By Carrie Terry

Strawberry plants are small, hardy and long lived, and produce bright, juicy berries for up to five seasons. These plants withstand cold winter temperatures to grow through winter, but always need rich, quick-draining soil and consistent nutrition to bear fruit. Choose an appropriate site and prepare strawberry planting soil ahead of time to ensure easy planting and successful strawberry growth.

Prepare strawberry planting soil in early spring, before the last frost and as soon as the soil softens enough for digging. Early soil amendment gives the foundation time to rest and settle for planting. Choose a plot where the plants will get quick year-round drainage, full sunshine and adequate air movement. Strawberries won’t bloom or bear fruit in shade, and fail in standing water.

Rake the site to even it out, and collect all rocks, litter, weeds and old roots. Strawberries don’t thrive with competition or crowded growing conditions. Dig into and till the top 10 to 12 inches of soil through the plot to ensure aeration and drainage.

Turn 6 to 8 inches of organic matter into the tilled soil to raise and nourish the foundation and increase moisture retention. Use organic compost, peat moss, rotted straw and manure mixtures, rotted sawdust, grass clippings or dead leaves, or a combination of these products.

Turn granular 6-24-24 fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil at a rate of 2 lbs. per 100 square feet. The fertilizer encourages quicker root development and plant establishment. Water the site with 3 inches of water to help dissolve the fertilizer, then give the soil two to three weeks to settle before planting.

Plant strawberries in mid-spring when the frost lifts, well ahead of hot summertime temperatures.