In North Carolina we have the dreaded red clay. Once it is on your clothes it doesn't come off and half the time even after a shower it is still on your skin. While it seems to be be a very hardy type of dirt it isn't the best for growing a delicious garden so trying to grow one that takes the smallest amount of fertilizer and pesticide also becomes a challenge. I had my very first homegrown tomato just a couple of years ago and after I ate the reddest, juiciest and sweetest bite of fruit I knew I couldn't go back. After working for a few years I have developed some secrets of my own and as I progress each year I learn more and more. The most important thing I learned: Anyone can grow garden. And, it isn't that hard.
My top secret ingredient for growing a great garden is black dirt. We have a local landscape store that sells "Garden Soil" which is black dirt with turkey manure. It doesn't smell and you won't ever need to to use fertilizer. It is a pure black dirt that just by growing your seeds in it will produce great results when your natural "dirt" just isn't good enough.
Seeds and plants are also very important. If you are ordering your plants over the internet (many of our Orchard Trees and Fruit Plants came from internet ordering) make sure you order from a reputable company that offers a great guarantee. You want to know when your plants arrive they will be healthy and ready to be transplanted. Here are a few good seed resources for you to keep in your memory bank.
Sources of open pollinated/heirloom seeds:
The Ark Institute
Planting your Garden or Orchard isn't enough, you need to know what to do when you have an abundance of food growing. Knowing which vegetables can be canned, frozen or best eaten fresh can be difficult and growing and planting a garden based on what you want to have in stock will be the best way to organize and prepare for selling or just stocking your cabinet. It is important to know what you want to make and keep and why. While canning seems to be a really great idea it is important to know how many pounds of each fruit or vegetable it will take to create tomato sauces, pickles, salsa..etc... If you don't grow enough plants you may not have enough to can at one time and it is best to can with veggies/fruits have been freshly picked. You also want to make sure that if you aren't interested in canning and are just growing a summer garden that you figure out how many plants you want in advance and consider stagger growing so you don't have too many ripen at one time leaving you with waste.
One of the best resources for canning will come with your canner when your purchase it and the most important resource is the USDA (see the Home Canning tab) . It is important to follow the directions exactly because different types of vegetables and fruits require different types of canning to ensure that bacteria doesn't grow. It is also important to date your jars and put the expiration date on the jar as well. Just because you are canning doesn't mean the items will have an endless shelf life.