Maybe you are making this more complicated than it has to be. When I set up a new tank I toss in a half inch of mud, cover it with gravel, stick the plants in, and turn on the lights. The next day I add some fish. In a few weeks I have to start pruning. And I am far from being an "expert."Your average hobbyist gives it a half-hearted effort? I've been at this for 10 months now, I've spent in excess of $3,000, and up to this point it is pointing to a miserable failure. I've purchase and read books, I've participated in forum, I'm put forth MUCH more than a half-heart effort. NO ONE seem to be able to help. I get a thousand different pieces of advice all tugging in different directions and there simply is no clear concise advice or help on the problems we encounter in trying to overcome the problems encountered in the planted tank arena. Remove the plants, ferts, co2 and high light and I can be as successful as Petsmart. This business of planted tanks is tough.....but don't say that we fail because it's a half hearted effort. The ability to get people factual information on how to solve their problems , simply isn't available. It's more of...well you might try this, and if that doesn't work, try this, and if that does work, try this....well I've tried it all and the more I try the worse I get!
Have you tried to get help here? Even if you get conflicting advice (which is to be expected because there is no "one way") it should help you to solve your problems.