You can plant vegetables from seed or from transplants. Either way, it is important to first prepare your soil. This page provides tips on preparing your soil for planting, and on planting seeds and transplants.

Prepare the Soil

When you prepare to the soil in your vegetable garden:

  • Make sure the soil is not too wet. If you can crumble a soil ball with your fingers, it's ready to plant. If it clings together, it's still too wet. Working soil that's too wet will compact the soil and make it hard and lumpy all season.
  • Fertilize just before you plant. Fertilizing information is available from Purdue Extension publication HO-32-W, Home Gardener’s Guide.
  • Level the soil with a rake after working the soil.


When you plant vegetables from seed:

  • Mark your rows by using stakes with string tied between them.
  • Make a furrow in the ground for seeds with your hoe’s handle (for small seeds) or blade (for large seeds).
  • Don't cover the seeds with too much soil. Burying seeds too deep is a common mistake. Barely cover small seeds and cover larger seeds no deeper than 1 inch.
  • Sow seed evenly and a little thicker than what you finally want. Later, you will thin out overcrowded plants to a proper distance listed on the seed packet.
  • If the soil is dry, gently and thoroughly water the seed.
  • You may also apply a thin layer of mulch over the seeds.


When you plant vegetables from transplants:

  • Buy sturdy plants that look healthy and disease free.
  • Select plants in individual small pots or containers.
  • Set plants outside in late afternoon, when there is less sun and wind, for one or two weeks before planting. This helps the plants get used to the outside environment.
  • Mark your rows by using stakes with string tied between them.
  • Dig holes twice as wide and twice as deep as the transplant's soil ball. Be sure to maintain proper distance between plants.
  • Remove plants from pots, or properly prepare peat pots. Transplants in peat pots can remain in the pots, but tear off the lips of these pots so they are not above the soil line. Also poke or tear holes in the bottoms of peat pots to make it easier for roots to grow through.
  • If the plant is root bound (roots circling around the outside of the soil ball), loosen the roots before planting.
  • Plant the transplant at the same level it was inside the pot and place soil around the roots and water well.
  • Shade transplants with newspaper tents if it will be sunny for two or three days after planting. This will help prevent wilting.

Find Out More

Purdue Extension offers several gardening publications that offer planting tips, many free.
Request copies from your Purdue Extension county office or find them at the Education Store (

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Last Modified: March 31, 2010

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