By Diane Dilov-Schultheis
Strawberry (Fragaria X ananassa) is also known as the garden strawberry or cultivated strawberry. This low-growing perennial is a hybrid developed over many years by crossing several wild strawberries species, according to the online resource Floridata. Strawberry plants produce an abundance of tasty fruits, rank high among home gardeners, and will grow well in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 2 through 11. Growing strawberries in your home garden requires careful planning, including site selection, planting bed preparation, and strawberry plant spacing according to variety.
Prepare the planting bed as soon as you can work the soil in the spring, or during the summer or fall of the prior year. Select a location with full sun and a site where no peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants or berries grew for at least three seasons.
Use mechanized tiller or hand gardening tools to work the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Add 2 or more inches of organic matter, like compost, manure, peat and rotted straw into the area. Apply a fertilizer (Purdue University suggests using a 6-24-24 nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium mixture) as directed, and work it into the soil as well.
Plant day-neutral and everbearing strawberry varieties using the hill system. Space each strawberry plant 12 to 15 inches apart in groups of two or three rows. Space each group of rows 18- to 24-inches apart. Remove any runners emerging from the initial plants when new strawberry plant forms.
Plant June-bearing strawberries using the matted-row system. Space each strawberry plant 15 inches apart in rows, and space each row 3- to 4-feet apart. Allow early runners to root within 18 inches of each row, but maintain a space between rows that is 18- to 30-inches wide.
Use a hand trowel to dig holes deep enough to plant the strawberries at a height where the plant’s roots are just below the soil. Place the strawberry plants in the holes without bending the root systems.
Firm the soil around the planted strawberries. Soak the area with water to remove any air pockets and to settle the soil around the strawberry plants root system. Continue to supply at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water weekly to the growing strawberry plants, if rainfall is less.
If you are planting several strawberry plants, you may want to create a long trench for the plants in place of digging separate holes for each one.