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How to grow and prepare strawberries

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Chef Linda and I (Anne) spoke about strawberries to the Beech Island Garden Club in North Augusta, S.C., a few weeks ago. We had the most marvelous time talking about gardening and cooking.

After our talk, Joy Raintree, a garden club member and manager of Redcliffe Plantation for the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation, & Tourism treated us to a private plantation tour. Master Gardeners have installed a vegetable garden on the plantation grounds. Maybe there's a strawberry patch in their future?

Traditional strawberry patches are not the only way to grow. You can use strawberries as ground cover or in a flower border. Just make sure you can reach those succulent ripe berries. Remember, too, when strawberries mingle with flowers, you can use only pesticides safe for food on the flower border.

Strawberries love sandy soil. If, like me, you have thick clay as your soil base, raise the beds so the strawberry roots will have drainage.

Your strawberry choices depend on your seasonal temperatures and whether you want a large crop all at once (called spring or June-bearing) or smaller pickings throughout the spring, summer, and fall (known as everbearing and day-neutral).

How to plant strawberries

The best time to plant strawberries is in early spring on a cloudy, cool day. Before planting, trim the roots to four or five inches in length. Also, cut off old leaves, runners, and flowers.

Dig the planting holes one foot apart, in rows three feet apart and wide enough so that you can spread out the roots. Day-neutral plants can go in closer since they produce fewer runners. After you fill in the soil, water the plants to get rid of any air pockets.

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