Join the RHS today and support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Help us achieve our goals
Make a donation
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
See what events are on near you and browse your bookmarked pages.
Soil preparation is vital when growing vegetables, so our experts explain how to improve soil
Whether your soil is light and sandy or heavy clay, digging in bulky organic matter - which means well-rotted manure, compost, leafmould, composted bark, mushroom compost or anything in fact that you can get in bulk - will help.
In light soils this provides something to hold moisture and nutrients; in clay soils it helps break up large particles so the soil doesn't crack, drains better and is easier to work.
Digging sharp sand into clay soil may improve the structure and make it easier to work, although on a very heavy clay soil, just stick to well-rotted organic matter, as adding sand can make the soil even harder.
The best time for soil preparation is in autumn for clay soils and spring for light, sandy soils. Autumn digging lets the soil be further broken down by frosts and rain. But do it whenever you can. Start by digging over the soil to a depth of 37.5-45cm (15-18in) and incorporating your organic material as you go.
Want to know where to find seed of a specific vegetable cultivar?
View our vegetable seed suppliers list (pdf 245KB)
We have produced a handy vegetable planner to help you decide what to do and when for each crop.
Download the vegetable planner (66KB Adobe Acrobat pdf)
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
Planning a vegetable garden
Mulching vegetable gardens
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9