Prepare the garden area by removing any plants, roots, rocks and sticks and turning the soil, either by hand or with a rototiller, to a depth of about 1 foot. Use the garden rake to help sift the soil and smooth it out.
Add composted materials to the soil by putting a layer of 2 to 3 inches or more on the top of the soil and mixing it deep thoroughly into the soil to spread the rich organic matter into the garden. The garden preparation can be started the previous season with dried leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, manure, vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps and other organic materials applied to the top of the soil at that time, then allowing those materials to break down over time to enrich the soil. Either way, organic matter should always be mixed into the soil before planting.
Plant corn, peas, greens and beans of any kind by seeding the area. These should be sown directly into the ground since they tend to not like to be transplanted. Be sure to check the recommended timetable for your area to be sure you are planting at the right time. Each seed packet should be labeled with the time to plant according to the USDA Hardiness Zones. It is essential that seeds be planted at the right time to avoid frost, disease, pests and other hazards as much as possible. Referencing the Old Farmer's Almanac is always a recommended practice.
Plant other vegetable seeds into peat pots or seed starter kits, leftover plastic containers, paper cups or other small containers to give them a strong head start before setting them out into the garden. Remember to harden them off by exposing them to outside conditions a little bit each day after they have reached a couple of inches tall. Increase the time of exposure over the next week until the seedlings are ready to endure conditions outside.
Plant ready plants into the garden keeping in mind how large the different plants will grow and how much room they will need. Plant squash, pumpkins, melons and cucumbers on dirt mounds. This allows water to drain away from the base of the plant, but the areas around the mound can help to hold water for irrigating the long root system. Be sure that there is plenty of room between these types of plants for air flow because they tend to be susceptible to mold and downy mildew.
Water your garden frequently according to what kind of plants you have chosen to plant, soil drain-off and weather conditions. Watering can be done with a watering can, garden hose set to a gentle spray, through a drip irrigation system or with a sprinkler. It is recommended--in the spirit of country living and getting the most you can get from everything you own--that each homeowner set up a rain barrel system. These rain barrels collect rain water from the house gutter downspout and save it for irrigation. This will keep the well water or municipal water from needing to be used for watering a garden, which is better for the garden and easier on the water bill.
Fertilizer should be considered if there are not enough organic composted materials available for continued use throughout the growing season. Composted materials can be spread around each plant every couple of weeks to provide needed nutrients to the plants, or fertilizer can be applied to help these plants along. Vegetables need the nourishment that fertilizer and compost provides to stay healthy.
Mulch around your plants as they start to grow tall enough to be mulched. Using grass clippings works well as they break down easily over time and provide nutrients to the soil that the plants need. If using clippings, layer them around the plants about 6 inches thick. Avoid placing mulch directly against the stem of plants as this can encourage root rot.