Donna sent a comment my way last week asking about gardening in raised beds. Last year when we decided to try out our own veggie garden for the first time, it became obvious early on that if we wanted to grow anything at all, containers and/or raised beds would be our best bet. The reasons for this are pretty simple: 1) our soil is mostly clay, and 2) we don't have much space. Year 2 of our container gardening has had a slow start due to the weather. (We are currently in the first 5-days-in-a-row cycle of dry weather since November.) Little by little, things have started looking up though.
We have four larger raised beds in our garden; two 4 ft x 4ft ones (like the one above) and two 4ft x 8 ft ones (below). In addition, I have a couple of small tubs for herbs and lettuce - small containers are easy to cover in case the weather is colder than expected - as well as deeper but pretty small containers for plants that bear fruit, like tomatoes and peppers.
Containers and raised beds keep gardening simple: there is less weeding, less overall hassle, and you learn to use your imagination to fit everything in. I have to say that I have nothing but love for container gardening. There are certain veggies you can't fit into containers, like pumpkins, but even potatoes are doable, although I haven't tried them yet. Raised beds, however, will host just about anything. Depending on the vegetable, you might have to be prepared to put in a lot of work to make sure that the soil in the raised beds and/or containers has enough nutrition, but apart from that, gardening this way is very straight-forward and easy. Even if you don't have a yard, balconies, decks, porches or even driveways fit containers of different shapes and sizes. All you really need is any outlet, no matter how small that gets enough sun, to have a container garden.
I am no expert on books on gardening, but I have found The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey very helpful. It is a good, concice, no-nonsense guidebook that helps you get through the entire process of having a container garden without losing sleep over it. I say this because gardening can get intense at times: the weather doesn't co-operate, there are pests and blights (although container gardens are not as often hit compared to traditional ones), and sometimes you just make mistakes. And then you learn. You can always try again next year.
Apart from our raised beds and containers, we have some herbs growing on our front yard as well, without containers, but in a contained area nevertheless. Because our soil is mostly clay, we edged off a little section, and piled on mulch and topsoil. Last year this section housed an awful lot: zucchinis, tomato containers, broccoli, herbs, peppers... it got a little crazy, and the end result was not particularly pretty. This year we are keeping things simpler. We are reserving some space for the tomato containers, because the amount of sunlight here is unbeatable, but we have other plans for broccoli and zucchinis this year. (They'll be placed in our last year's sunflower container. And sunflowers will go elsewhere.)
So there it is, our veggie garden, waiting for more sun and more warm weather. My tomato and pepper seedlings are very tiny still, and it will take a while before I can take them outdoors. (I guess that's what you get for months and months of rainy weather with no sunlit window sills.) All in good time, I guess. In the meantime I'm focusing on culling my turnips, lettuce, kale, radishes and what have you. I'm enjoying every minute of it, too.