By Bridget Moynihan

Strawberries are shallow-rooted perennial plants. June-bearing strawberries bear one large crop a year, ever-bearing plants bear a small crop in the summer and then again before frost, and day-neutral varieties produce continuously throughout the season. One aspect that they all have in common is their inability to compete with weeds. Since herbicides aren’t recommended for use on strawberries, many gardeners choose synthetic mulch to discourage the growth of weeds and black plastic sheeting is ideal.

Amend the soil in the strawberry garden with 3 inches of compost. Mix it into the top 6 inches of soil and rake the bed smooth.

Cut cross-shaped slits, every 2 feet, in the black plastic.

Dig corresponding planting holes in the planting area.

Lay the black plastic sheeting over the planting area, adjusting it so that the slits lie over the planting holes.

Plant the strawberry crowns through the slits, into the holes.

Use a pitchfork to randomly poke holes in the plastic to allow water to penetrate.

Place rocks or bricks around the perimeter of the plastic to keep it from flying away in high winds.

If the weather is hot, place a layer of straw over the black plastic to keep it from overheating the soil. When the plants become large enough to cover the plastic, you can discontinue the use of straw.