Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Prep Soil for a Vegetable Garden

By Meg Butler ; Updated September 21, 2017
Healthy soil means healthy vegetables.

Starting a vegetable garden is a fun, fulfilling project that you can eat later. But keep in mind that the success or failure of your garden largely depends on the soil that you start out with. Luckily, prepping virgin soil for a healthy vegetable garden is a fairly straightforward process. And with a little effort and the proper organic ingredients, you can lay the foundation for a healthy crop of veggies that will show your friends and family just how green your thumb is.

Make sure that the soil is ready to be worked. To test this, grab a fistful of soil. Soil that is ready to work crumbles easily in your hand. If the soil is too wet to work, it will form a solid clump (the consistency of modeling clay) and will not crumble under pressure. Wet soil will need time to dry before it can be worked. Soil that is too dry will turn to dust in your hand. Dry soil should be well watered and left to soak for two or three days before it is worked.

Spread an inch of sandy loam soil over the garden area when the soil contains the appropriate amount of moisture. Follow this with 2 inches of evenly spread compost, and finally, add an evenly spread inch of 10-10-10 organic fertilizer. Take care not to overfertilize or else your plants will suffer from fertilizer burn.

Turn the soil. If your garden is large, you will want to use a Rototiller, which can be rented from your local garden supply store. For smaller gardens, a spading fork will do. Use the Rototiller or spading fork to turn 10 inches of soil and your nutrients until they are evenly mixed. Break up any large clumps that you find and remove any rocks or weeds. Take care to remove as much of the weeds' root systems as possible or they may crop back up.

Rake the tilled soil. Then smooth it over with the back of the rake and you are ready to plant your seeds.


Things You Will Need

  • Sandy loam soil
  • 10-10-10 organic fertilizer
  • Organic compost
  • Rototiller or spading fork
  • Rake

About the Author


Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.