any advice to a poor, ignorant wannabe gardener ?
If your soil is really bad you could always frow fruit trees in pots. Apples, pears, plums, peaches, figs, cherries....
Normally, you would look for trees grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks - the maximum height they will grow to is usually quoted. However, poor soils will cause dwarfing of normal rootstocks, so it is difficult to say what will work for your particular soil. 'Family' dwarf fruit tree are also available which have 2 or 3 types of a particular fruit grafted onto one trunk. Those are useful because the varieties chosen for grafting usualy cross-pollinate each other, something you need to ensure as many fruit trees require a pollination partner to crop well; Good suppliers will have information on which types of (say, apple) will blossom at the same time, so pollinate each other.
Growing in large pots is a good alternative, as waterbutts suggests.
Have a search for fruit tree nurseries in your area - there really is nothing better than local knowledge of what grows well there.
Thank you so much for your advice....x