Hi, Well it could be that you are planting the wrong plants in the wrong places. Hostas, for example, are shade-lovers and they will not survive in a sunny backyard. Also, most garden success starts with good soil. Improve your soil with compost, rotted manure, and other organic matter before you plant. Heavy, clay-like soil (common in many suburban communities in the Midwest) does not allow good drainage and therefore can hurt plant growth. I would also not use fertilizer sticks. I would make sure your soil is fertile to begin with and then use some slow-release, granular fertilizer such as Osmocote. This product releases nutrients over the course of the summer as the plants need it. I would also go to our Plant Encyclopedia on this website and do an Advanced Search to get a planting list appropriate for your yard.