No matter which planting system you use, plant strawberries as soon as possible in the spring (fall planting is not recommended in the Northeast). Prepare soil the season before planting to speed soil warming and minimize the need to work the ground before planting. If the soil is still frozen when your plants arrive, refrigerate them until the ground has thawed.
Avoid exposing the plants to sun and wind. Cool, cloudy weather is ideal for planting. Dig a hole large enough so that the roots can extend vertically, then cover the plants with soil to just below the crown (see Figure 18). Do not bury the crowns. You may need to cut the roots back to 4 inches before planting to avoid J-shaped root systems. During the first few weeks after planting, make sure the plants have adequate water.
Figure 18. When setting out strawberry plants, do not bury the crown (a) or leave roots exposed (c). The correct planting depth is indicated (b). You may need to trim roots back to about 4 inches (d).
Several weeks after planting, the plants will begin to flower from buds formed within the crown the preceding fall. If you are using the matted-row system, remove these flowers to prevent fruiting and encourage runners. Berries on first-year plants rob the plants of energy necessary for growth, runner production, and winter survival. Although some strawberry cultivars produce only one flower cluster per plant, others produce several sets, so you may need to check the planting and remove flowers several times.
About six weeks after planting, apply 2 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 linear feet of row. Apply another 2 pounds in early September before flower buds form. Sprinkle the fertilizer evenly over the row area, and try to avoid contact with the foliage. Don't work the fertilizer into the soil, or you may damage the shallow roots.
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