By Glenda Taylor
The common garden strawberry, a member of the Fragaria family, is an accessory fruit, and commercial growers offer a variety of strains suited to different growing conditions. Whether you have new transplants or you want to move an existing strawberry bed, here are some general guidelines to increase your strawberry productivity and the plants’ resistance to disease.
Prepare your strawberry patch for planting. While transplanting directly into well-drained soil that is enriched with organic matter is acceptable, using a raised bed is the recommended method to reduce pest infestation and increase drainage.
Cut enough landscape fabric to cover your entire strawberry patch. Depending upon the size, you may have to cut and fit some pieces together. This is an optional but highly recommended step, since the fabric helps the soil retain moisture, providing a constant supply for developing plants and fruit.
Cut a small “X” in the landscape fabric, just big enough to accommodate the root ball on your transplants.
Use your hand spade to dig out the soil beneath the “X.” Tuck the corners of the fabric underneath and out of the way while you are digging.
Mix a good all-purpose fruit and vegetable fertilizer with water according to the directions on the container, and pour ½ cup in the bottom of the hole.
Position the root ball of the new strawberry plant in the hole and place extra soil around it, firming the soil in gently with your fingers.
Reposition the corners of the fabric and water well. Repeat this process for each transplant. Strawberry plants need at least 8 inches between plants that are June-bearing and at least 1 foot between ever-bearing varieties.
Cover the landscape fabric with clean new straw, dried leaves or peat moss but don’t use green grass clippings as they have a tendency to mold and compress, reducing air circulation around the plants and encouraging fungus growth.
Transplant an existing strawberry patch in early fall, allowing it time to establish roots before going dormant over the winter. Dig up as much of the roots of the plant as possible. Since the roots may be quite large, allow them to soak in a shallow bucket until most of the soil releases before gently folding the roots and planting in the same manner described above.
Strawberry production slows after 3 or 4 years, so consider new transplants if production is decreasing.