8 Steps for Expertly Planting a Seedling

hands planting kale in garden

If you live in a northern climate like I do in Wisconsin, the time when you can plant all of the vegetables on your list is quickly approaching! In Madison, our last frost is usually somewhere around the middle of May. (Although there was the year I lost my 30+ pepper plants to a Memorial Day Weekend frost. Ouch.)

If you’re planning to head out to your garden this weekend with seedlings and trowel in hand, I thought I’d offer a refresher on how to quickly and easily plant your new vegetable plants.


How to plant vegetable plant


Step 1: Clear a space for planting.

My beds are always covered in hay mulch to keep down weeds. When I’m ready to plant a seedling I simply clear a small area with my hands.

Plant vegetable plant

 Step 2: Dig a hole with your trowel and pour a bunch of water in to soak the area. During this step I often add a handful of compost or a balanced fertilizer I use in my garden.

How to plant seedlings vegetable garden

Step 3: Break the root ball of the plant gently to encourage the roots to start to move outwards, not around in a circle like they did in the pot.

How to plant in vegetable garden

Step 4: Tuck the plant into the hole. No need to water again right now, the root ball is soaked from the water you poured into the planting hole.

Tips for planting in vegetable garden

Step 5: Use a measuring tape to figure out where to plant the next seedling. In this photo I’m planting Brussels sprouts which I plant two rows to the bed, 18 inches between each plant. (Not sure how to space your plants? I have a spacing guide in my Smart Start Garden Planner.)

Planting tips vegetable garden

 Step 6: Make sure you stagger your seedlings when planting. This gives them a little more room to grow.

Howt o plant vegetable seedlings

 Step 7: Write down the date, vegetable, variety, and number you planted on your garden map in your handy dandy garden binder.

Vegetable garden planting tips

Step 8: {Optional} Cover the seedlings with row cover. I don’t have a fence around this area of my garden, so I use row cover to protect the young plants from grazing rabbits. I also have cabbage moths in my garden, and the row cover prevents them from laying eggs on my Brussels sprouts. Row cover also traps in heat, so my plants will grow a little faster than they would if they were left out in the chilly spring weather.

Planting is one of the most enjoyable tasks in the garden each season! Carve out some time this week to spend some time sinking your hands into the soil.

Have a planting tips to share? Leave it in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!




  • I love how clear your explanation and pictures are – pretty fool proof 🙂 When I plant tomato and pepper seedlings, I mix in finely crushed eggshells in with the bottom layer of native soil and newly added compost, for the added calcium.

    If my seedlings happen to be roses – not exactly a veggie, but the rose hips are very nutritious! – I add ground up alfalfa pellets to the soil near the top (I have horses, so just use their alfalfa pellets) and they just love that.

    • Jordana- Thanks for offering your extra tips for seedling planting. The great thing about gardening is that everyone has their own way and we can all learn from each other!

  • The straw I so carefully mulched raspberries and one vegetable plot with is contaminated with an herbicide. I have tested it to be certain, after watching my raspberry patch die. Now we have one garden plot less to plant in this year! I see you have used straw/hay mulching also. [sprayed on the crop last growing season for weed control and stays in the crop and soil for many years]. Any great ideas, for clearing the soil for future gardening? I cleared meticulously, the straw from the area and I have been collecting wood ash/charcoal that I am certain is ‘clean’. to spread and mix into the soil. I am so sad! A decade is a long time to not use a previously fruitful garden plot!

  • Where do you get the hay mulch that you use? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Sarah- I buy marsh hay from Jung’s in Madison. Be careful of your source. Make sure you don’t get hay or straw with weed seeds or herbicides. Happy planting!

  • […] year, when it’s time to plant, all you’ll need to do is go out and gently move some mulch aside and dig a hole for your […]

  • I love all your tips about gardening, and I follow the majority of them. I have a good layer of mulch on all my beds, but am rather concerned that the mulch may be harbouring colonies of snails. This year (after ca 1 year of mulching) my beds are inundated with snails and they are having a whale of a time eating their way through my freshly planted seedlings! I have tried putting wood ash around the seedlings, sawdust too, and egg shells, and they still get through to eat my precious babies. I have started hand picking them off (terrible yuck factor here) and throwing them over the fence into the chicken run, but I reckon I don’t have enough chickens to eat them all! Either that or my chickens don’t really go for escargot… Have you any tips?

    • I’m sorry to hear that, Elaine. I had very bad pill bugs last year in the spring so I removed the mulch from some of my beds for about a month until things dried out a bit. That helped a lot. Once I put it back I didn’t have issues with them eating my seedlings. I’d try that if I were you.

  • I sprinkle a tablespoon of Epsom salt into the planting hole then cover it with some compost before planting.

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