I love dirt. I’d bet that most good gardeners do. I told SC the other day that I actually love making garden beds probably more than I like planting them.
With good soil, everything is easier. Plants grow better, they are easier to plant, weeds are easier to pull. There are fewer bugs, too: good soil management (I think) reduces the need for pesticides.
I like garden soil to look like chocolate cake mix. Dark brown, fluffy, and you should be able to easily drop a spade in it and it will stay.
It is also (unlike so much of life) so easy to fix. I’ve done double digging, I’ve done straight- up earth removal and replacement with gorgeousness, but I think by far the best way to grow a beautiful garden is this: layered sheet composting.
The upfront downside: your neighbors will hate you (at first). It’s really ugly. But I have plenty of other friends anyway.
So here’s how I do it:
First- magazines. As indulgent BF knows, I get too many. Plan out where you want your garden bed and just lay the magazines on the ground over the grass. Then turn the hose on them. Get them disgustingly soaking wet.
Next: branches and stupid cuttings: rose bush cuttings, sod hunks (that are dried! You don’t want more grass in your new bed). Old socks. Cat hair. Human hair. Shredded Credit Card offers. Leaves. Straw. If you are going to put weeds in there they should 1) not have seeds on them and 2) be dried. Add some green stuff too, like grass clippings, tulip foliage, perennial deadheads, pineapple tops… you get the idea.
Then: Peat. I know it’s not cool, but it works. You could substitute coconut coir if you have it.
Then: Manure. (you can see why your neighbors will hate you.) Or Compost.
If you have some extra garden soil hanging around, so much the better.
Edge the bed and let it sit. It’s best to do this in the fall, because you can throw some bulbs in the bed right now and they will be happy as clams next year when this doesn’t look like such an ugly mess. The peat will also then get properly wetted under the snow from the winter. Next spring, plant as usual and be amazed at the awesomeness of your soil.