I have black clay soil in my yard. It is so thick and sticky that it made raised beds a necessity in order to have a successful garden. The first year I ordered a dump truck load of soil from a local company. It was a mix of equal parts of topsoil/compost/sand. We tilled the clay to about 6" below the raised beds and then filled the beds with about 6" of of the soil blend. Every year since, I have added a new layer of compost and a little fertilizer when I prepare the beds in the spring. After reading about the benefits of no till methods, I am as gentle as possible when amending the soil in the spring. At the end of the growing season, I try to cut plants out at the base rather than pull the entire root system. The first year of "no till" I could tell a big difference! Here is a good article about the benefits of the no till method.
Here is what I added to my beds this year:
I have no idea if this is the best choice, as a matter of fact, I may use Texas Tee in the future after talking to an employee at North Haven Gardens. I believe this was slightly under $25 for a 40 pound bag at the feed store. The Texas Tee was nearly $40 at North Haven.
I choose this for compost this year. This along with a bag of cotton burr compost has been, or will be, added to each of my raised beds. This was considerably more expensive than the cotton burr compost at $6 per 1 cu ft so I am using it sparingly. Hopefully it will prove to be a worthwhile investment. Someday I hope to do better in the production of my own compost. Right now my time is limited and I have to make choices of where I can cut some corners. While it pains me to pay for bagged compost, until I can get a better composting set up going, it is what it is.
This is the potting soil I have used for my growing bags. I mixed in all of the above to the bag when planting. The only place that I can find it is at L0we's for about $2.50 per bag. It is a nice blend of topsoil, compost and sand. I am quite happy with the row of soil that I dumped out of the bags I used last year. The nice thing is that it is not full of weed seed like the dump truck load purchased locally was. Crossing my fingers that it works as well as it did last year with my current tomato crop.
I truly believe that if you are going to be a successful Texas organic gardener, you must focus on your soil as a top priority. I have an unbelievable amount of earthworms and I love letting them do all the work of tilling for me! One of these days, I will get around to having my soil tested, but so far what I am doing seems to be working so I haven't managed to make soil testing a priority. The nerdy side of my brain would like to see that happen, but so far the right side of my brain seems to be running the show and with the right side in charge it is rather miraculous that anything in the garden has been accomplished!!