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



Plant seeds



View 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

  • New: Choosing a smart site for your vegetable 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 

Plan your garden on paper

  • New: Preparing the smart vegetable garden
  • 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

Read this article from MSU Extension on how to proceed when you have vegetable garden issues.

Harvest vegetablesHarvested vegetables

  • 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

Preserving vegetables

Also, check out MSU Extension’s publications about growing vegetables.