Plants need very little in order to thrive. Give them the appropriate amount of sunshine, water and nutrients, the right kind of soil, and protection of the more tender varieties from the vagaries of winter and you will have a healthy, thriving garden. Everything starts with the soil. Whether you are planting seeds or starter plants, proper preparation of the soil in the garden bed will assure your success in the garden.
Remove all weeds from the area in which you will place the garden bed. Small amounts of weeds can be hand-pulled, while a larger infestation requires herbicide. If you will be planting a food garden, choose a herbicide labeled specifically for use on food crops. Follow the directions and apply it at the rate recommended on the label.
Mail or deliver soil samples to your county cooperative extension office for analysis. Some plants require a specific pH level while others may need specific nutrients. The analysis will offer suggestions on what types of amendments to add to the soil in preparation of planting.
Aerate the soil by digging into it to a depth of 12 inches. Use a shovel or gardening fork to turn the soil and break up any large chunks. Sift through the soil and remove any debris, such as old roots and rocks. The soil should be crumbly, with clods no larger than your fist.
Amend the soil in the garden bed with the amendments suggested by the soil analysis, at the rate suggested, by pouring them on to the soil and using the gardening fork to mix them to a depth of 8 inches. The amendments must be thoroughly mixed into the existing soil.
Level the garden bed with a rake. It is now ready for planting.