Primal urge to plant in spring

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What is it about the arrival of spring that makes me want to plant things? Well, maybe “want” is not a strong enough word.

What is it about the arrival of spring that makes me feel driven, almost obsessed with the need to plant things? There. That is a better description of what happens this time of year.

For weeks, I’ve been doing my best to avoid going into anything that resembles a garden center because plants arrive long before the ground is ready to receive them. It is so hard for me to ignore all the many small containers holding babies just beginning their journey toward flowering. The wild obsessed gardener in me wanted to scoop up every one of them and haul them to the checkout.

Then the voice of my more controlled and realistic cultivator chimed in.

“Slow down and breathe,” it whispered. “Let’s remember how much time it takes to get all of these things planted — not to mention the commitment it takes to keep them alive when the dry hot weather arrives, and it will arrive.”

So, I paused, took a breath and decided on a few tomato plants, and one container of bell pepper seedlings.

“I will substitute a full-fledged garden for a couple of tomatoes and peppers that I can give lots of attention,” I said. “But I still want flowers.”

That’s when I spotted the seed display. Oh, it was a rainbow of colorful packets, each vying for my attention. There were marigolds, zinnias, sunflowers, salvia, nasturtiums…

“They only cost 20 cents a pack,” I said. “That’s not much and I can grow so many different things if I go for seeds.”

After gathering 10 or so packs, I pushed myself away from temptation and headed for the checkout. I laid my fist-full of promise on the counter and waited while the cashier rang up each one.

This morning I watched and waited for the sun to shine, hoping for a warmer morning so I could get to my potting and planting. As I waited, I wondered, again, why I find myself in this spot every spring.

Judging by the number of folks walking around that garden center with buggies full of plants, I’m not the only one who turns into a farmer as soon as the world wakes up from winter. So what is it that drives us all to get our hands into the dirt?

Whatever the reason, I have tomatoes, peppers and packs of seeds patiently waiting for me to move them into their new homes. I will dig and fertilize and water, and then I will wait and watch.

Every day I will visit them, checking their progress, looking for new leaves and signs of blooms. Why this brings me so much joy is another mystery.

Maybe in my case this desire to grow things is genetic or hereditary. Some of my earliest and best memories are of going to the garden with my grandmothers. One of the stories my father told repeatedly was about baby me eating the baby onions my grandmother pulled from the dirt.

So perhaps I have a “need to plant stuff” in my DNA, something over which I have no control. It’s in my cells so when the call comes, I must answer it because satisfies some deep primeval need.

All I know is when spring arrives, and “I plant, therefore I am.”