Soil here is red brick clay, I mean literally! They make Elgin-Butler red bricks from it just down the road! It really does not lend itself to gardening directly in it.
In the past I've enjoyed gardening with the Square Foot Garden method in raised beds, and that is what was called for here.
Last year we were looking for sand for the Sherwood booth on Freecycle and were given a 6' x 6' sandbox made from 2x8 lumber. We had also been given a lot of 2x4x8'-0 lumber that was used for shipping crates by UPS. I cut several of those in half, combined them with the 2x8x6'-0 lumber and made up two 4'-0x6'-0 raised beds. Cat and I sat down and decided what we wanted to plant and made a plan for the two beds. One more thing, we are both totally committed to gardening organically.
We went over to Bastrop Gardens in Bastrop and got some of their garden soil to fill our beds. Cat also picked up several of the plants we needed. We got organic plants there, and organic seeds at Home Depot and Whole Foods.
It took two trips to get enough bag-it-yourself soil to do the job. The first trip yielded some very sandy loamy garden soil mix. Through some misunderstanding the second trip brought almost straight compost. I mixed the two together and made up a pretty nice mix of garden soil. It really wasn't worth bagging it back up and making another trip, and I think it worked out pretty well. I also put down a layer of pasteboard from some old boxes under the beds to keep unwanted weeds from sneaking in from underneath, as well as keeping the good soil on top.
This bed holds lettuce, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, onions, Swiss chard, Kale, bell peppers, corn, spinach, summer squash, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, and nasturtiums. You can see the strings I ran to mark off the square foot sections. Notice the difference in that soil!
.This one has lettuce, purple pole beans, corn, garlic, egg plants, summer squash, carrots, spinach, nasturtiums, cilantro, chives, and broccoli. I love the raised bed, square-foot system, as nobody walks on the garden soil and it stays loose. No tilling required! Most of the time you don't even need a trowel, just poke your hand or finger into the friable soil to make a hole for the seed. Soil compaction is a huge problem in any garden, or farm for that matter.
Both together look like this. I planted large bamboo poles to hold up green plastic fencing to keep out four legged critters, mostly our own cats, chickens and the occasional bunny. This pic makes it look rather weird, but it's more substantial than that. We can just drop the fence to pick or work the garden and pull it back up again afterward. If it looks a bit temporary, well, it is!
We also make use of several tires to plant tomatoes and a few other things in. We took old tires from our pickup, cut off the side walls, and filled them with dirt and compost. For several years we've planted tomatoes and onions in them. These three have four types of tomatoes, sage, basil and bunching onions from last year in them. I've found that tomatoes work just as well or better planted elsewhere than in one of the "community" beds. They take up a lot of space on their own, and benefit from being accessible from all sides as in the tires.
Location-wise, the tires and beds are on the north side of our mobile home and a storage shed. They get full morning sun. I feel they will be protected from our hot afternoon sun this way, as well as the drying, scorching effect of the hot south winds we get all spring and summer. I'm convinced those hot south winds are a major factor in gardens getting dried out and too hot too soon around here. We'll see how that works out. I'll also be mulching everything tomorrow to keep that moisture from getting away.
We still have a few more tomatoes to obtain and plant, but that's it for now!
Garden organically! It's important for all of us, and not just because we need to stay away from GMO foods the corporations want to shove down our throats! Organic is better for us, and the planet.