Before you run out and start planting seeds and young transplants, take a few minutes to plan your vegetable garden. The time you spend choosing the site, types and varieties of vegetables you'll grow will pay off in increased yields and better quality produce. The key is to match a few of the myriad of varieties of each type of vegetable to your particular growing conditions. In return you'll grow and harvest a respectable crop of healthy vegetables.
Select a site that receives at least six hours of sun per day--the more the better. Avoid placing your vegetable garden near trees as the vegetables will not favorably compete with the tree's roots for water and nutrients. Do not site your vegetable garden in a spot where water stands or puddles after rainfall; standing water is detrimental to the roots and health of vegetable plants.
Determine Produce Desired
Determine how much you plan to harvest from your vegetable garden before you begin to construct it. If you're planning on providing the bulk of your family's fresh produce during the growing season, you'll need a much larger garden than if you simply plan on harvesting a few fresh tomatoes during the heat of summer. If you plan to preserve vegetables for winter eating, you'll need an even larger vegetable garden plot.
Prepare Garden Bed
Mark the location and size of your proposed vegetable garden bed. Remove any existing vegetation, including any lawn grasses, which should be removed completely, roots and all. Till the plot or hand-dig if it is small enough. This will loosen the soil by turning it over. Have the soil tested by your Agricultural County Extension Agent. They will provide you with a report recommending soil amendments to improve your soil's fertility and correct the pH level, if necessary.
Choose Varieties and Purchase Seeds
Choose the varieties of vegetables you will grow and purchase or order the seeds. Mail-order catalogs from seed companies are full of information regarding care and culture of vegetables, as well as information about expected yields and dates to maturity. For best results, pick varieties of vegetables that have shown to perform well under similar soil and climatic conditions as yours.
Sow seeds following the recommendations on the seed packages for planting times relative to the average date of the last spring frost in your location, according to the National Climatic Data Center's frost/freeze map. Cool-weather vegetables such as lettuce and roots crops can be planted in early spring before the last frost, and warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and peppers should be planted after the last spring frost.