Dear Jane, This information came in from Randy Holbert who lives in the area where you will be planting the bed. You may already be there and doing the work and not on-line, but since he went to the trouble of responding, I am including his answer anyway. "Jane is correct, the soil here is very difficult to work with. I just finished planting some shrubs and small trees in my year. A painful reminder to my back of just how hard this soil is. OUCH!! However after living here 8 years and consistently adding organics to my flower beds I have made some head way. It is much easier to work in these areas but you have to keep at it. I was fortunate enough to have access to peat based soils from a local nursery so I have been adding this every time I replant. I also have used other sources such as she mentioned and have not had any problems as long as it was properly decomposed. There are several options depending upon how much she wants to spend 1. Make a raised bed by building a border around the intended planting area. This would provide excellent drainage and she could the purchase a well drained nursery mix for her planting. This would be expensive but again would be an option 2. Rent a roto tiller, I did this when we planted our yard. They have very powerful models that can handle the soil. The one I rented was a pneumatic model and crunched right through the soil. It was very easy to operate. After the initial plowing then add the compost, lots of it and till it in. One secret is that she should really soak the area with water 24 hours in advance. It is much easier that way. I have not had any problems with disease just do use any compost with manure and she should be ok. If you have any more questions do not hesitate to let me know. Regards Randy"