Answer: The first step in preparing your garden is to work the soil and add some organic matter. Begin by spreading 4-5 inches of compost, aged-manure, shredded leaves, etc. over the top of the bed and digging it in to a depth of 8-10". This will loosen the soil and make it rich with nutrients so the roots of your plants can become well established. After adding organic matter, rake the area smooth and plant your veggies. After you've finished planting, spread 2-3" of organic matter over the top to help suppress weeds and slow water evaporation. If you had organic matter to your garden beds each year, you'll eventually build some rich loamy soil.
Mulch materials can be any organic matter from compost to shredded leaves, peat moss, straw, aged manure, rice hulls, or whatever readily available material you can find in your locale. All organic materials will help loosen the soil and will provide nutrients to plant roots as the material decomposes. I don't think there is any best or better organic matter. Use whatever is locally available. Enjoy your garden!
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