How to Prepare Soil for Planting Vegetables


Whether large or small, a vegetable garden gives you access to inexpensive yet superior fresh produce. Growing a successful garden doesn't require a lot of room, but it does require good soil for your plants to thrive in. Healthy plants produce larger and better-tasting crops than those planted in inferior soils. Amending the soil you already have in your beds takes a little work and time, but the benefits make it well worth it as you watch your vegetable plants flourish.

Step 1

Remove old plant matter, rocks that have surfaced and other garden debris from the planting bed. Pull any weeds that are growing, and dispose of them.

Step 2

Check the soil moisture before preparing the soil. Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze into a ball. If it holds its shape, it is too moist and needs to dry further before working.

Step 3

Break up the soil to a 6- to 10-inch depth. Use a hoe or shovel in small beds and a power tiller in large beds. Rent a tiller from a home improvement store if you don't already own one.

Step 4

Apply a 3-inch layer of compost over the bed. Use an extra inch or two if you have clay soil. Till the compost into the loosened bed. Vegetables require high nutrient content and good draining soil--compost provides these requirements.

Step 5

Perform a soil test in the autumn to predict your fertilizer needs in spring. Purchase a test from a garden center, or call your local extension office and inquire about testing services. If no test is performed, apply a general-purpose fertilizer to the bed two weeks before planting and again when the vegetable plants begin setting fruit.

Tips and Warnings

  • After weeding the bed, dispose of any weed plants that have seeds--do not compost them. The seeds may survive composting and cause weed problems in your garden later.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe
  • Shovel
  • Power tiller
  • Compost
  • Soil test kit
  • Fertilizer


  • Iowa State University Extension
Keywords: preparing garden soil, vegetable soil requirements, soil amendments

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.