By Eleanor Jewell

Strawberry plants are perennials that require full sun and well-drained soil. Strawberries grow between 6 and 12 inches tall, with an equal spread at maturity. If you live in Georgia, which lay between USDA hardiness zones 6b and 8b, Chandler and Sweet Charlie strawberries will thrive planted anywhere in your state. If you live up in the northern areas or mid-sections of Georgia, planting Earliglow, Delmarva and Camarosa will yield a bountiful harvest in late spring or early summer of their second year.

Test your soil before planting your strawberry plants. Ideal soil pH for strawberries is between 5.8 and 6.5. Georgia soil acidity varies from location to location, so you will need to use a soil testing kit purchased from a garden center to determine your numbers.

Amend the soil with lime if the pH is below 5.8 or amend with peat moss for Georgia soils above 6.5. Break up the soil first with a pitchfork, and mix in the required amendment according to label directions.

Plant your strawberries after the winter thaw. Dig holes for your strawberry plants using a trowel. Space the holes 2 to 3 feet apart, spacing rows at a 1-foot distance.

Remove the strawberry plants from their nursery containers and deposit one plant in each hole. Backfill the holes and pat the soil to remove air pockets.

Water the strawberry patch generously after planting. A soaker hose will provide deep watering. Supply the strawberries with at least 1-inch of water every week. The average yearly rainfall in Georgia is slightly above 50 inches. Supplemental weekly watering in lieu of rain should suffice.

Spread a 3-inch layer of straw or pine mulch around the strawberry plants. Mulching will assist with drainage and reduce weed growth. A thick layer of mulch will also help to protect the strawberry roots from the hot Georgia sun and cold winters.

Pinch off the flowers with your fingertips when your Georgia strawberries bloom for the first time. Removing the flowers will help to prevent fruiting during the first year. The strawberry plants will die off in late fall and regrow the following spring. Allow flowers to bloom the second year to promote a first fruiting. Harvest the strawberries when they ripen.

Fertilize the strawberry plants after the first harvest with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer according to label instructions.

Do not plant your strawberries where you previously planted eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, peppers, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries. A 3 year waiting period is recommended before planting a similar crop in the same area due to disease concerns.

Do not over water strawberries. If the soil feels moist at a 1-inch depth, skip watering and check again in a few days.