Readying The Vegetable Patch

The internet, as for most things, is a wonderful source of information but also the origin of much paranoia. Typing "how to prepare an allotment" or "grow your own vegetables..." churns up more questions than answers. I mean, I know the soil is mainly volcanic... but I don't know about the exact pH or the composition of the topsoil. Even then, when I've understood that carrots need sandy soils, chili peppers need sunshine, what about fennel? *cue another Google search...*