wikiHow to Prepare a Garden Plot

Preparing a garden plot for planting is an important step in gardening. Different types of gardens require different preparations, so planning ahead is necessary. Begin preparing your plot before the gardening season to give the soil time to become healthy and balanced. Whether you are creating a new garden plot or repairing an existing one, the following steps will help give your garden a chance for success.


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    Decide what type of garden you are planning.
    • The type of garden will determine the size, location and soil preparation needs for your garden bed. Types of gardens can include landscape beds with bushes and trees, perennial beds (plants that return for multiple seasons), annual beds (plants that die after one season), vegetable gardens and mixed beds.
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    Choose an appropriate location for your plot.
    • Make sure the spot is level and well drained to prevent plants and roots from becoming too wet. The area should be exposed to sunlight for at least 6 hours per day. Choose a location near a water source for easy watering access.
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    Decide on the plants and the layout and mark the boundaries.
    • The types of plants you use will determine the size of your garden. For example, plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers will need plenty of room, while certain types of flowers, such as begonias, grow more compactly. Plan your layout by considering the spacing requirements for the different plants you will be using.
    • Mark your boundaries by using cans of spray paint or spray chalk to outline your garden plot. Stakes and string are another option, or you can temporarily outline the plot with a garden hose.
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    Dig up the area and remove grass and weeds.
    • Use a spade to cut turf for a new plot and to dig up the ground. Remove the grass and weeds and add them to a compost pile or discard them. You can also use a weed killer spray or smother the grass and weeds by layering cardboard or newspaper over them for several weeks.
    • Once the turf is removed, you can use a rototiller for large plots or a spade for smaller areas to turn the soil to a depth of 8-to-10 inches (20-to-25 centimeters). Remove rocks, weeds and other debris as necessary.
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    Test the soil.
    • Having the soil tested will help determine what it needs for healthy plant growth. You can send a sample of your soil to your local cooperative extension service or bring it to a garden center for testing and recommendations. Home testing kits, found at hardware stores and gardening centers, are another way to test the soil. The kits usually provide recommendations based on the results.
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    Amend the soil as necessary.
    • You can add materials to the soil to make a more balanced and fertile growing area for your plants. Fertilizer and compost are common ways to amend the soil so that it supports plant growth. In addition, you may want to add nutrients recommended from the soil testing. These can include phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, depending on the condition of your soil.
    • Once the fertilizer, compost and nutrients are added, turn the soil again, keeping it loose to a depth of approximately 12 inches (30 cm). If possible, allow the plot to sit for 2 weeks. Rake the surface smooth before planting.


  • Grass and other organic material, such as weeds, are good for the soil only if allowed to compost first. Not composting them first can result in the quick regrowth of grass and weeds.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Rototiller
  • Soil Testing Kit (optional)
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer

Article Info

Categories: Compost Mulch and Soil Preparation