How To Prepare to Plant a Vegetable Garden?


Preparing a site for a vegetable garden might seem like a daunting task. It is actually very simple if the proper steps are followed. While preparing a garden is a lot of hard work, the trouble will be replaced by pleasure once those tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables are placed on the dinner table. Once the first year's work is done, the second year will not be as difficult or time consuming.

Step 1

Choose a site to plant your garden. A proper vegetable garden requires about 2,200 square feet per person who will be eating the vegetables. A family of four requires about 8,800 square feet of space. The site needs to be well drained with no standing water after a rain storm, and the site needs to receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.

Step 2

Turn the soil over the garden area. A wide, pointed shovel should be used to dig down as far as possible and pull the soil up and over. A spade is useful in breaking up large balls of soil and a pitch fork will pick up any roots or rocks and will also break up large clods of soil. Once the soil is turned over, use a garden tiller to get down 6 to 8 inches into the earth.

Step 3

Use a home soil test to test the soil in the garden. This test will report the acidity or alkaline content of the soil. It gives a pH percentage and the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil. These are essential nutrients that will be transferred to the vegetables and help them grow. A pH of 6.5 is the best for a vegetable garden.

Step 4

Add fertilizer to replace any of the nutrients lacking in the soil. Fertilizer comes with three numbers on it. The first number is the amount of nitrogen, the second is the amount of phosphorus and the third is the amount of potassium. Check with your local garden center for the right kind of fertilizer and how much to add per square foot to correlate with the soil test.

Step 5

Add compost and use the garden tiller to mix it and the fertilizer into the soil. Peat moss is another additive that will make the soil light and easy for seeds to grow.

Step 6

Smooth out the soil with a garden rake and remove any debris. The garden is now prepared for planting. In the spring take another soil test and add fertilizer and compost. Your plot is now ready for planting.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not start digging in the soil if it is wet; wait until it dries out before using a garden tiller. Use only well-rotted compost on the garden that is one year old or older.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Spade
  • Pitch fork
  • Garden rake
  • Garden tiller
  • Home soil test
  • Fertilizer
  • Compost
  • Peat moss


  • University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Planning, Preparing and Planting
  • Iowa State University Extension: Planting a Home Vegetable Garden
  • D Acres of New Hampshire: Preparing a Vegetable Garden Site
  • University of Illinois Extension: My First Garden -- What Do the Numbers Mean?

Who Can Help

  • AgriLife Extension of Texas A&M System: Texas Home Vegetable Garden Guide
Keywords: preparing a garden, creating a garden, vegetable garden preparation

About this Author

Deborah Harding has been writing for nine years. Beginning with cooking and gardening magazines, Harding then produced a gardening and cooking newsletter and website called Prymethyme Herbs in 1998. Published books include "Kidstuff" and "Green Guide to Herb Gardening." She has a Bachelor of Music from Youngstown State University and sings professionally.