I’d like to add a couple of things to C.J.’s recent article about getting your soil ready. As C.J. says, adding organic matter to the soil is vital for gardening success. He also mentions that this is has to be an ongoing task as organic material continually breaks down and has to be replaced. One of the most effective and quickest ways to do this for a garden of a few thousand feet or larger is to buy soil amendment in bulk form from a commercial landscape supplier. You can have it delivered in their trucks or buy a cubic yard of two at a time using your own pickup or trailer. Since you’ll need three cubic yards of soil amendment per 1,000 ft. of garden, truckloads of 12-to-20 cubic yard aren’t unusual. Check online or in the Yellow Pages as to where the local yards are and do some homework before ordering. Many types of amendment are usually available. You can get well rotted manure, usually cow or sheep as horse manure often contains weed seeds. Peat moss and grass clippings as well as slaughterhouse waste too, usually in a mix. My favorite was ground cow and peat that I used in business in Denver. The peat moss helped balance the pH in the alkaline soil there. Your local dealers will have the best idea of what you need in your local. Ground costs more than rough as you might expect but gives a better initial result. If you do a fall till, then rough is fine since you’ll be doing another till in the Spring.
If you plan of starting a garden in hard pan or virgin soil, or even in a large back yard lawn area, do yourself a favor and rent a smallish tractor (Kubota is great) with a front end loader on one end and a tiller on the other. It makes moving a dozen yards of manure and then rototiller it in a much less memorable experience. Do always carry your tractor bucket low as these small tractors tip over easily. If a tractor isn’t suitable, then use a rear tine tiller, not front tine.
One bit of advice I might also give: Businesses as you might expect get offered better prices and service than do retail customers. They also have access to wholesale supply outfits that retail customers don’t. If you want the best of both get yourself a business license, which is often a trivial exercise, then build up a small bit of a knowledge base to you can “talk the talk”. For those with many construction projects on the horizon, it can make a large difference in costs and build quality. There can be tax, insurance and government regulation issues but these are often trivial as well, so it can be well worth it. – LRM in Perth, Australia