When I unpacked boxes from the move, I tried to sort them by condition. Those that were still in decent shape that someone could use again to move, I put on Freecycle. Those that had lost their integrity became the base layer for the first half of the garden. The second cardboard half (pictured) would be the zillion boxes our new Ikea kitchen came packaged in. If you do this, be sure to peel the tape or you'll be digging it up sometime in the future.
I answered a Craigslist ad for rabbit manure, which had the potential to be some really nice stuff. Unfortunately, what I found was a very wet (it rains all winter here) anaerobic pile. I took some anyway, and used it in a couple of beds. I did try to unclump it and mix some straw in with it to make it an aerobic mix instead. The smell diminished in a day or so. We ended up getting a yard of triple mix (topsoil, sand, compost) for about $22. Most of the beds are filled with manure "compost" , a layer of half rotten straw, and topped with triple mix.
I have since acquired a large amount of hay (probably 35 bales worth, though some bales were partial or loose- free from another reply to my re-posted request on Freecycle, but about a 40 minute drive each way, so again, some fuel expense) as well as a bunch of alpaca manure. The alpaca poo and hay mix have been a good, hot pile. I will have to consider whether or not to get more, though out of respect for the neighbors, I don't think I should do it during any season they might have their windows open, as it was pretty "fragrant", I suspect because the alpaca people bagged the manure in plastic bags, which then sat in a pile until they posted on Craigslist (free). It made for pretty easy loading into the truck, but a bit unpleasant to "unpackage".
I apologize for the switching between "we" and "I" when I write about the garden. The garden is my doing, but the husband has been very helpful in building this one. Thankfully, he was on-board with this one from the beginning (not so with the last one), and he's helped me by hauling blocks, hauling dirt, hauling mulch, hauling hay, etc. This is the biggest garden we've ever built, and while I am again doing it on the cheap, it is quite labor intensive.
These poor little potatoes spent the winter sprouted in a paper bag in a cold room in the house. I got them out as soon as I could, but they've been out there since the end of March and only one sprout has emerged. They were probably too far gone, or the slugs are eating the growing tips, but they still look about like this under the mulch.
I also did some wintersowing (or early spring -sowing) so I'd have something to put out when we got the beds put together.
There are a couple things I probably should have done but did not. I meant to use the spading fork to poke holes down through the ground before I put down cardboard, to help the roots go down into the native soil when they get there and to help the whole thing mix together in time. I totally forgot this step. My mother also mentioned something to me last week that I never even thought of. As an adult, I have lived mostly in the west that has alkaline soil. Now I live in the PNW with acidic soil. I'm not sure if I should have put down some lime under there as well. Too late now, so I'm hoping the composted stuff helps keep things neutral in there. I guess we'll find out.