Cucumber on the vine.
image by Rollingroscoe, Morguefile
Vegetable gardens require special soil and care for edible plants to grow and thrive. This type of garden differs from a standard garden in that vegetable plants thrive in high-quality topsoil. Areas near home sites often have very little topsoil to provide nutrients for a garden. You'll need to create the perfect environment for your vegetable garden by adding components to the soil. Preparing soil for your vegetable garden will improve your crop yield.
Prepare your vegetable garden soil the year before you plant your garden. Preparing soil early allows for nutrients and additives to breakdown by decomposition to blend with existing soil. This early soil preparation will increase your chances of having a high-yield crop of vegetables.
Remove all weeds, dead plants and any remaining vegetable plants from the previous growing season. Dispose of these plants completely. Leaving old plants to die over the winter encourages bugs and diseases that can affect soil quality and quickly negate your efforts to improve the topsoil.
Evaluate the condition of your soil by taking a sample to the garden center for analysis. This simple test will tell you whether you have porous soil that drains well or clay-filled soil that doesn't encourage water flow.
Turn over the top 12 inches of garden soil. This job becomes measurably easier with a rototiller. These stiff-bladed gas tillers make quick work of any garden plot. Tillers can be bought at home improvement stores or borrowed from rental companies. You'll save considerable time and backache.
Add some type of organic matter to the turned-over soil. Manure, compost or humus should be worked into the top 6 inches of soil. Remember that organic matter requires time to break down. It may take a year or two before you see the optimum soil for growing your garden. However, you'll get a nice head start by preparing the soil at least 2 seasons before actual planting.
Add bags of topsoil to your garden. The additions of organic material will create good topsoil eventually, but it requires time for additives to break down. Purchase topsoil specifically for vegetable gardens since this soil has a very low weed content.