Weed wisdom. There are no shortcuts when it comes to weed control. "People ask, 'How do you keep your garden so weed-free?' " Carrie said. The answer? "We weed. At least an hour each Saturday, maybe a couple hours. We just stay ahead of it. We never let a weed go to seed."

Soil strategy. Soil amendment is critical for optimal yields. In the raised beds where they grow their vegetables, the Dubas add manure and compost every year. Ornamental plants, however, don't get that level of TLC. "In the ground, we work with what we have," Carrie said.

Make it a family affair. The Dubas employed a carrot-and-the-stick approach to get their kids involved — and interested — in gardening from a young age. The carrot was the gift of vegetable seeds that they placed in each child's Easter basket every year. That crop was the one that child would tend throughout the growing season. The less fun garden chores, such as weeding, were mandatory. "We'd tell them they had to pull 100 weeds," Carrie said. "Then that didn't seem like that many, so we said, 'You have to fill a bucket before you can go.' "

Know your limits. "Plants let us know what they need," Carrie said. In their yard, for example, delphiniums and azaleas have consistently failed to thrive. "The soil wasn't right. They weren't happy here." Don't fight what you've got; instead, concentrate on plants that can do well in your growing conditions. "When things don't work, this isn't the place for them."

Go bold. If you have an idea for your garden, even if you're not sure how to carry it out, act on it, John encouraged. "Don't be intimidated. Go for it. If you don't like it, you can change it."