By Carrie Terry

Strawberries are sweet, juicy gems of the summer garden. These plants are hardy, decorative and can sometimes produced fruit three separate times over the growing period, depending on the type of strawberry plant. Because strawberries require loose, quick-draining soil, it’s a good idea to break up and prepare any thick or rocky soil with a rototiller before planting.

Plant strawberries in spring, after the ground thaws. In most areas, the best time to plant is March and April. Choose a site that gets full sun and good drainage for strawberry plants. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost on top of your site before you start.

Set the depth on your rototiller to 4 inches and till the soil. Wear gloves and goggles for protection from any flying debris, and walk the rototiller up and down the site in straight lines. Walk so that the rows you till overlap by 4 to 6 inches. As you walk, you’ll loosen the soil and mix the compost into the site for planting.

Clean up the area. The rototiller may have turned up weeds and stones. Get rid of these to give your strawberries a clean, open area for growing. Strawberries do not appreciate crowding from weeds and other plants.

Plant the strawberry seedlings at 18- to 24-inch intervals, in rows that are spaced at 3 to 4 feet. Strawberries put out runners and require plenty of space. Plant the strawberry plants deep enough so that the roots are covered with soil, but the junction of roots to stem sit above the soil. Strawberries are shallow plants, and will fail if you plant them too deeply.

Water the strawberries with 1 inch of water immediately, and follow with 1 inch of water per week. Water in the morning to prevent rot on the leaves.

Plant strawberries on cool, moist days to make the transplant from pot to garden site as easy as possible.

Never touch the turning blades of a rototiller. They are sharp and will cut you.

Do not stand in front of a rototiller when it’s on. As a piece of machinery, it can grab the soil and move on its own, and may cut you.