How to Plant Your First Vegetable Garden


Juicy tomatoes, leafy greens and sweet peas have your mouth watering. The allure of quick access to fresh produce, the ability to limit the amount of pesticide in the food your family eats and the relaxation of working with your hands in the soil are all incentives to grow your first vegetable garden. But before you can enjoy the bounties of a garden, you'll have to plan, prepare and propagate.

Step 1

Decide what you want to plant. Start with vegetables that grow well in your area. Ask an expert at a local nursery if you aren't sure. Think about what your family eats, taking into account the ways in which you will want to store or preserve extra produce. For example, some varieties of peas freeze better than others.

Step 2

Find a good location for your garden. Most vegetable plants need a lot of sunlight -- at least six to eight hours a day. Good drainage is important as well, though poorly draining soil can be improved. You will need at least a 12-by-16-foot plot. A larger plot is necessary if you want to plant crops that take up a lot of space, such as corn, squash or melons.

Step 3

Plan the garden design. On a piece of the graph paper, mark out your garden, using one square for each square foot. Plan where each type of vegetable will go and leave room for 18-inch paths.

Step 4

Stake the garden using the 12-inch stakes and the string to separate each bed. For the most effective sun exposure, run the rows from east to west.

Step 5

Use the rototiller to dig up any grass or weeds, then add soil to each bed to raise it about eight inches above the paths.

Step 6

Check soil drainage. Use the shovel to dig a hole that is 10 inches deep and fill it with water. Let the water drain, then fill it again the next day. See how long it takes for the water to drain completely. If the water hasn't completely drained after three hours, then the soil drainage needs to be improved by adding the loam or peat moss to the soil.

Step 7

Apply the fertilizer to your garden beds. You will need five pounds for every 200 square feet. Use the rake to work it into the top few inches of soil. You should also use the organic compost material. Use 75 pounds of horse manure or commercial compost for every 200 square feet.

Step 8

Plant the seeds or seedlings. Follow the directions on the seed packets for planting depth and distance; these specifics will vary depending on the type of vegetable. If seedling plants do not come with directions, the nursery where you got them should have planting information.

Step 9

Water your garden regularly and keep weeds cleared.

Things You'll Need

  • Graph paper
  • 12-inch stakes
  • String
  • Rototiller
  • Shovel
  • Loam or peat moss
  • Rake
  • Fertilizer
  • Compost
  • Seeds or seedling plants


  • Vegetable Gardening 101
  • Planning a Vegetable Garden
Keywords: vegetable garden, rototiller, compost, seeds, seedlings

About this Author

Catherine Rees lives in a log cabin near Salt Lake City, Utah. She has six years of experience as a freelance writer. Though she specializes in wildlife and outdoor activities, her work also includes topics in relationships, gardening and travel. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah and writes for,, and