Vegetable gardening—getting started
Whether you are new to gardening or a veteran, our vegetable gardening tip sheet will help you be successful from planting to harvest. Go to our Tip Sheets page for more information on growing specific vegetables and other advice. (Don’t have Adobe Acrobat Reader for pdf files? Download it here.)
Garden planning calendar
- January – February: Order seed catalogs or find seed web sites.
- February – March: Order seeds.
- March - April: Prepare the soil when it is dry enough.
- April: Plant cool season vegetables. (Check local planting dates.)
- May: Plant warm season vegetables after danger of frost (view statewide table for frost free dates)
Where to put your garden
- Convenient to your home and close to a water source.
- Where the soil is good and free from toxins.
- Sunny, level spot (six to eight hours of sunlight).
- Stay away from trees and shrubs.
- Avoid north-facing slopes and low areas.
Build your garden soil
- Add organic matter every year.
- Test your soil for acidity (pH) and nutrients.
- Use appropriate amount and type of fertilizer.
- Prepare your garden soil for planting and avoid compacting it.
Plan your garden on paper
- Start small (20’ x 10’) and expand with more experience.
- Plant tall vegetables on the north side.
- Give each plant the space it needs.
- Draw garden map and include:
- Specific location of each vegetable crop.
- Spacing between plants and rows.
- Vegetables your family likes to eat.
- Planting dates.
Plant your vegetable garden
- Buy and plant seeds and transplants according to your plan.
- Harden off your transplants.
- Plant when the soil is warm enough for your vegetable crops.
- Use mulch, and maybe row covers. View video.
Keep your plants growing
- Thin plants to increase harvest.
- Keep the garden weeded and manage pest problems.
- Add nutrients in summer when needed.
- Water when soil is dry.
- Harvesting vegetables tip sheet
- Check your garden often; you’ll enjoy it more!
- Harvest vegetables at their peak flavor and nutrition level.
- Use as soon as possible.
Videos for vegetable planting
Smart Gardening tip sheets
- New: Drought-tolerant plants save water, money and time
- New: Low maintenance lawns in the Midwest
- New: Shady lawn alternatives
- New: Smart gardens begin with healthy soil
- New: Water-smart landscapes by design
- New: What to do about compacted soil
- Don’t guess - soil test! Get your Home Lawn and Garden Soil Test kit today
- Fertilizer basics for the smart gardener
- Going native can be a smart choice for Michigan landscapes
- Mow high for weed and grub control
- Mulch leaves into turf for a smart lawn
- Smart lakefront plants
- Smart soils: What you can do to reduce phosphorus
- Smart trees and shrubs for Michigan landscapes
- Smart watering for lawns: Don’t let the lawn squeeze you dry
- Impatiens downy mildew: A curse and opportunity for smart gardeners
- Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species
- USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2009 revision
- Sweet corn
- Summer squash
- Winter squash
Also, check out MSU Extension’s publications about growing vegetables.