vegetable garden in a plot overloaded with woodchips and sand

hi all, i'm going to plant a small vegetable garden in our backyard. Currently an entire section of the back is piled with woodchips and in some spots several inches deep with sand. This was something the previous owners of our home did - probably because of kids and dogs. What measures should i take? I know that getting the woodchips out and potentially relocated is a prerequisite but have wondered about the sand issue. If my garden will not physically be planted in the spots where the sand is, is it still necessary to get rid of it?
Also, since we are in a city (chicago), is it unwise to plant directly into the ground? Am I better off planting in a raised bed filled with topsoil and compost? I should mention that in spite of the woodchips and the sand, the soil is rich and moist.
thanks!
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westridgegarden wrote:

I would go with the raised beds. So easy to maintain and keep critters out. My beds are 4x8 and I used rough 4x4s to make them (2 high for eight inches of height). I filled them with bagged soil, peat, compost, as well as a dash of composted manure and bone meal. Each year, I add a little of each component to spruce it up. You might consider using the wood chips to surround the raised bed. It would help resist slugs and snails and keep weeds away (I usually put landscape fabric under the woodchips for double protection). The woodchips make a nice pathway around the beds.
As for the sand, if it's not in the way, it won't hurt anything you plant. Heck, you can even add a shovel full or two into a 4x8 bed if it hasn't been used as a toilet by the kitties.
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