Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses has been in the Cumberland Valley for over 50 years. Their expert staff has provided some suggestions on what you can do now to prepare your garden and flower beds for spring and how to take care of them year-round.

Start doing some general clean up like gathering up any leaves and dead plants from last season. If there are any perennials you did not cut back in the fall, now is a good time to do that. Wait until April to prune any trees and shrubs.

While you’re outside tidying up, take a sample of your soil and do a pH test. The acidity level of your soil will help determine what plants will thrive in your soil. These tests can be picked up in our Garden Supply department or from the Penn State Agricultural Extension office of Cumberland County. You can then start amending your soil to improve acidity, if needed. In early spring, prepare garden soil by amending the first 8”-10” of topsoil with organic matter: animal manures, compost, mushroom compost, etc.  Fertilize flower beds around your house with a granular fertilizer that is worked into the topsoil.

Begin your garden with Cole crops like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, in mid-March. Just keep an eye on the temperatures, as you will need to cover your new plants to protect them from frost. You can also start seeds of later maturing vegetables-- like watermelon, tomatoes, and peppers -- indoors. Using a greenhouse kit with seed starting soil will make this task easy.

After the danger of frost passes, which is traditionally Mother’s Day weekend, you can start planting annuals in your flower beds and transplanting vegetables in your garden. Before summer arrives, mulch around plants and in between garden rows to suppress weeds and conserve water in the soil. Keep weeds under control, as they compete for water and nutrients that your new plants need.

After the summer season, and the vegetables are harvested, the garden should be planted with a cover crop for winter to prevent erosion by wind and water. Rye, wheat, barley, turnips, and radishes are all good choices to use as a cover crop. The cover crop, along with other organic matter, should be turned into the soil in early spring to hold water and add humus to the soil for the spring crops. When your annuals have bloomed their last flowers for summer, replace them with hardier annuals like ornamental cabbage and kale, as well as pansies.

A great garden and yard are made by these 4 steps: Prepare, Plant, Enjoy & Repeat. For more tips and inspiration, visit ashcombe.com, find us on Facebook, and stop by our Spring Open House. Throughout the year, Ashcombe holds educational classes, workshops, and events for all ages.Check out the Events Calendar on VisitCumberlandValley.com or visit Ashcombe’s website.