The most important thing to consider during your planning is to make sure the garden has 10-12
hours of direct sun every day. If you can't get to 10 hours a day place it to maximize the sunshine. In Anchorage that mostly means to keep it from under trees, away from the north side of the house, and away from fences tall enough to shade the garden. It really makes no difference which side of the house or that another structure is near as long as it has the sun. If you need to take down a couple of trees, I would do it.
The next thing to consider is how big should it be. Gardening is a commitment in time and energy. The bigger the garden the more time it will take. Preparing and planting are the easy parts. The time consuming part is the weeding and care. And of course the most fun part is eating the harvest of your labors. It's generally easy to make it bigger in subsequent years. If you make it too big the first year and it becomes a burden you won't be back to do it again the following year.
Next the decision, is it raised beds or right in the ground. There is the option of doing a lasagna garden as well. Research will be required. Raised beds are easier to start than right in the ground and you can always change if you want. You can do a combination of methods as well. And some people swear by lasagna gardening. The choice is yours. Each type has it's own rewards and the harvest is the goal.
If the site is wooded you have your work cut out for you. You will have to clear it. If you used raised beds or lasagna the stumps will have to cut to ground level. If you don't remove them they may make sprouts and grow up through your garden beds. There are other problems you could have down the road when the stumps and roots begin to root. They will leave holes or trenches in the garden.
If you are going to plant right in the ground you will have to remove the stumps and roots. In the garden behind the church we did this with a backhoe. It's not a practical solution for every location but it worked at the church. You will also have to find a place to put the debris. Much of it can be taken to the land fill or the wood lot. You can always pay someone to haul it away as well.
The first time you work the land you will have to till it. Break up the sod. Remove the roots. If you have a lot of sod and can remove it before you till your life will be easier later. Grass is great in a lawn it's just another nasty, persistent weed in the garden. I will not get into whether you should till it or not after the first time. Everyone has their opinion. Read what you can and do what you think best.
Once you have the sod broken up you will need to add some fertilizer. Do you want to use organic or manufactured. Again I will not get into this debate. But you will need to add amendments to the soil to help things grow. Usually soil in previously wooded land is poor in nutrients. Lawns are generally high in nitrogen and low in the other stuff. You will also need to check the pH. pH tells you how acid or alkaline your soil is. A pH between 6 and 7 is usually satisfactory. If it's too much one way or the other you may have problems. If you are growing potatoes you will want it more acid, could be down as low at 4. This will cut down on the amount of potato scab.
The garden is a Memorial Garden, a garden of benevolence, garden of love. It is a gift to our community from the God of Love, Jesus the Christ. The first “seeds” for our garden have come from members of the congregation and a designation from the congregation’s memorial funds. These seeds have brought us to the beginning of a journey that will last for many years. Guided by the Holy Spirit we will plow forth until row upon row of our work is accomplished and our community is better nourished. The Lord invites you all to be part of His work on earth strengthening and feeding His children. The garden is made possible by generous donations from the community, a Domestic Hunger Grant from the ELCA World Hunger, generous support by the congregation of Lutheran Church of Hope, and support from the Alaska Synod of the ELCA.