Already this year I have expanded my garden beds and plan on doing some more. The reason we have raised garden beds, mounds and hugelkulturs is because our soil has too much clay and a high water table, which does not drain well. With all the things that we have done in the gardens and around the yard it has helped a lot, but, a raised bed of some sort is still the best options for us. Raised beds give you a good division between the planting soil and the walking path which you could cover with shavings, woodchips, sod or anything else you can think of. This also gives things a sharp and clean look as well as making it easier to push wheelbarrows of compost\dirt to any bed you hope to fill or top dress. Raised beds make it easy to transfer plants from bed to bed as well. Every year changing the location you plant things is not necessary but beneficial as different plants take and add nutrients to the soil; such as planting root crops in the bed that you might have had beans or tomatoes in the year prior. I always try to top dress all my beds in the fall or winter to add extra nutrients to the soil and it will make the beds better and better every year, along with all the compost tea I use as well. A new way of garden beds that I'm trying is hugel-beds. Just like it sounds, it's a hugelkultur garden bed. I get the sides of my bed up using some split logs, dig it out 6 to 12 inches, cover it with wood, add mulch of any sort (I use manure), then the dirt you took out and some compost on that. This should give you the same benefits as a normal hugelkultur and should also be mole proof if enough wood is added.
I have been making compost tea for many years now and have found it VERY beneficial to the garden. It not only adds minerals and microbes to the soil but also gives your plants an extra boost making them grow bigger and more nutritious. Compost tea is simple to make, you can use compost, manure, plants high in minerals such as comfrey and nettle, or anything else you think of. I like to use full size burlap bags and fill them half way with manure, put them in water and let them steep for about a week in a bucket or a barrel. You can use this directly on the soil or dilute it in water and use on your plants to strengthen them against insects and disease. Compost tea, depending on what you use, can have too much nitrogen in it which is why you should dilute it in water so it won't burn the plant's leaves. The water you use is important. If you use tap water the chlorine can kill the beneficial microbes that your plants need. If possible, use fresh water to make your compost tea. Spring water will work great and will bring in more minerals, but rain water will work just as well if that's all you have. You used to be able to let your tap water evaporate out the chlorine over night but they have new chlorine now that does not evaporate and there's also fluoride and other chemicals they add in as well.
Artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, leeks and many other types of plants have long maturity dates and need to be started early. This could mean starting them indoors, in a greenhouse, hoop house, cold frame, hot beds, or even under some garden fabric. I'm starting my seeds indoors even though I've built a greenhouse in my garden as we don't get that much sun in the fall to early spring. Along with that, I also have plants I put in there to over winter which I plan to get some seeds from later this year. Starting your plants indoors means you need to have grow lights and if necessary a heating pad for plants that require warm soil. You can start seeds in pots, trays and soil blocks. Good, rich soil helps the seeds get a healthy start. Making sure they get transplanted to bigger pots as needed helps plants grow faster as their root system is not bound and will allow them to gather all the necessary nutrients they need. When the plants aren't root bound they spread their roots faster and get a better start when you transplant them outside, unlike root-bound plants that you have to pull apart to open up the root system for them to grow. As the root-bound plants work to spread their roots, the plants that aren't root-bound will be thriving and growing making any extra work worth while.
Growing starts that you buy from a nursery and being able to harvest a crop from them is wonderful and exciting. I find growing plants from seed is more satisfying, as you see the plant go from a sprout to something on your dinner plate or just a delicious snack as you walk through the garden. Although you may be growing those plants from the nursery, there's still something you're missing out on and you might take for granted the value of your own healthy seeds, as the price for them isn't getting any lower although the quality is. Along with that, every year you grow your own seed it becomes more adapted to your soils & climate. In turn, your plants will keep growing bigger and better in your garden each year. The best option for all organic heirloom gardeners is keeping your own seeds, as there are many benefits to doing so, such as not having to buy more every year. Another perk to growing plants from seed is that you are not limited to anything as long as you can grow them in your area. Even things you usually can't grow in your area can be put in a greenhouse or brought indoors. Every plant, big and small, brings joy to a gardener by being able have them in your meal, as a snack, or even just to admire their beauty. I hope to be able to grow all my plants from my own seed and to have a wider variety of plants to learn more from and experiment with all the wonderful flavors and colors they have to offer.