Sunlight is first and foremost the most important thing for a plant. Sunlight activates the chlorophyll in the leaves which is, in a sense, the same as turning on the oven in a kitchen. Chlorophyll cooks up sunlight as energy to the plant. So once the sun is up, the kitchen’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner! More fertilizer and water is NOT a substitute for sun. Full sun plants need a minimum of 6 hours of sun! Sorry, that’s just how it is!
Soil can be different from one end of the garden to the other. All soil can be amended to benefit your garden and landscape plants, but some areas may be too big or too costly to amend properly. For instance, I had a mound of sand placed in front of my house after digging a deep root cellar. My tomatoes are not ‘sand fans’, but I can grow some killer awesome prairie and drought tolerant plants like coneflower daisies, and blue May Knight Salvia. (A wonderful combination BTW!)
Try to avoid putting in too much peat moss or steer manure. Peat moss can acidify and bind up nutrients, while steer manure is high in nitrogen and salt! (Dairy cow manure is better than steer; salt is not an issue and there are less weed seeds.) It’s best to compost your food scraps and (non-herbicide) grass clippings. This will add the benefit of microbes as well as nutrients. Bagged compost sitting out on hot storefront sidewalks is often devoid of microbes because they’ve been killed off by the heat.
When mulched correctly, watering a flower and vegetable bed will use 1/3 of the amount of water overall compared to daily watering by automatic sprinklers! I start planting in April and occasionally hand watering until mid-June/ early July. I prefer to mulch with shredded leaves or straw at least 2-3 inches deep. This prevents water from escaping the soil and stops weeds from popping up everywhere. (Make sure to dig out those perennial weeds like dandelion and quack grass first before putting down your mulch or you’ll make more work for yourself.)
Fertilizer is best used when the plants are actively growing in those first couple of months, and then again in the fall to strengthen the plant before winter sets in. Grow organically! Chemical fertilizers are created using petroleum and high doses of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, that more readily leach into groundwater when used on poor soil. I recommend using seaweed fertilizer always, as seaweed provides micronutrients and a natural growth hormone to give your garden a good jump start and the strength to fend off diseases!