What most Chattanooga gardeners start with is lousy soil. Most of the area ground is acidic clay with rocks. Calling it soil is an undeserved compliment. The ground needs to be improved for garden plants to thrive. Quick fixes are available by purchasing compost or topsoil. Time and effort can improve ground with little or no money spent. The low cost way is my style.
Employing little guys that work for nothing can transform lousy dirt into rich soil. The little guys are microbes that work in a compost pile. Detailed compost advice is available in lots of places. Often advice is connected to purchasing something that will help compost happen. Nothing needs to be purchased to make compost happen. The microbes that break down organic matter are present in the ground. A pile of organic matter with some dirt mixed in will decompose. When its decomposed, it is ready to put in the garden plot.
Worms also do valuable work for nothing. They can be attracted by providing food and shelter. I spread the spent grains from home brew on garden beds. Corn meal also brings in worms if sprinkled on the ground. Rocks around the edge of a garden bed provide shelter. Composting with worms (vermicomposting) is another way to put these free laborers to work. It can be done with worms gathered after a rain or purchased red wigglers.
Cover crops are another means of improving soil. I have crimson clover, rye, wheat, and rye grass growing on different beds. Chattanooga soils need lots of help to become productive garden plots. The improvements can be made inexpensively.