Getting your garden off to a good start requires planning and preparation. Choose the correct location for the plants. Shady plants like tuberous begonias, ferns and azaleas require an area that doesn't receive much direct sunlight. Another factor in plant selection is your hardiness zone. Once you've selected your plants it's time to get to work planting.
Dig the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches, but 24 inches is ideal. Mix in compost or organic material. Spread a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost over the area you're going to plant. Add in fertilizer as the label directs. Dig the soil again mixing in the fertilizer and compost and breaking any lumps or clods of dirt.
Add sand and gypsum to clay soils. Exactly how much to add depends on your specific soil. Add enough so the clay soil no longer holds together when it's wet and you squeeze it in your hand. Experiment with a small amount of your clay soil by adding more and more sand, gypsum and organic matter until the clay is crumbly.
Add more organic material to sandy soil. Sandy soil drains quickly and takes the nutrients away from the plants before they've had a chance to absorb them. The organic material slows the drainage and adds the nutrients back. Add purchased top soil as well as organic matter until the sandy soil is fluffy and holds together slightly. Exactly how much depends on your soil.
Rake the area level.
Dig a hole that is 2 inches deeper than the plant's nursery container. Fill those 2 inches with compost. Remove the plant from the container. If it won't come out easily, don't tug on it. Lay the container on its side and gently press on it. Rotate to each side and press. If it still won't come up, cut the sides of the container away from the plant.
Place the plant in the hole. Cover the root ball with about 1/2 inch of garden soil. The soil in the container was most likely more porous than your garden soil, which means it will dry out faster if exposed.
Water until the soil is wet to a depth of 6 inches. Supplement rainfall with additional water, if necessary. Most plants need at least 1 inch of water per week, more if the weather is hot and dry.
Fertilize once a month following the label directions.