Just like all living things, plants need a healthy environment to grow in if you want them to flourish. When vegetable gardening, this environment needs to be prepared long before your first seeds are sown in the ground. The better quality soil you can provide, the better the chance your plants will have to thrive. As the gardening season falls upon you, before you start your first seed or purchase your first seedlings, turn your attention to your soil to create the best environment you can.
Plow your top soil once a year. This can be done in the late Fall, or early Spring. Wait for the soil to be fairly dry to plow it. Place a stake in each corner of your vegetable plot and rope it off with twine to mark your vegetable plot.
Start at one end and with a sturdy garden spade, and dig a trench from one side to the other in the top soil. The trench should be about the width and depth of your spade. Place the soil you remove in a wheelbarrow or container.
Make another trench right along side the first, moving the soil this time to fill the space in the first trench. Continue this down your vegetable plot, moving the soil of each trench to fill the last. When you come to the last trench, fill it with the soil you removed from the first trench.
Work on the tilth of your soil a few weeks before you plant to sow seeds or transplant seedlings. Tilth is a soil condition that makes soil loose, with good aeration and drainage. Use a rake or a garden fork to break up soil clumps. Remove any weeds, roots, rocks, twigs and foreign matter. Spread compost or well rotted manure over the plot and work it into the topsoil.
Purchase a soil testing kit and test the quality of your soil. The best way to know how to fix your soil is to know what you are starting with, and what it will need. A good kit will allow you to send soil samples to a lab, where your soil will be analyzed for things like pH balance and nutrients. The lab will send you a report, with suggestions for amending your soil.
Amend your soil according to your lab report about four weeks before planting. Most vegetables thrive in soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.8. If your soil is too acidic, work lime into it. If it is too alkaline, work in sulfur. Add an all-purpose fertilizer, such as 10-10-10. Vegetable growing in well prepared, well-balanced soil with the right amount of nutrients will increase your odds of a successful season.