, therefore: (4) Second winter pruning, cut back these arms to eight or ten buds-- and we have prepared for the first crop of fruit, about forty bunches, as the fruiting cane from each bud will bear two bunches on the average. However these main arms will not bear fruiting-canes another year (see first principle above) and therefore: (5) At the third winter pruning, (a) of the canes that bore fruit, only the three or four nearest the main stem or trunk are left; (b) these are cut back to eight or ten buds each, and (c) everything else is ruthlessly cut away. Each succeeding year the same system is continued, care being taken to rub off, each May, buds or sprouts starting on the main trunk or arms. The wood, in addition to being cut back, must be well ripened; and the wood does not ripen until after the fruit. It therefore sometimes becomes necessary to cut out some of the bunches in order to hasten the ripening of the rest. At the same time the application of some potash fertilizer will be helpful. If the bunches do not ripen up quickly and pretty nearly together, the vine is overloaded and being damaged for the following year. The matter of pruning being mastered, the question of training is one of individual choice. Poles, trellises, arbors, walls--almost anything may be used. The most convenient system, however, and the one I would strongly recommend for practical home gardening for results, is known as the (modified) Kniffen system. It is simplicity itself. A stout wire is stretched five or six feet above the ground; to this the single main trunks of the vine run up, and along it are stretched the two or three arms from which the fruiting-canes hang down. They occupy the least possible space, so that garden crops may be grown practically on the same ground. I have never seen it tried, but where garden space is limited I should think that the asparagus bed and the Kniffen grape- arbor just described could be combined to great advantage by placing the vines, in spaces left for them, directly in the asparagus row. Of course the ground would have to be manured for two crops. A 2-8-10 fertilizer is right for the grapes. If using stable manure, apply also ashes or some other potash fertilizer. If the old-fashioned arbor is used, the best way is to run the main trunk up over it and cut the laterals back each year to two or three eyes. The most serious grape trouble which the home gardener is likely to encounter is the black-rot Where only a few grapes are grown the simplest way of overcoming this disease is to get a few dozen cheap manila store-bags and fasten one, with a couple of ten-penny nails, over each bunch. Cut the mouth of the bag at sides and edges, cover the bunch, fold the flaps formed over the cane, and fasten. They are put on after the bunches are well formed and hasten the ripening of the fruit, as well as protecting it. On a larger scale, spraying will have to be resorted to. Use Bordeaux, 5-5-50, from third leaf's appearance to middle of July; balance of season with ammoniacal copper carbonate. The spray should be applied in particular just before every rain-- especially on the season's growth. Besides the spraying, all trimmed- off wood, old leaves and twigs, withered bunches and grapes, or "mummies," and refuse of every description, should be carefully raked up in the spring and burned or buried. Also give clean culture and keep the main stems clean. The grape completes the list of the small fruits worth while to the average home gardener. If you have not already experimented with them, do not let your garden go longer without them. They are all easily obtained (none costing more than a few cents each), and a very limited number will keep the family table well supplied with healthy delicacies, which otherwise, in their best varieties and condition, could not be had at all. The various operations of setting out, pruning and spraying will soon become as familiar as those in the vegetable garden. There is no reason why every home garden should not have its few rows of small fruits, yielding their delicious harvests in abundance.
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