The key to gardening is dirt. If you can grow good dirt now, you can grow good vegetables this spring. And you don’t have to run to the garden store to load up on boxes and bags of stuff to do it if you start early and think of it as a year-round project.
Hugelkültür (mound or hill culture) is a long-term method of soil improvement that makes use of wood debris. Bury excess wood (twigs, branches, lumber scraps) a foot beneath the soil and cover with dirt and mulch. At first, the decomposition of the buried wood will eat up a lot of nitrogen, and the soil may need more water than usual. After about a year, though, the bed will be rich with nutrients, moisture, and beneficial organisms—perfect for gardening.
Lasagna compost, or sheet mulching, combines the benefits of compost with the simplicity of mulching. Spread compostable materials onto your garden beds in alternating layers of “green” material (table scraps, manure, grass clippings, vegetable waste) and “brown” material (wood, sawdust, leaves, straw, cornstalks, paper, cardboard). This will immediately cut down on weed growth in your garden, and as the lasagna compost decomposes over the next few months, it will aid in water retention, add nutrients, and create a healthy habitat for beneficial soil organisms.