We bought our house last November and decided we would not worry about the outside as renovating the inside is quite a task and requires the majority of our attention to make progress. We reconsidered, however, right before summer when I began researching ways to garden without constant weeding.
I came across the free movie Back to Eden by Paul Gautschi. In this documentary film, a home gardener, Paul, discovers how easy gardening can be with mulch. He uses wood chips and manure and no longer tills, rarely weeds, and does not have to water his plants once they get a footing. I decided to give it a shot and started in our raised beds outside of our house.
These raised beds had been neglected and had grass and other weeds growing over a foot tall. I hand tilled them with a grub hoe and threw out all the grass and weeds I could easily grab and piled them up a ways away. If I had chickens at the time I could have given them quite a meal or used it for compost.
Since I started so late, I asked my mom if she could pick me up started plants when she stopped by a local nursery for her own garden. She picked up 12 tomato plants, 4 mini bell pepper plants, 4 anaheim pepper plants, a couple lemon cucumbers, and several strawberry plants. I got them planted after adjusting some of them to the sun.
A little while after planting, I topped the soil off with some grass clippings, compost, and about an inch or two of wood chips as I was nervous about using wood chips with so many people warning me it would kill my garden. I have since learned that these wood chips are great mulch and should be 4-6 inches to get much benefit from them as weeds still grew through my 1-2 inches (though fewer than if there was no mulch).
We agreed when I got into homesteading that we would try to automate as much as possible to avoid filling our entire days with chores and added difficulty for family to take care of when we are on vacation. I hooked up some sprinklers to our well water with an automatic waterer and watered daily for about fifteen minutes to start. I experimented with once versus twice a day watering but did not see much of a difference.
Right away, we saw some fresh produce to harvest starting with a few strawberries and lettuce leaves, (as they were starts) and weeks afterward, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and a single lemon cucumber (yes, only one all season). We ended up with more tomatoes than we could eat just with the 4 early girl tomato plants. Chipmunks, our puppy, and the chickens enjoyed many of our cherry and yellow pear tomatoes that started going bad.
Eventually we plan to replace the rotten raised bed boards and expand our garden out to our front field with tons more wood chips as mulch.