(Newb) Small 4x4 raised bed, soil prep, critters, I've got it all
I'm a newbie gardener, sorta. I grew up in one of the richest parts of Iowa and we never had to do anything with our dirt other than turn it and throw seeds at it and things grew. We had a perennial tomato plant that would regrow every year, it was unreal.
Now I live in Missouri, which is basically a huge clay termite mound. Our soil is hard to work with and doesn't even grow weeds all that well.
So, to prep I turned the soil in our 4x4 box and put down a raised bed with about 6-8" of soil/copost mix. We planted some tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and a row of scallions and a row of carrots. I've since been told that the strawberries can be maintained as a perennial and won't get along with the tomatoes and peppers and we should move them to a trough or pot or something. I also lost the tomatoes and peppers to an unseasonal frost so I'm replanting them this weekend.
(1) When I replant the tomatoes, how deep should I plant? Since I didn't prep the underlying clay, should I dig that out and add something to it (compost, e.g.,) before replanting the tomatoes?
(2) I've got a 2' fence flush against the bed but something is getting in and eating the strawberries. There's no obvious tracks in the soil, could it just be bugs?
(3) Do I need to move the strawberries? There's 3 plants, I'm told the yield will be low the first year, I'm considering moving them to a trough this year and then to their own bed next year.
(4) The row of scallions and row of carrots have sprouted, I planted densely planning to thin - when should I thin and by how much at first? Growing up we didn't thin until we could at least discern which plants were doing better. I'm nowhere near that point but since I planted so densely I'd want to make sure I thin on time
(5) I'm pretty sure this soil mix is only good for about 60-90 days and I'm not sure what I need to do then. Dig it out and replace it? Add something to it?
(6) Assuming our garden is successful (so far, so good, I've maintained it minimally) we plan to expand next year. What should I do with the soil this summer/fall, if anything? Raised beds again is what we'd prefer.