A few of us have been interested in experimenting with some new, or new to us, gardening techniques this year. One that we've heard good things about is Hugelkultur. Pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, it means hill culture or hill mound.
Instead of putting branches, leaves and grass clippings in bags by the curb... you could build a hugel bed. Simply mound logs, branches, leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available, top with soil and plant your veggies.
The advantages of a hugel bed are many, including:
The gradual decay of wood is a consistent source of long-term nutrients for the plants. A large bed might give out a constant supply of nutrients for 20 years (or even longer if you use only hardwoods). The composting wood also generates heat which should extend the growing season.
Soil aeration increases as those branches and logs break down... meaning the bed will be no till, long term.
The logs and branches act like a sponge. Rainwater is stored and then released during drier times. Actually you may never need to water your hugel bed again after the first year (except during long term droughts).