I have no idea what I'm doing...
...but I'm pretty sure I've screwed up. I did try a search, but I could find anything pertinent to my situation.
I bought some pepper and tomato plants on random impulse a few weeks ago, and the next week bought cantaloupe on another spontaneous whim. I was trying to save some money on foods I like but I had no idea that it'd be this much time and effort and money. I didn't have any prepared bed; I figured I could just pick a sunny spot and stick 'em there. Turns out, 2-8 inches below the top soil (depending on where I dig -- even four feet apart can be a huge difference) is nothing but thick mucky orange clay, and underneath that, if I go deep enough, there's a hard rocky red clay (see attached picture).
I've read that tomato roots can get 2ft deep and about as wide across, so what I've doing since I planted the first is digging a hole that deep and wide, throwing a few of last years leaves in the bottom along with the larger clods of grass and top soil, minus any weeds I can pick out, and mixing that up in the hole til it's fine and crumbly. I've then been backfilling with Miracle Gro and composted manure I bought plus the dark friable dirt under the leaves in the corner of the yard (only yesterday did I learn that this "woodland compost" is actually nutrient poor [no matter, I got the compost and Miracle Gro], being that tree leaves are fairly tough and woody, but it does hold on to moisture apparently). I couldn't tell you the ratio, I've just been winging it. I used much more manure for the second tomato with only a shovel full of Miracle Gro and some crushed eggshells that I'd let sit in vinegar (to release the calcium) to see how that would go. I used much more Miracle Gro for the last three (I read that cantaloupes prefer just compost/manure, so trying to save it for that). I only had enough for the one though.
I've probably killed at least one of the two Earl Girl tomatoes; there were two in one peat pot, and since I read that they should be at least 2-3ft apart, I tried separating them. In retrospect I probably should have just let them grow together, because the roots were so entangled I wound up tripping off probably most of the roots on the smaller plant. I let it soak in warm water while I prepared the planting hole for it, dunno if that helps or not. The two Big Boys, the first two I planted seems kind of okay, maybe a bit stunted since they were root-bound because of sitting in their pots so long (I made the mistake of buying the biggest plants I could find). I've read variously to plant in Miracle Gro, or composted manure with fertilizer (I seem to have lost the back of fertilizer I bought) or with added crushed egg shells for calcium, ground banana peels for phosphorus, and coffee grounds for nitrogen (I don't drink coffee and I don't know anyone that drinks anything other than instant coffee -- I do drink tea, would tea leaves work just well?). I do recall my grandfather mixing manure, coffee grounds, and eggshells right into his bed, though my grandmother recommends Miracle Gro. Meanwhile, I know you're supposed to cage the tomatoes as soon as you transplant, but I screwed even that up and bought the wrong size cages (way too short!) that I now have to take back.
I digress. I have not been able to plant anything else because it's been raining for three days and the ground's a saturated soggy swampy swale. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to plant in that -- I'm actually worried what I've planted is drowning -- but I'm also worried what I've got left to plant (1 grape tomato, 2 diff red pepper, 2 diff cantaloupes, a bunch of sunflowers and marigolds) is getting really root-bound in their tiny pots (the grape tomato is actually growing a lot of roots through its peat pot).
So I'm just sitting here kind of bemused. There's too much contradictory information. I have no idea what to do at this point and it seems like everything that can go wrong has and it's taking much more effort that I initially thought. I'm frustrated and tired and ready to say feckitall and tear everything up and throw the whole lot out.
If anyone has any clue what I should be doing at this point to salvage this mess, preferable with minimum time and/or money on my part, I'd love to hear it.
If anyone has any links to a scientific consensus or study as to what actually works best, I'd really appreciate that most of all.
TL;DR I'm a combination of lackadaisical and pssed off and ready to salt the ground with copious amounts of Fluorine, Uranium, Carbon, Potassium, Iodine, Technetium. Please help. :(