By Katelyn Lynn

Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) are indigenous plants to the sun-filled meadows, open hillsides and woodland habitats of the United States. It is this strawberry from which 90 percent of hybrid varieties being grown today originated from, according to the National Phenology Network. Wild strawberries, although about 1/4 of the size of hybrid strawberries, are known to produce some of the sweetest and most flavorful of berries. Plant wild strawberries in early spring and provide them with fertile, moist soil.

Choose a growing site for the wild strawberries that is in full or partial sun. If you live in hotter southern climates, choose a location that provides some afternoon protection from direct sun.

Dig up the soil and planting area to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. Use a shovel or a garden fork to do this, although if you’re planting several rows of wild strawberry if you might want to use a rototiller to save time. Remove all sticks, rocks and roots as you work the soil.

Mix a 3- to 4-inch layer of well rotted oak leaves, sphagnum peat moss into the soil in the planting area. Wild strawberries prefer soil that is slightly acidic. Using oak leaves or peat moss improves the acidity of the soil.

Spread over the soil a 2- to 3-inch layer of aged steer manure. The use of a soil amendment improves soil fertility and drainage capabilities. Use a rake to smooth and level the entire growing area.

Create rows in the growing area approximately 12 to 14 inches wide and 18 to 20 inches apart.

Dig planting holes down the center of each row 12 to 14 inches apart. Dig each hole no wider and no deeper than the size of the pot the wild strawberries are currently planted in.

Push up from the bottom of a planting cell with your thumb and index finger if you are planting the wild strawberries from planting packs. If planting from 3- or 4-inch-wide biodegradable pots, soak each pot in water for 30 minutes to soften them. For all other size pots, turn the pot sideways on a bench or a table. Tap along the rim of the pot using a small rubber mallet or stout block of wood to free the plant from the pot.

Plant 1 wild strawberry in a planting hole. To prevent crown rot, plant each so it is sitting approximately 1 inch higher than the level it was previously planted. Push soil around the plant to fill the hole with soil, pressing it down gently as you proceed.

Water each wild strawberry thoroughly. Wild strawberries like plenty of moisture. Provide regular watering throughout the spring and summer.

Mulch the wild strawberry plants either after they become established in the summer, or in the fall. Use approximately 2 to 3 inches of pine needles, oak leaves or straw.

Wild strawberries are ripe and ready to harvest when they turn deep red.