By Carrie Terry
Strawberries thrive throughout the continental U.S. and grow especially well in areas like Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana and Maine, where they receive hot summer sun and cold winter chills. These low-growing plants require the right level of sun and drainage in their site but expand quickly with runners called daughter plants. That quick, aggressive expansion calls for well-spaced planting in low rows, with trenches for irrigation and drainage.
Plant strawberries in early spring, when the frost is off the ground. Wait for the last frost in your area, then wait an additional week to allow the ground to warm to around 60 degrees F. Work the ground the day before your planting.
Find a spot that gets full sun for eight hours a day, with complete drainage. This spot must satisfy these conditions year round, as strawberries need to live through the winter to bear their fruit.
Rake or hoe the top 6 inches of soil in your spot, and pull out weeds, grass or rocks. Strawberries do not grow well with competition from other plants, which drain the soil of nutrition and water.
Amend the soil the day before planting your strawberries. Mix quick-draining soil and organic compost together in equal parts and add a dose of 10-10-10 fertilizer. Pile 3 inches of this mixture on top of your planting site and turn it into the top 6 inches of soil to prepare it for strawberries. If your site doesn’t offer good drainage, pile 6 inches of compost on top of the site for your rows.
Plant strawberries only deeply enough to cover their root balls; these plants require shallow plantings to have access to air and water. Build your double rows with 3 to 4 feet between them, and plant the strawberries at 18 to 30 inches on the row.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch around the base of the strawberry plants to maintain soil moisture and warmth, and discourage weeds. Water the strawberries with 2 inches of water.
Don’t plant strawberries where you’ve had tomatoes, peppers, eggplants or potatoes, as those vegetables sometimes leave diseases in the ground.
Strawberries take about a year to grow to maturity and live for around three years.