By Carrie Terry

Strawberries are a summer fruit that’s endlessly popular with home growers. These sweet berries flower and grow over the summer, for raw snacks and baking treats. Many homeowners grow the crop to use the berries in their kitchen, or to present to their friends and guests. Other homeowners prefer to use the plant’s dark green climbing foliage as a border in their landscaping. Regardless of its uses, the plant is a valuable addition to any yard. Birds and wildlife are drawn to the berries in summer, so it’s important to use a net to protect them while they grow.

Choose your planting location. Strawberry plants need sunshine, but can stand partial shade. They need good drainage, so choose or build an elevated position for the new strawberry plants. Strawberries are best planted in zone 4, and require temperate conditions.

Dig several holes wide and deep enough to accommodate the roots of your strawberry plants. Dig the holes 8 to 12 inches away from one another, putting the dirt you’ve removed in a wheelbarrow or on a plastic sheet.

Mix the removed dirt with all-purpose fertilizer or compost for the planting so that you have a 50-50 mixture of dirt and compost or fertilizer.

Place the strawberry plants in their holes and spread the roots evenly. If the roots cannot be fanned out, enlarge the hole.

Sprinkle dirt over the strawberry roots until they’re completely covered up to where the stem starts, but no higher. Pat the soil down firmly over the roots to settle them.

Protect strawberries while they’re growing and when fruit develops by spreading a net over the entire strawberry plot. Choose a mesh net that is fine enough to keep birds from digging through to the fruit. Another option is to use a wire net, which can be propped up away from the plants to keep birds from getting anywhere near them.

Place stakes or stones on the corners of the net to hold it down.

Water the new plants 1 to 2 inches a week. Fertilize them again only when strawberries begin to develop.

Plant strawberries in the spring for a summer crop.

Some strawberry plants don’t produce runners like other varieties of strawberries, and will only last a couple years. After that, they’ll need to be replaced.

Plant your strawberries in a place that is protected from deer and rabbits.

Don’t plant strawberries where you’ve had potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes or peppers, as those plants may have left bacteria that will cause blight.