Since becoming a mom I've started wussing my way towards keeping an Honest To Goodness Garden. I would say that my yards are not there yet but they are improving. :) Mostly my current approach is to add a bunch of new-to-me plants each year in fairly random places (I kind of have a big picture image but only kind of) and most of them survive. I live in an area with really dense clay soil so I am slowly amending it year after year. I was kind of curious if my soil is ever going to be just *better* or am I going to have to go through this much work every single year forever?
Improving soil quality
We actually have really clay soil too because the developers scraped off all the topsoil when they built the house 4 years ago. I wanted veggie gardens right away so I built raised beds for those. As for the rest of the yard, I just add stuff when I can and I think that the soil improves wherever I have planted things...I add mulch or compost and the dropped leaves help too and the roots break up the soil a bit. I have heard that planting daikon radishes breaks up clay soil...don't harvest them...just them them decompose in the soil. So short answer is, yes, I think it will get easier as you go along. Add as much compost as you can and keep at it! There are pictures of my yard over the last few years at my garden blog:
It gets better. It helps if some of the amendments you add are non-organic. (Non-organic in the sense that it doesn't consist of formerly living material, not in the chemical sense.) The organic material you add will keep breaking down until it reaches a particle size where it is washed away by runoff, or carried into a deeper layer of the soil. But working in a 2-year-old garden plot that's had compost dumped on it once or twice a year and rocks / "clay balls" chucked out is definitely easier than converting scrubby lawn to a new garden. Even just sticking plants in the ground and mulching around them regularly you will be able to see a difference in the soil after a few years, except in areas where there is a lot of active erosion.
We have clay soil and fill dirt all around our yard. I threw alfalfa seeds around so the plant helps break up the soil. I have lazy composts,but I also will just dig a hold and put veggies scraps in it. When we first moved in I could not find a single worm in the ground. I started digging holes,and dropping in my food scrapes.Now we have lots of worms....much to the chickens delight!
Also we toss in some rabbit poo.I would collect my neighbors leaves and shred them.I would pile them up in an area I wanted a garden/flower bed.In the spring I just moved aside the leaves and planted. Layer and build up instead of trying to dig the clay soil.You can plant green manure crops and run a mulching mower over them before they get to big.
Dandilions also help break up clay soil.You can use the roots,leaves,and flower heads.So do not despair if you see oceans of them in the yard.