Berries-Small fruits
Besides the tree-fruits discussed in
the preceding posts, 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 of each should not be included in every garden of average
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
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
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. potassium, 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
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.

In 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.
Here I will 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.
Whatever 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.
After 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.
New 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. Once again a catalog from a reputable
nursery will prove invaluable in selecting the right varieties.
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 2018 will be those to fruit in
2019, 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 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 wellcared-
for beds. The most serious are: (1) the rust or blight, for which
there is no cure but carefully pulling and disposing of the plants as fast
as infested; (2) the blackberry-bush borer, which burn infested
canes; and (3) the recently introduced bramble flea-louse, which
resembles the green plant-louse or aphids 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 dispose.
As 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.
This 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.
The 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, 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.
The orange rust, which attacks the blackberry also, is a serious
trouble. Pull up and dispose of 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 dispose.
Of 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.
The 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.
Besides 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.
The 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. For the borer, cut and
dispose of 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.
Red 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.
This 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.
The currant-worm attacks the gooseberry also, and is effectively
handled by the 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.
Of 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
No 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 to slightly 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.
As 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 potassium
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 grapearbor
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
potassium 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
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. 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
disposed of. 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 any longer without them. They are all easily
obtained, 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.