Answer: If you're gardening for the first time, you'll want to go slowly, amending the soil in your garden a little at a time. Properly prepared soil is a little work, but you'll reap the rewards for many years to come. You could use landscapers mix or packaged top soil, or you can build up your own soil by adding compost or other organic matter. If you don't have compost, you can mix aged-manure into the soil; it's cheaper than the packaged top soils, and it comes already sterilized and in plastic bags. Start by digging the entire bed to the depth of 6-8" (the length of the blade of your shovel). This will loosen the soil and make it easy to remove weeds and debris. Then roughly level it out and spread 3-4" of compost or manure over the surface of the bed. Dig this in to a depth of 6-8" then rake the soil smooth. You can plant annuals or perennials at this time. After planting, top dress or mulch over the bare soil with more manure, compost or even peat moss. A few inches of organic mulch will help slow water evaporation and keep weeds from sprouting. At the end of the season you can dig this organic matter into the soil. Next spring, after planting new annuals, topdress again. By digging this organic matter into the soil every year or two, you end up with wonderful garden loam that will make any plant happy.
Enjoy your garden!
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