Planting a garden can save you hundreds of dollars in grocery bills over the course of the year. In fact, according to an April 2010 article by Beth D'Addono of the Philadelphia Daily News, an investment of $100 dollars into the garden produces at least $1,000 worth of fresh vegetables. But, saving money isn't the only reason to garden. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide nutritious and delicious food right at your fingertips. Planting the garden does require some planning and preparation.
Select a location that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Although some vegetables, such as leafy greens, can survive in less sun, most garden vegetables prefer full sun.
Till the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches with a garden tiller. Vegetables require loose soil for roots to form.
Test the soil to determine the condition of the soil and the pH level. You can use an inexpensive soil test kit from the hardware store, but contacting your local cooperative extension to have your soil tested provides more accurate results. Follow the instructions in the kit or from the extension office to gather the soil sample.
Amend your soil by following the recommendations in the soil summary provided by your extension office. Soil test kits also contain basic instructions for amending soil, but may require you to manually calculate amounts from a chart.
Follow the application rate for soil amendments, such as organic matter, fertilizer and lime. The application rate depends on the condition of your specific soil.
Work the soil amendments into the soil with a garden tiller or hand tools such as a rake or hoe.
Choose plants whose number of days to maturity are less than the number of frost-free days in your area. Check the days to maturity on the seed packet or plant identification tag.
Follow the planting depth and row spacing for vegetables. Some vegetables, such as squash or pumpkin, may require 5 feet or more between rows. Small vegetables such as radish or lettuce can be planted safely in small areas. Read the planting instructions carefully to determine the amount of space your plants require.
Cover the seeds and firm down with your hands or the back of the hoe to remove air pockets and secure the seeds.
Water to moisten the soil. Keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge. Germination time depends on the specific plant, temperature of the soil and weather conditions. Check the back of the seed packet for expected germination time.
Follow the recommended plant care on the back of the seed packet or the plant identification tag. Most plants require deep watering to saturate the soil to the root level once a week. During hot dry weather, your garden may require daily watering.