Thank you for some great advice! I'm currently in Zone 9a. As Scott mentioned, I'm looking forward to experimenting as I learn more, perhaps starting with composting and seed saving and expanding as I go. Unfortunately, fencing might not be an option until I have a place of my own, but I will ask about it. I would like to send a soil sample to a nearby university for analysis as Eliot suggested as well. I will follow the advice that many of you have given to carefully observe the land and soil...that piece resonates well. I also appreciate Roy's recommendation to get in touch with the local community to make use of things that could otherwise go to waste. Grateful for the guidance thus far...
One area that remains somewhat unclear is in the realm of tools. Many of you have mentioned a thing or two about tools, and I've done a bit of reading, but I still have quite a few questions. Please feel free to respond to just parts of this, as my questions are many!
So many hoes...is there a certain type that you prefer above others? Mainly looking at stirrup hoe, oscillating hoe, collinear hoe, and Russian/Fokin hoe. Also looking into a low-wheel hoe. I would like to find one multi-purpose type that is sufficient for most needs, but if multiple types would be really useful I am fine with investing in that. Up until now, I have only worked with a few small beds and didn't have a problem dealing with weeds by hand, but I have a feeling a hoe will come in great handy for cultivation as I begin to grow more in larger beds. Does anyone have suggestions about the best way to sharpen a hoe (waterstone, diamond file, etc...)?
I'm thinking of getting a spading fork for loosening and turning over soil. Would anyone vouch for having a broadfork for manual tilling, or could a spading fork work just as well (while taking more time no doubt)? I have much more reading to do regarding till vs no-till methods...What are your views on the necessity of tilling at all?
Do you prefer to direct seed or transplant? I'm thinking about a few options for transplants: making wooden flats; making seed starter pots from citrus rinds, eggshells, egg cartons, newspaper, toilet paper rolls, or whatever else I can find; or finding a hand-operated soil block maker. Any reason to acquire the blocker instead of fashioning my own vessels? I understand that it might be too late to start seeds for transplant at this time and that I may need to direct seed this season (but can't do so until I move around mid-April). Would a dibber, garden stamp, dagger-style trowel, or post-hole digger help quite a bit for transplanting seedlings in the future? If direct seeding, is a manual precision seeder necessary or desirable as opposed to hand-seeding?
To give a sort of summary on what tools I have and am planning to acquire: I plan on purchasing or finding a wheel barrow. I have bypass loppers, bypass pruners, and hedge shears, but no pruning saw or folding saw (not sure of the difference). I also have a shovel and rake (but it's a leaf rake, not a garden/bow rake). I plan to get a few hand tools (trowel, hand fork, dibber) as well as a hoe or two, some gloves, and some buckets. I might get a fork of some sort, preferably only one between a spading fork, broadfork, or pitchfork. Perhaps a seeder of some sort if it seems worth it. Anything on this list that I probably don't need? Am I missing anything? What are your "must-have" tools in general?
Thanks again for all the responses!