By Marie Louise
Planting strawberries using the hill system, also called the annual hill system, works for day-neutral and everbearing varieties. A few cultivars of June bearers will also grow on hills. The one thing these varieties have in common is that they produce few runners, also known as daughter plants. Growing strawberries on hills means removing the runners before they root, but after they have formed. Using the hill system means producing higher-quality and bigger strawberries while having to work less to control weeds and diseases, according to Utah State University Cooperative Extension.
Select a site that receives at least eight hours of sun each day and is slightly elevated, a nonlow-lying site. Strawberries need loamy, well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7. The temperature should consistently be 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Test the soil six months to one year before you plant strawberries. Pick up do-it-yourself kits at nurseries and garden stores, or contact the local county extension office to receive instructions and a kit for soil testing performed by the office.
Spray a nonselective herbicide to kill all perennial weeds in the year before planting.
Loosen and break up the soil in the summer or fall before you plant strawberries. Spread 2 to 3 inches of compost, rotted manure or peat moss, and work it into the soil to a depth of 1 foot. Add 1/2 to 3 lbs. of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet if there has been no soil test done. Add lime if the pH is less than 6, as recommended by the results of the soil test. Work the lime thoroughly into the soil.
Form long hills running the length of the bed in the spring. The hills should measure 26 inches wide, 8 inches high in the middle and 6 inches high at the outer edges when the soil is workable. Leave 1-1/2 to 2 feet feet between each hill.
Dig a hole large enough to spread out the roots of the strawberry plant without bending them and deep enough so the midpoint of the crowns of bare root plants sit level with the surrounding soil. Plants in containers should sit as deep in the ground as they did in the container.
Remove any dead leaves from the plant and set it in the hole. Space plants 12 to 15 inches apart in each row for a single row of plants. If the hill contains two rows of strawberry plants side by side, space them 12 inches apart.
Backfill the hole with soil around the roots, and lightly tamp the soil as you go to prevent air pockets.
Water the strawberry plants until the soil is evenly moist and to settle the soil around the plants.
If the tops of the roots are exposed after watering, cover them with more soil.
Do not plant strawberries where eggplant, potatoes, other strawberries, tomatoes, blackberries or peppers have grown in the past three years.