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University of Minnesota Extension

Planting the vegetable garden

Planting a vegetable garden is an enjoyable experience. With careful planning and preparation, you can have a good harvest.

See individual vegetable pages for more information on growing specific crops in your home garden.

Soil preparation

Do not prepare your soil for planting when it is too wet or too dry. If soil sticks to your shoes or shovel, it is too wet. Press a small amount of soil in your hand. When the moisture is right, the soil crumbles and breaks into small clumps. If it is too wet, it stays molded in a ball. 

Rake the planting area after tilling or spading. A firm, fine seedbed is best, especially for small-seeded crops.

Packing the soil too much could promote crusting of the soil surface and damage emerging seedlings.

Tilling the soil in late fall allows for earlier spring planting.

Soil testing and fertility

Have your soil tested to find out the right amount of fertilizer or manure to apply before planting.

A soil test will tell you if you need to add any lime, nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium to your soil.

Planning your vegetable garden

Timing is everything in the vegetable garden. Planting seeds at the right time ensures a bountiful harvest. Each crop has its own needs, including tolerance of cold temperatures.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see which zone you live in. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center has an up-to-date interactive map of the first fall and last spring freeze dates.


Starting plants indoors


Hardening and transplanting seedlings

Transplanting always gives a head start on the season, which is a key benefit when considering Minnesota's short growing season.

Some plants, such as radishes, carrots and beets, do not tolerate transplanting and will need to be direct seeded.


Authors: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension horticulturist, and Vincent A. Fritz

Reviewed in 2024

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