By Karen Carter

Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are also known as fraises des bois and woods strawberries. This variety of strawberry grows wild in the northern hemisphere throughout the world. Alpine strawberry plants are vigorous growers, but they are very susceptible to plant diseases. Alpine strawberries bear small, bright red fruit that are soft, mild-tasting and very aromatic. It is best to use alpine strawberry fruit while it is still fresh.

Remove the weeds and grass from a site with full sunlight and good-draining soil. Planting alpine strawberries occurs in March or April as soon as the ground is workable. Do not work with the soil if it is still wet. The soil that is dry enough to plant in does not stick to the garden tools.

Loosen the soil to the depth of 8 inches with a shovel. Turn the soil over and remove any large objects. Break soil clumps up with the edge of a garden hoe. Rake the soil smooth and level.

Remove the alpine strawberries from storage and carefully separate the roots. Trim away any old leaves with a pair of sharp scissors. Place the strawberry roots in lukewarm water for 60 minutes.

Create rows in your planting area with the side of a garden hoe. Space the rows 4 feet apart and deep enough to hold the roots of the alpine strawberry plants. Place the plants in the row and bury the roots just deep enough to cover the top of the roots. Do not cover the crown of the strawberry plant. Space the plants 18 to 24 inches apart.

Mix 2 to 3 tbsp. of 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilize in 1 gallon of water. Water the newly planted alpine strawberry plants with 1 to 2 cups for each plant. By the end of summer, each row will have filled in to form a 2-foot wide matted row.

Alpine strawberry plants suffer damage from spring frosts if exposed to freezing temperatures. Place mulch like straw or clean hay in the aisle between the rows. Cover the strawberry plants on nights when frosts are predicted. Remove the mulch during the day.

Do not plant Alpine strawberries in soil that stays wet for extended periods of time. Wet soil causes leaf, root and fruit diseases. Do not plant strawberries in areas where tomatoes, potatoes and peppers have grown in the last 3 years. Planting in these areas increases the risk of root disease problems.