A Checklist for Planting

Prep before planting for big, healthy plants.

There are a few basic steps that must be taken prior to planting a garden, whether you plan to fill it with flowers or vegetables. Just sticking plants in the ground isn’t likely to result in robust, beautiful, healthy plants. Preparation is especially important when planting perennials, which are apt to stay in the same place in the garden for years to come.

Test Soil

The first step on the planting checklist is to have the soil tested. Soil tests can be performed by state university laboratories via your local county extension office for a nominal fee. Take multiple samples from the yard to represent the areas in which you’d like to plant to get a more thorough idea of what the soil needs to support your plants.

Prepare Soil

Once you have the results of the soil sample in hand, read through them carefully and take note of which nutrients are lacking. Soil tests generally provide recommendations for soil amendments. Many soils benefit from the incorporation of compost to provide additional nutrients and to loosen the soil and make it drain better. Good drainage is very important for most plants, since water that is allowed to settle around the base of the plant or the roots will lead to root rot and fungal diseases. For problem areas in the garden — those that are very poor or very wet — select plants that are known to perform well under such conditions.

Decide on Plant Placement

Part of plant placement is deciding which plants you want to grow in which areas of the garden. There are several factors that may affect your decisions. Among them are plant height and width, sun requirements, water requirements and protection from the wind. It might help to make a drawing or plan of the garden on graph paper to figure out which plants go where. Generally, it’s a good idea — and less work for you — to group plants according to their water needs.

Plant Seeds or Transplants

Follow the instructions on the planting tag or the seed packet when planting your garden. Some seed depths are very shallow or non-existent because the seed requires sunlight in order to germinate. Transplants are pretty hardy, but take care not to disturb the roots too much, or the young plants may suffer from transplant shock. Plant transplants no deeper than the depth of their root ball, or water will settle around the base of the stem and rot the plant.