How to Build a Vegetable Garden From Scratch


Starting a vegetable garden where there wasn't a garden before can seem like a daunting task, especially if the quality of the soil is unknown. It is extremely important to be sure that the soil is prepared and ready when starting a vegetable garden because soil is the basis for all of the plants' nutrients and water needs. Without proper nutrition the garden will fail, but provide it with what it needs and the vegetable garden will thrive and produce months of fresh produce ready for your family to enjoy.

Step 1

Observe your yard for several days, logging the movement of the sun to determine which parts of the yard receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight per day, and choose a few places where the garden could be positioned.

Step 2

Assess the possible garden areas during a heavy rainstorm to observe how the water drains from the area. The object is to find an area where the rain doesn't collect during and after the storm and to be sure that the area is away from fast-flowing water during runoff from the rain.

Step 3

Stake the corners of the garden area with tent stakes, fence posts or sticks buried in the ground to mark the area to be cleared.

Step 4

Clear the land, either by digging up the dirt with a shovel or with a roto-tiller. Remove any grass, weeds, sticks, roots, rocks and other debris from the dirt to a depth of at least eight inches, then smooth out the dirt with a rake to level the surface of the soil.

Step 5

Shovel on a 3 to 4 inch layer of composted materials over the entire garden and turn it in using a shovel to mix the compost into the prepared soil.

Step 6

Spray water onto the entire garden with a garden hose and sprayer. Continue watering until puddles of water form on the surface of the soil. Allow the puddles to drain. If a puddle that is approximately 12 inches wide does not drain off within 30 seconds, add another two inches of compost to the soil and remix. Test the drainage again and adjust until the water drains off correctly. If the soil was previously full of clay and very compact it may be necessary to sprinkle an inch of sand onto the garden and mix in as well to help with drainage before the vegetables are planted.

Step 7

Plant the desired plants or seeds according to the package directions and provide them with a consistent amount of water throughout their growing season.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh topsoil (optional)
  • Composted materials and/or manure
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Tiller (optional)
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Fencing and posts
  • String
  • Tent stakes or sticks


  • University of Minnesota: Planting the Vegetable Garden
  • Iowa State University: Planting a home vegetable garden
  • University of Maryland: Starting a Garden
Keywords: start vegetable gardens, vegetable garden preparation, beginning a garden

About this Author

Robin Lewis Montanye is a freelance artist, designer and writer. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, national magazines and on several self-help areas of the web. Montanye specializes in gardening articles with information from several universities. She has Internet articles published on, and