By Kelly Shetsky

Strawberries and raspberries are tasty fruits that can be enjoyed fresh or used in dozens of recipes. The strawberry is a herbaceous perennial. It grows new leaves, shoots and runners annually from a crown that usually lives for about five years. Raspberry plants are self-fertile and do not require an additional cultivar for pollination. There are everbearing varieties available, to provide many months of plump berries. Plant raspberries and strawberries as early in the spring as you can, once the danger of frost has passed.

Check the planting site’s drainage and sunlight. Raspberries are demanding and prefer well-drained, sandy loam soil that is 24 inches deep, at least. If the site is slow to drain, plant the raspberries on 1-foot tall mounds of soil. Make sure the site gets full sun all day.

Prepare the soil one year before planting. Kill weeds with a contact, foliar-applied herbicide. Gather a sample of soil and send it to a university cooperative extension lab for testing. Amend the soil with lime if the pH is less than 5.5. Ideally, raspberries want a pH of 6 to 6.5.

Space the plants 30 inches apart, in rows that are spaced 8 to 10 feet apart. Dig holes large enough for the roots. Place the plants in each hole and refill with the removed soil. Water until the soil is moist.

Cut down the canes until they each have three to four buds above ground level. This will promote the development of basal shoots.

Apply fertilizer in the late winter/early spring as growth begins. Fill a broadcast spreader with fertilizer to disperse it over the entire row of raspberries or sprinkle it at the base of each plant.

Water raspberry plants in the critical fruit ripening month of June. Also pay close attention to irrigation in late August to September because this is when the flower buds are forming for next year. Apply an inch of water per week when there is less rain.

Find a suitable planting site. Like raspberries, strawberries prefer well-drained ground that receives full sun all day.

Remove all perennial weeds by pulling them, using hand tools or applying an herbicide. Mix compost or aged manure into the soil the fall before planting to improve it. Strawberries prefer a soil pH of 6 to 6.5.

Apply 2 lb. of a 10-20-20 fertilizer or twice as much 5-10-10 food per 100 square feet before planting strawberries.

Trim strawberry plant roots back to 4 to 5 inches before putting them in the ground. Dig holes that allow the plant crowns, which are the swollen regions from which leaves and roots grow, to sit at ground level. Space the plants 15 to 24 inches apart, in rows that are 36 to 42 inches apart. Prune the first blossoms that appear after planting to promote better development.

Give strawberries extra water during dry summer months. Water until it reaches the roots, which are usually in the top 18 inches of soil. Irrigate the plants during their two most important times — before and during harvest and in late summer when the flower buds form for next year.

Use a granular herbicide to control weeds. Sprinkle it on the soil surface. Avoid using it when new shoots are emerging because you may kill them.

Keep the plant’s roots moist before and during planting.

Mulch berry beds to retain moisture, keep weeds away and prevent disease.