By Carrie Terry

Strawberries grow low to the ground as hardy perennials and will live and produce their runners and berries for up to five years. The plants always need the right planting season and rich, nutritious soil if they’re to thrive, though. Use compost to plant strawberries and then to nourish them through the years.

Strawberries can withstand frost and cool temperatures, but do best when they start out in the warm weather of spring. Plant strawberry seedlings after frost lifts in your area to give them a full summer growing season. Strawberries must grow and stretch for a full year before they bear fruit.

Strawberries need full sun for most of the day to produce fruit, as shady growing produces lush vegetation with few blooms and almost no berries. Find a site that provides adequate sun and space, with quick, efficient drainage. Avoid sites that held tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or other berries, as the soil may contain residual bacteria and fungus.

Strawberries like slightly acidic soil that is loose and rich and that holds moisture during dry periods. Amend the top 5 to 7 inches of soil in your planting site with 2 to 4 inches of organic compost to provide this mix of conditions and to raise the soil level. Work 6-24-24 fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil several weeks before planting to provide even more nutrition for the seedlings.

Plant strawberry seedlings deeply enough to fully cover the roots and crowns, but not so deeply that the stems are buried. Strawberries don’t do well with deep or shallow plantings. Space the rows at 36 to 48 inches and plants at 15 to 24 inches in the row. Water the patch with 4 inches of water to settle the seedlings, then spread 2 inches of organic mulch or compost between the rows to keep the soil moist and weed-free during growth.