By Eleanor Jewell

Strawberries are shallow rooted members of the Rosaceae family of plants. These herbaceous perennials come in three varieties: June bearers, Everbearers and Day-Neutrals. June Bearers are the most commonly grown strawberries in the state of Wisconsin. June bearers have a life cycle between three and six years, bearing fruit in mid-June and July. Beach and Eastern Meadow cultivars and hybrids are popular among Wisconsin strawberry growers, who usually plant their strawberry crops during the fall.

Scout out an area that contains sunny well-drained soil to plant your Wisconsin strawberries. Purchase a soil testing kit from a garden center and test the pH of your soil prior to planting. Strawberries prefer soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Soil acidity varies throughout the state of Wisconsin; if your soil does not meet the requirements you will need to amend it.

Loosen up the soil to a depth of six to eight inches using a garden fork. Mix in lime if the soil test reveals a pH below 5.5. Add peat moss to the soil if the pH is above 6.5. Check the instructions on the packaging label for allocation amounts and application recommendations.

Dig a trench for the strawberry plants that measures six to eight inches in depth, using a garden spade. Space each trench or row approximately 36 inches from the next. Remove the strawberry plants from their nursery containers and deposit them one by one into the trench, roots spread apart. Space each strawberry plant two inches apart. Backfill, with the foliage of the strawberry plants above the soil line.

Water the strawberry plants immediately after planting, using a soaker hose. Provide the strawberry plants one inch of water per week throughout the growing season. The average yearly rainfall for the state of Wisconsin is approximately 31 inches, which is not quite enough to support strawberry growth. Therefore, supplemental waterings with the soaker hose are necessary.

Pull weeds by hand as they grow, or spread a three-inch layer of mulch around the strawberry plants. Pine bark or straw works well as mulch and will help to reduce weed growth. Mulching will also help improve water retention and protect the roots of the strawberry plants over the cold Wisconsin winters.

Pinch off first year blooms as they develop. Removing the flowers with your fingertips will yield a larger strawberry harvest during the second year of growth. Fertilize the Wisconsin strawberry plants during the second year, after harvest. Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer according to label instructions.

Harvest the strawberries in their second year, pinching off the berries as they ripen. Removing the strawberries in a timely manner will prevent insect infestations.

Apply an insecticidal soap per label instructions to kill insects if they infest your strawberry plants.

Apply a fungicide according to manufacturer’s instructions if disease develops on the leaves or fruit of the strawberry plants.

Do not overwater your strawberry patch. Pools of water can cause the roots of the strawberry plants to rot. If the soil feels moist at a one-inch depth, do not add more water to the soil.