This is my first year gardening, I'm doing a deep bed method with two beds, about 100sq ft apice. We started digging, and while my husband did the manual labor I picked up bricks around the house and made a nice little border.
What I noticed as I put my hand into the garden that had been dug, was once the soil dried it was SHARP! The bed where it isn't dug out yet is rock hard, but where we have dug it out little clumps are also rock hard, I can bang them against bricks to break them up but until they get to a powder state it isn't soft or loamy at all.
What does this mean? The soil itself is black, very dark, I'm assuming I have a heavy soil, but there isn't any of the reddish clay I remember from my gradfather's garden in missouri. My biggest problem is I can't afford compost, peat, or manure. I know a number of people offering manure for free, but I have no way to transport it. What should I do? I feel reticent about putting my little seedlings into such harsh-seeming soil.
Sounds like you have clay. The Iowa version instead of the southern red version. The way to fix it ,as it sounds like you already know, is to amend it with manure and organic matter. The good news is if it's a nice deep black color you probably have very rich soil to start with.
The best way to do it would be to dig in a bunch of organic material and let it sit a year. There are plenty of inexpensive ways to do this even if you don't have a pickup truck to haul it in. Leaves, grass clippings, whatever you have close will work. I'd bring in some of that manure in 5 gallon buckets in your car too if you can.
But you can also put those seedlings in and let them do some of the work with their roots if you want and then fix the soil tilth this fall. Wet the area down with a hose or wait for rain. Let it dry a bit but not completely. While it's moist but not wet, dig it again and rake it smooth. Plant right away. If it's a nice rich soil, the plants will take off.
Worms we've got in plenty, there were so many as we were digging the garden up.
I can't remember where I read it (possibly even here) but I think I dug the soil too early, when it was too wet... the dirt clods at the top really are rock hard, but once you get down past that it's not so bad, so I've got 1 part that's got clods all over the top and the rest isn't so hard (it was tilled yesterday, the first part was tilled last week after it rained)
So, grass clippings you say? We have plenty of those, am I right in thinking I can use them for mulch?