By Shae Hazelton

Strawberries are a popular fruit that you can enjoy plain or include in other simple dishes such as ice cream or strawberry shortcake. Supermarkets often stock strawberries, but often they are expensive or unripe. Planting and caring for your own strawberry patch is easy when you know follow several simple steps.

Crack the tips off the same number of eggs as strawberry seeds you intend to plant. Set the raw eggs and yolks aside for meal use, and thoroughly clean out the eggshells. You want them to be as intact as possible, with only the upper quarter of the shell missing. Poke small holes into the bottom of each eggshell with a pushpin to allow for drainage. Set the eggshells back inside their carton and set the carton aside to dry for a full 24 hours.

Fill the eggshells to the top with starter mix. Starter mix is a soil specially designed to facilitate the growth of seeds.

Dig a small hole into the starter mix using a toothpick. The hole should be about a half an inch deep. Place the strawberry seed into the soil and cover it with starter mix. Place the egg carton next to a window that gets at least eight hours of full sunlight a day.

Water the seeds with a spray bottle for the first few weeks. The spray bottle is gentle enough to avoid washing the soil away from the seeds; use one with a misting setting. Continue watering regularly after the seedlings sprout.

Search for a spot in your garden that gets long hours of direct sunlight every day. Use a rake and a hoe to clear the space of debris and weeds. You may want to prepare the soil with organic compost, which will give your young strawberries plants the extra nutrients they need. Consider adding new soil to the strawberry plot if your soil has a high clay content or does not drain very well.

Dig a small hole to accommodate the roots of your seedling. Crack the eggshells surrounding the tender roots of your strawberry plant soon after the plant is three or four inches tall. The eggshell will turn into nutrients for the strawberry when its roots grow. Replant the strawberry seedling—cracked eggshell and all—right into the soil of the plot you chose. Space your strawberry plants two to three feet apart so that they do not compete with each other for water, light and nutrients.

Water the new strawberries thoroughly after replanting them. You can use a hose, but make sure to use a gentle stream of water to nourish the seedlings. The water will help prevent the strawberry plants from going into shock and will bring the new soil of the strawberry plot closer to the roots of the strawberry plants.

Place your strawberry seed packets in the freezer for two weeks before planting; this increases the seed’s chances of germinating.

The best time to start growing strawberries is in late March or April. Some plants may even have ripe fruit as early as June.