I talk to many people that have trouble with the soil in their garden. Dealing with the soil on your property is something that can be very frustrating, whether you are dealing with sand or clay. There are several ways that you can go about solving the problem. One of the best methods to deal with the issue is the use of compost. Adding compost to the top 1-3" of soil will help to break down a clay soil and add nutrients.
Compost in its simplest form is organic matter (leafs, grass clippings, banana peels, ect..) that has been broken down. The breaking down is done by aerobes (small organisms with a oxygen based metabolism), earthworms, ants, and nematodes. Along with organic matter you will find soil, air, water, and nitrogen. All of these mixed into your garden can greatly help a dried out barren soil.
In order to take advantage of composting in your own yard there are several things that you must do. The first thing to decide is how and where you are going to place it in your own yard. Some people will just have a pile of it in the corner of there yard open to the elements. This is the cheapest and simplest way of doing it but some of your neighbors might not like the sight of what appears to be a trash heap in your yard. A step up from this is to erect a small structure to hold it. Some people use pallets that have been screwed together. Not only does this help hide it but it also helps to keep it not looking like a pile of trash. If you are willing to spend a little money you can buy an enclosed container. These are much more pleasing to the eye and will help you store it much better.
Once you have decided where and how you are going to store it the next thing to do is start composting. You can add all sorts of organic matter to it. One good rule of thumb to follow to help it break down faster is for every one part green material add two parts brown material.
Green Material: Brown Material:
Grass Clippings Soil
Fruits and Vegetables Dried Leaves
You can also add egg shells as they are an excellent source of calcium.
Once you have added things to your pile you will need to add water to it as well as flip it with a pitch fork or shovel. This should be done about once a week to help things break down. Other than that just let mother nature do her work.
Once things have broken down you can add it to you garden. Over the next several growing seasons you will start to notice that your plants are looking much happier and healthier.
WARNING: If you plan on applying your compost to your vegetable garden make sure you know the source of your raw materials. If you are using grass clippings that have had pesticides applied to them some of it may be transferred to your vegetable garden. Make sure you know the source of all your materials.