Several methods exist for starting a flower or vegetable garden depending on the time, money, and energy you have available. A few pots are plenty for the beginning gardener; it’s easy to overestimate your abilities and desires when the weather is lovely and cool in April and end up with scorched plants in July. Space probably exists among the shrubs around your home’s foundation for a few plants if you do not want to use pots; potted plants require more attention than those planted in the ground. Make sure your vegetable garden receives six to eight hours of direct sun daily.
For my first garden, I tilled a place in the backyard, added all the compost I could to the already rich, black, sandy loam of the yard, and harvested many vegetables. I have red clay and woods at my current home; my family and I cut trees and purchased soil to fill the raised bed we made out of the felled trees. Add as much compost as you can afford to the soil in your garden site.
Call your local county extension service for soil testing information. Soil test results tell you the specific nutrients, including lime, your soil needs; adding the amendments indicated by the results will help you have a successful garden.
I prefer to use the no-till method I borrowed from Ruth Stout who wrote the book "How to have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back." Lay 6-8 sheets of newspaper or cardboard directly over the grass and overlap the edges. On top of the paper, place 3-4 inches (or more) of compost or manure; then add 4-6 inches of mulch.
Mulch can be any substance that biodegrades easily; don’t use synthetic mulch or wood chips. I try to obtain free mulch so I can use it lavishly; I prefer old hay and bags of leaves from the side of the road. You can immediately dig planting holes in the compost or you can leave the “pie” alone for three to six months and the earthworms will till the soil for you. Mulch your garden lavishly regardless of the method you use to begin it; I pull a few weeds here and there but do not have to devote much time to the task because of the mulch.
When you begin planting, meet the plants’ needs for sun, shade, and moisture. The Southern Living Garden Book is a good resource for plant information. Make sure what you are reading is specific to the South since a plant’s ability to tolerate heat is as important as its ability to tolerate cold. Folks who move here from up North kill lilacs and lettuce in July on a regular basis.