Background on our property: Our soil has clay and is not very healthy. About 6 years ago we brought in a load of amended topsoil, tilled it in really good into the area where our lawn is. The soil is back to being hard. The soil is not easy to aerate and grass is hard to grow. Every other year I bring in bags of compost and work it into my flower beds. My berry bushes are struggling to thrive. @Mindgrinder posted a thread last year about using Coffee Grinds as Permaculture | Survival Monkey Forums so I worked coffee grounds into the soil and am hoping it will help feed my plants. My wild choke cherries grow pretty well and I don’t try to amend the soil near them but they were established when we bought the house. Fellow Monkey @Elessar had a great crop of amaranth (Amaranth Test Plot - Planting | Survival Monkey Forums and I was hoping for similar results. So last year I planted some amaranth directly into a flower bed and it only grew to about 3” high. My Goal: I have a patch of land that I would like to turn into a vegetable garden. I want to place the plants directly in the soil. I know that treatment is needed to make the ground ready for planting. The area is near a large pine. If I dig in the ground I find the dirt is dark but I find lots of needles in various state of discomposure. I read this: So needles seem like they would not be an issue. I assume I will need a load of manure. I have a place to get free horse waste but what else would be best to add to the soil? Also, once things get planted and things start growing, IMO the soil gets stripped of nutrients fast. I have thought about adding sand hoping that would help the water to soak in. I would like to turn this area into a nice garden but I would like to do it without a lot of cost. What can be placed in the soil to combat the clay?