Soil is probably THE most important element of any garden. It will have a huge impact on the success (or failure) of your garden.
Unfortunately, soil can be really complicated. To grow a fruitful garden, the soil needs to be the right texture, pH, and have sufficient nutrients. If you are using the soil in the ground outside, this requires a bit of research. First, you need to determine what kind of soil you have, then amend it (add stuff) to get it to be “just right.”
This is one of the main reasons I chose the Square Foot Gardening method! While you can fill your garden beds with dirt from the yard, Mel Bartholemew (the man who developed this method) suggests make your own soil from peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. You will have the perfect texture, pH, and blend of nutrients.
Soil Testing and Fertilizer
Each year in the spring you will need to add more compost to your soil mix. Add as many types as you can find, but avoid steer manure. I also like to add fertilizer to my soil–this can come from chemical or organic sources.
After several years (or if I have problems), I like to test my soil and make sure it’s still healthy and rich. I find that the nutrients in these soil mixes depletes faster than with a traditional dirt garden.
Each method of gardening will have different needs when it comes to soil. I suggest finding a good book written by someone who specializes in the method you use, or who lives in the same region.