Courtesy of Barb McK. , Mountain View Meadows Farm, Elbert CO
Due to money and time constraints, and my recollection of how I fought against my native prairie grass moving inside the fencing of my garden and then creeping under raised beds that I had about 15 years ago, I've ruled out raised beds. I suspect that native prairie grass is like most native grasses, a huge pain! This stuff thrives on drought and even manages to look dead, yet come back every spring. It's great on pasture where my goats love it, but in my garden it becomes the bane of my existence, along with the thistle that thrives in semi-desert climates.
I am thinking that drip is the way to go. We are facing the potential regulating of water from our well, and we need to be able to use every drop. We recently had a ruling that we could collect rain water if we have a private well. (I know, hard to believe, but rain water technically belongs to the state here), so most likely rain water collection is the best use of my time/resources. Also, a bit of mulch is a good idea. I watched the YouTube video that someone linked about growing in wood chips. Interesting. But can't till those things in, so wonder if that is a good idea since my tiller and I are good friends. No offense to the no till folks, but I'm a woman of a certain age and I can't man-handle the spade all day like I used to. I do enjoy good power tools. 🙂
Time matters too! I use soil minerals after my annual soil test and combined with my compost, I'm getting a good humus soil. I'm terrified of animal manures after a batch of compost actually killed some of my garden years ago, turns out that broad leaf herbicides live on for years after being consumed, digested and pooped out of an animal. Chicken manure seems to be safest, but I only use that compost around my wind break trees.
I do mostly subsistence farming here, and raise a good portion of our own food, but I have a wonderful farmer friend who happens to be able to be retired from his previous life with a nice nest egg. He loves Farmer's Markets and is nuts enough to drive into the pricier markets in the urban areas. He gives me a nice price on my produce that I want to sell, and I don't have to even do the markets anymore.
He is very happy, and I'm even more happy. The local food movement is going strong here. I am probably going to be able to quit my day job this summer if all goes well, and be a farmer full-time. Now that's some good news! I will double my bee hives this spring (I have one now, which provides for us and with two I'll have honey for sale next summer) and now offer goat shares along with my free range eggs. For you newbies, keep on keeping on, this can be a valid way of making a living on small land holdings.