By David Harris

Although you cannot plant an actual strawberry fruit and expect a plant to grow, many home gardeners purchase and successfully grow strawberry plants from nurseries. Strawberries are a good choice for home growing because the plants take up minimal space and take very little effort and maintenance. With little care, you and your family will soon be enjoying fresh strawberries right from your garden.

Of the three basic types of strawberries, most people will grow June-bearing plants. This type of strawberry produces only one crop per year. They get their name because most of the harvest comes in June. Everbearing strawberries produce strawberries during the spring and then again in the late summer. The third type, day-neutral strawberries, are similar to the everbearing variety except they are more productive. They prefer cool weather and under the right conditions can bear fruit from June until fall.

Strawberries can tolerate some frost, so plant them as soon as the ground is soft enough to work. Since the plants prefer cool over hot weather, plant them earlier than most garden plants. In most northern states, you will be able to plant the strawberries in March or April. Planting early allows the plants to establish themselves before the hot summer arrives. Plant on a day when the soil is dry. If the soil is wet, wait a few days before planting.

When plotting where to plant your strawberries, choose a place that receives full sunlight and has well-drained soil. This is important because strawberries planted in a spot with poor drainage are susceptible to diseases such as leaf and root rot. Plant in a location that has not supported crops such as peppers, tomatoes and potatoes since these sites have higher incidences of root disease. Also, look for a place that is not infested with weeds, especially perennial weeds which can be very hard to control.

Wait for a cloudy day to plant your strawberries and do it late in the afternoon. Plant deep enough so the soil just covers the top of the roots. If you plant too shallow or too deep, the plant will not grow properly. Make sure no soil covers the crown of the plant. Plant in rows 18 to 24 inches apart with 4 feet between rows if planting June-bearing plants. The other varieties need less space, about 12 inches between each plant and 12 inches between rows.