Hey Laura - good for you for going slowly - wish I'd been so smart!
--what part of the country do you live in
--what is the pH of you soil (acid or alkaline)
--how much annual rainfall do you get
--what is the current texture of your soil (sandy, clay, loam, rocky, etc - could be more than one)
If you want a lazy way of gardening and building soil - try lasagna gardening - it really does work - especially if you have time to build your bed. Google "lasagna gardening" - lot's of instructions written out there. Or try organicgardening.about.com/od/startinganor
for a quick and dirty explanation/instructions.
I would also start at least one (two or three if you have space) compost heap. (see other threads) If you want to get some exercise, don't mind a little hard work and are friends with your neighbors - no need to go further than your own backyard to build the soil you will need to keep your beds fertile. All materials are free - in fact, it becomes a game for me to see how much of my own and my neighbors' "garbage" I can keep out of the waste stream. Buy a couple of good turning forks. (like pitchforks but with flattened out tines, not round tines - buying quality will save you from buying more in a year or two).
Most importantly, like learning a healthy lifestyle, it's a process. You will make many many many mistakes along the way. As long as you approach these "mistakes" as learning opportunities - you will be far far ahead of the game.
Most people consider me to have a wicked green thumb - especially here in the desert (and I have a low water use edible garden - which is tricky). I freely admit to people that I have killed farm more plants than I have successfully grown. (I am a serial mass-murderer of plants). I am constantly experimenting to see what works in my climate. I have redesigned my garden 3 times in the past 7 yrs. It's an ongoing joke among my friends and family that every spring we move all the dirt from the front to the back - and every fall we move the dirt from the back to the front. It's both funny - and mostly true! I end up remaking beds, taking out failed experiments, etc.
So have fun. Make mistakes, learn, enjoy! The great thing about gardening is even a little success is SO EXCITING!
"I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way." — Carl Sagan, American Humanist
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