I thought I'd elaborate on yesterday's mention of the garden bed I put together over the weekend.
To begin with, I read about it the book "Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century" by Dick & James Strawbridge. I would recommend this book to any gardener or beginning homesteader. The father and son authors briefly cover just about everything you'd need to know about self-sufficiency, giving a great overview then leaving you to explore what appeals to you via other sources. It's written simply without being condescending, has great photos and often makes a person think, "now, why didn't I think of that". I am borrowing the book from the library, but I really think this is a book I want to buy for my personal collection.
Making a garden bed like the one I made is simple (it took up only a half a page in the book, including photos).
Begin by deciding where you want the bed and how large you want it to be. It can be expanded later, but might as well start off on the right foot. Once size and location are decided, lay cardboard directly onto the ground (and grass). Use as many pieces of cardboard as you need to fit the size you want, but try not to overlap them too much; one layer will work just fine.
Weigh down the edges of the cardboard with rocks or pavers, lumber or as I did, with cinder blocks. I would have preferred to have the blocks all the way around, but didn't have enough, so I used what I could find on hand. I'll add more blocks later.
Once the cardboard is weighed down, water it thoroughly. Then fill the bed with layers of topsoil and compost to about 6" deep. Luckily for me, we had plenty of both soil and compost available. Leave the bed as is for at least two weeks, then make a planting holes by digging through the dirt and cutting a circle out of the cardboard. Plant desired plant directly into the hole, then firm the soil around it. Water it and let it grow!
The cardboard provides a weed-barrier and will eventually biodegrade into the soil. In this case, I planted strawberries in the holes in the blocks, and plan to train the strawberry runners to grow in the center area of the bed.