Before actually starting a vegetable garden you need to choose
the type of garden you want to have. Whether you've chosen a
traditional in-ground garden, a raised bed, or container
gardening, the soil preparation is the first step.
If you are doing anything besides the in-ground type you will
need to obtain your materials and get set up first. For an
in-ground garden you will need to finish any soil amendments
Be sure to rake your garden smooth and level before starting
your vegetable garden. This is important to avoid problems
when watering. If the soil bed slants downhill on one side,
then all the water will run off the high side and pool up at
the low side.
Dips will make puddles that keep the water from
moving evenly over the rest of the soil. This is also
important to do before setting up a raised bed, for prevention
of those same problems.
Before You Plant Anything
The other important thing you must do before starting seeds is
to find out what the last frost date is in your region. This
and your climate zone will be vital information for your
With this knowledge you can avoid a disastrous
killing frost that demolishes your seedlings if they come up
too early for your area.
For each vegetable, you will need to read the seed packet to
find out the days to germination. Take that number of days,
subtract 7-14 days to give you a margin for error, and then
plant your seeds the resulting number of days before the last
frost date, or later.
For example, if you plant green bean seeds, and the packet
says that the days to germination are 7-10 days, you would
subtract 7 days just in case.
So you could plant the seeds 3
days before the last frost date in your area, and should be safe
from any danger of frost when they come up. If you want to be
really conservative you can use 14 days.
Climate Zone Map, USDA, North America
Above is the U.S.D.A. Map of the climate zones in the
U.S. If you click on the link below the map, it will take
you to the U.S.D.A. site with their interactive map.
You can click on your own state and get a better view of the
zones that apply in your area. It includes the climate zones
for Canada and Mexico as well.
This way you can be more accurate since the topography can make
a big difference.
For example, here in Arizona, the climate zones range from Zone
2-Zone 10. The colder areas are at the highest elevations in
the mountains. The low desert area is the hot zone 9 and 10
Another thing to consider is that if you are in the floor
of a valley, the cold air sinks and will flow toward the
valley. That's why there can be large variations in climate
zone within any state.
To learn more about growing vegetables, here is a great site for you to visit to learn more on how to grow a
You will find a lot of information at Garden- Planting-Tips.com
There is a great section on companion planting too.
Last Frost Dates
For the last frost date in your area, you can use this link
from the National Climatic Data Center to find your state.
Then find the city closest to you to get as accurate a date as
possible. If the closest city is a very different elevation,
then choose one that is closer to your elevation but still near