Growing vegetables at home gives you access to healthy, low-cost produce throughout the summer and fall months. While your garden soil can likely support vegetable plants, a few amendments both prior to planting and afterward ensures that the soil maintains its quality and continues to produce healthy plants. Most vegetables have similar growing requirements, but always check the seed packet or plant label to verify that you are providing the necessary care for the plant.
Apply a 4-inch layer of mature compost over the entire vegetable bed. Apply the compost in fall for early spring crops, like lettuce, or in early spring for summer crops, like tomatoes. Work the compost into the top 6 inches of soil with a hoe or power tiller, then rake the soil surface smooth.
Apply a slow-release fertilizer to the bed just prior to planting. Use a general purpose fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 analysis, at the rate recommended on the label.
Transplant seedlings to the bed at the date recommended on the plant label, usually after the last spring frost for most vegetables, though cool-season plants may be transplanted outside two to four weeks before this date. Plant the seedlings at the same depth as they were in their nursery pots, following the spacing requirements recommended for the plant variety.
Sow seeds at the date recommended for the plant. Peas, beans and carrots are usually direct-seeded in the garden as the roots do not tolerate transplanting. Sow seeds to a depth twice their width, spacing them as recommended on the seed packet.
Install any necessary plant supports (such as trellises or cages) immediately after planting the seeds or seedlings. Installing immediately prevents root damage caused by driving in support stakes once the plants are established.
Water vegetables one to two times weekly, moistening the soil to a 6-inch depth at each irrigation. Avoid daily, light watering.
Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the vegetable beds once plants are about 6 inches tall. Mulch preserves soil moisture, keeps the fruits from sitting on the soil and prevents weed growth.
Fertilize most vegetables a second time at midseason or when they begin producing fruits. Apply the recommended amount of fertilizer for the specific plant variety to the soil between the plants. Avoid getting fertilizer directly on plant roots or leaves, as this can burn them.
Harvest vegetables as soon as they ripen. Frequent harvesting encourages most vegetable varieties to continue producing more fruits.