Answer: I think you have a wonderful idea and I would highly recommend building a raised bed rather than trying to amend your compacted soil. There are far more aspects of constructing a raised bed than I have room to go into in this forum so my first suggestion is for you to scout your local library for books on adaptable gardening. Some things to consider are site, proximity to water, and finished bed height.
After choosing the sunniest site possible, build your bed at least 18? high to accommodate the roots of most perennials and vegetables. Build it higher if you want to include some seating around the perimeter of the bed. I?d keep the bed no more than 4? wide so that you can reach to the center of the bed from either side ? make it as long as you want. Fill the bed with a 3-way topsoil mix (garden soil, sand and organic matter) and add more organic matter prior to planting. Plant choice really depends upon whether you want a cutting garden, an edible garden, or a mixture of both.
If you can pipe water to one side of the bed it will reduce the need to drag a hose from some distance away. Trenching for a water pipe can be done with shovels or you can contract it out. Once you get the basics installed, you?re on your way to a successful raised bed garden.
As for maintenance, you'll want to make a list of garden chores (planting, watering, weeding, feeding, deadheading) and assign each chore on a rotating basis so everyone has a chance to do everything necessary to keep the garden healthy. You'll probably have more volunteers than you have chores!
Hope these thoughts head you in the right direction!
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