By Carrie Terry

Strawberries are relatively simple garden plants and succeed throughout the country for careful gardeners. The low-growing, hardy plants require the right site and space, with rich, moisture-retaining soil and mulch. Use both compost and well-rotted manure as soil amendments in your strawberry planting for growing success.

Strawberries are hardy plants and grow and produce for three to five seasons. They do best, though, with warm-weather starts. Plant them in late winter to early spring, at the last frost, to get them established and growing for summer. Choose a cool, moist day for planting to keep the seedlings from drying while out of the soil.

Strawberries require plenty of space and sun for healthy growth and blooming. Find a large site that provides full sunshine all day, an even growing surface, good air circulation and quick drainage. Don’t plant strawberries in old tomato or pepper soil, as these crops share soilborne diseases. Give each strawberry plant 15 to 24 inches in the row, with 36 to 48 inches between rows.

Strawberries do best in soil with a high organic content and you should build soil up with organic amendments before planting. Turn over the top 10 inches of soil throughout the strawberry plot, and add 3 to 4 inches of organic compost, peat moss or well-rotted manure. Don’t use fresh manure, as it will burn tender strawberry roots. Mix 6-24-24 fertilizer into the top 3 inches of soil at a rate of 1 lb. per 50 square feet for root establishment.

Compost and manure in the soil add nutrition and drainage and hold moisture between waterings to keep the strawberries growing. Water strawberries immediately after planting with 2 inches of water. Give each plant this much water once a week, and use 2 inches of organic mulch to keep your soil moist, warm and healthy.