Before planting a garden it's necessary to take a few steps to ensure a successful harvest. Here is what I do each year before putting a single seed in the ground.
1) If you are breaking fresh ground opt to pay a professional to till the area. Typically it costs around $50 depending on the size of your garden and your location. We've been lucky over the years to know someone with a tractor and a tiller attachment. If this isn't the case for you...trust me, it's well worth the money. Professional tillers make your ground feel like heaven within a matter of minutes. Check your local newpaper classifieds or contact your local farmer's co-op for a list of providers.
2)If this is not your garden's first season- till the area: It's best to till your garden POST harvest in the Fall. This gives you a great canvas to work with come the following Spring. Till the area again when ready to plant. The more frequent you till the garden the better!
3)Test your soil: This is a very important step. Chemistry was NOT my strong suit in school, but there are super easy soil-test kits available at your local hardware store. These usually run around $5 and come with a set of simple instructions.
4) Amend your soil: Here's a great link for interpreting the results of your soil test: SOIL TEST RESULTS Make adjustments to Ph, N, P or K. The results will determine what if any additions need to be made to your soil. At a minimum I always add organic compost and one dose of fertilizer.
5) Till again: This mixes all of your additions thoroughly. I've got an average size tiller that I use for preparation and weeding throughout the season. It's a back-saver!
Now you're ready to plant!